“Take a leap of faith” is Santiago Gonzalez’s advice to incoming freshmen and it’s exactly what he did his first year at UNCG by attending a meeting of the Spanish American Latino Student Association (SALSA). The first-generation Mexican-American student was admittedly shy by nature, but he was determined to change himself and become involved.

With a little encouragement from the SALSA president, Santiago applied to the executive board and became the publicity chair for the 2012-13 academic year. The following years he became more involved in the Latino community and in the leadership of SALSA, becoming vice president his sophomore year, and president his junior and senior years.

Coming to UNCG wasn’t a difficult decision for Santiago. It was more like love at first sight. “When I looked at colleges, UNCG called out to me and appealed to me in a way others didn’t. It was a perfect fit. Once I toured the campus I knew this was my college.”

Santiago says UNCG is big enough to meet new people on daily basis, but small enough to see your friends every day as well.

“UNCG and SALSA changed me for the better. I started making friends and gaining leadership skills.”

His message to incoming students, indeed all of us, is inspiring. “Come in with an open mind and heart. Try new things. Don’t be afraid to join things, to take chances. It’s our time to grow and figure out who we’re going to be. Sooner or later you’ll find out who you want to be.”

Story by Mary Leigh Howell
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Relations

See more great stories in UNCG Magazine, where this story originally appeared.