Members of the Denison community reflect on Adriana Santiago ‘21

The Denison community reflects on the loss of one of our beloved students, Adriana Santiago ‘21. The news was released to members of the Denison community the morning of Monday, April 22. Below, friends and faculty of Adriana reflected on the impact Adriana had on each of their lives in personal recounts.

It is hard to put into words just how much Adriana Santiago meant to us and many others on this campus. Adriana was the embodiment of sunshine. She was an intelligent, driven student that gave her 100% in everything she did. Her work was never the bare minimum, it was always above and beyond, carefully thought out and intentional. Her beautiful smile would always light up the room, and was a kind and warm presence to have at any time. To us, Adriana was more than a friend – she was someone we could always rely on, whenever we needed her. She always had a snack for someone who was hungry, a joke to brighten your day, and a place in her heart for those who were lucky enough to be loved by her.

One of my) favorite memories of Adriana was this past spring break when we were in Cuba together. We were looking for something to do one night and we had rough directions to a restaurant that left us inevitably lost in a city we didn’t know. Adriana was determined not only just to get us where we wanted to go, but also to make sure we had a fun night. She stopped and asked three or four people for directions, calling to strangers in their living rooms, totally unafraid of how they might react. Her priority was that we all would have fun and enjoy our time together, and her determination amazed me.

Libby Beach ‘20

She had a non-stop caring attitude for everyone who crossed paths with her. She always put others first and made sure those around her were happy. We lost a treasure, an absolutely incredible person in the Denison community, and she will always be in our hearts and thoughts. Adriana turned twenty last week, and I had the joy of taking her out to celebrate. In her twenty years of life, Adriana touched more people than she likely knew, and we were honored to call her our friend. Rest in Peace Adriana, you will truly be missed.

Simran Ali ‘19

Adriana was a bright, curious, outgoing person. Her desire to reflect on her education led her to share about her Dominican, Puerto Rican and Nuyorican cultures, which she generously brought to life in a wonderful book poem she completed in our Creative Transformations class. Her genuine engagement made us marvel at and empathize with her complex personal trajectory as a first-generation Latinx student at Denison. We delighted in her company during our class trip to Havana, Cuba where she created bridges amongst all of us and with the locals. We will miss her dearly: her soft, luminous eyes, her welcoming smile, her comforting words, her maturity and flexibility, her desire to grow and become an educator for future generations will stay with us forever.

Dosinda Alvite and Micaela Vivero, modern languages professor and studio art professor

Adriana was a beloved student worker in the Academic Resource Center (ARC).  Student staff members in ARC have a great deal of autonomy and serve as the front line of ARC –  greeting students, faculty members, prospective students/families, fielding questions over the phone, and holding information in confidence.  Adriana had a take-charge approach to her work and could field all sorts of things during a typical shift with authority and a sense of calm.

Heidi Trace, Administrative Assistant, reflected, “I feel like I have been robbed of a treasure!”  When Heidi’s mom recently passed away, Adriana checked in on her frequently and offered heartfelt care and support.  Academic Advocate, Karla Long, described Adriana as a student with a great deal of self-awareness. She didn’t give you an “I’m fine” response if you asked her about her day. Instead, she was always real!   Adriana routinely worked at bettering herself in her duties in the office, in her academic work, her friendships and in her love and support of her family. Karla reminisced, “She went above and beyond when she didn’t really need to be so diligent.”  

An example of her dedication was when Adriana stayed at her student worker post after the office officially closed because Jennifer Vestal, Associate Dean/Director was in a stressful meeting involving students, families, and colleagues across campus. Adriana reported the reason she stayed after hours because she was worried about her boss and wanted to make sure the situation was resolved and that Jennifer was okay before she left for the day.

Jennifer’s nickname for Adriana in the office was “Canva Queen” as Adriana had the task of designing the fliers that promoted ARC Ambassador Drop In Hours, ARC Tutoring, the Productivity Circle and other programmatic outreach from the office.  Her design sense and student perspective influenced the images and messages which benefited ARC.

Adriana had a fierce love of her family and talked often of an extended collection of cousins who would gather together and celebrate as a family.  She returned from Winter break telling about all the cousins wearing their pajamas during a Christmas gathering at a relative’s house. She was most excited to welcome a new baby nephew into the family and regularly kept in touch with her mom and many other relatives and friends from home via text, facetime etc.

Collectively the staff recount Adriana as a student who could put aside being tired, managing a heavy academic workload as a double major, handling her personal struggles, etc. and at a moments notice drop everything to be present and in support of others.  Peers have commented that she routinely exhibited this behavior toward them but when Adriana engaged in the same amount of concern for the ARC staff, she made herself all the more special to us.

Jennifer Grube Vestal, Heidi Trace and Karla Long, staff from the Academic Resource Center

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