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Toshanna Santos: “I Have a Passion"

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“When I go to visit students’ families in the villages of Yap, Micronesia where I’m currently teaching, you enter the village carrying a large leaf or a basket, to signify that you come in peace and with good intentions.”


Toshanna Santos, CRB’14 and Holy Cross’18, arrived in Yap, Micronesia August 2021 with an open heart and good intentions, ready to experience the dream of teaching internationally harbored since college. Considering the options available to her via a Holy Cross network of international teaching jobs, she chose Yap because “it really lacked resources, and I felt I had something to offer.” Only there a brief time, she has already started a few programs to benefit the local community.


It comes as no surprise that Toshanna would take the initiative to make positive change. Recalling her first day at Holy Cross, “I looked around Convocation and I didn’t see too many people who looked like me. I was worried I wouldn’t find a place for myself on the predominantly white campus.” Recalling a lesson from her days at Cristo Rey Boston, she reminded herself that she had two choices, wallow in sadness, or be part of the change she wanted to see. She chose the latter, joining a multicultural group on campus and then becoming the Co-Founder of Holy Cross’s Women of Color group.


“Cristo Rey Boston really focused on the idea of being of service to others, and Holy Cross helped me to put that into action in my life and career. I really soared at Holy Cross, becoming much more open to the idea of being of service to others through my passions.”


Toshanna recalled that she was very reserved as a student at Cristo Rey Boston, leaving the role of being outgoing to her twin sister. “My grandmother oversaw our education, and because a cousin had done well at North Cambridge Catholic, she chose Cristo Rey for us.”


“I liked the idea of going to work, thinking I was going to be all fancy.” However, the demands of the Corporate Work Study Program soon became apparent, and Toshanna made the decision to get serious. A placement at State Street “opened her eyes to the corporate world,” and her second year found her at Tufts Medical Center, where she still maintains relationships. Toshanna held her job at Tuft’s throughout the summers of HS, and while a student at Holy Cross, an outcome that is not unusual for CRB students. Senior year, a placement at Chubb Insurance found her surrounded by several Holy Cross alumni, who encouraged her to apply.


Toshanna still gets emotional recalling the day her Cristo Rey guidance counselor sat her down and explained to her that Holy Cross had offered her a full tuition scholarship. "As the first generation of my family to attend college, the financial support was paramount to my decision. Our entire life, we had been told, 'Go to college and become a doctor or a lawyer', but nobody in my family understood what it took to get to the place where we qualified for scholarships and colleges that supported that dream. The Cristo Rey community helped me close that gap."


Majoring in Sociology, with a concentration in Africana Studies, Toshanna was particularly interested in the impact of solitary confinement while incarcerated, specifically where it pertained to the disproportionate impact on men of color. She competed on the Moot Court team and used her role as the leader of the Women of Color group to teach her peers about the impact of social inequity.


After graduation, Toshanna was ready to put her passion to work and applied for a job with the newly elected District Attorney of Suffolk County, Rachael Rollins. Rollins was the first woman ever elected as District Attorney in Suffolk County and the first woman of color ever elected District Attorney in Massachusetts.


Once again, faced with a steep learning curve, Toshanna dug in, learning about every aspect of the work that the DA’s office was involved with. Eventually promoted to be Rollin’s Executive Aide, Toshanna sat in on meetings with influential policy makers from across the country.


“Rachael taught me a lot, she expects a high level of engagement, and if she wants something done, you figure out a way to get it done. She (Rollins) ignited a fire in me…she gives 100% to everything she is passionate about, and as a result, I also gave 100%.”  Toshanna noted that her “journey with Rollins was amazing, hands down the best job ever.”


“I am proud of the work I did while working at the DA’s office,” but with Rollin’s nomination to be the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts in motion, Toshanna decided it was time to explore that long held dream of teaching abroad.


Her long-term goal is to attend law school and get a Master’s in Public Policy, but first she wanted to teach. “I have a passion…Inspiring kids…telling them that no matter what you look like, what someone else told you, you need to go out there and experience the world for yourself!”