Junior, Holy Name High School
Santiago brought together art, religion and community for his final Eagle Scout project. For two years in a row, the 16-year-old has coordinated the creation of 18 to 20 sawdust carpets for Holy Week at La Sagrada Familia Church, in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. A Central American tradition, the carpets are made using sawdust, sand and chalk to tell stories through images — such as the Holy Family or Jesus carrying the cross — on the carpets. “[We] come together making a design that relates to something that we care about and that is important to us so other people can see it too,” Santiago says. Prep time: Santiago prepares materials up to four months in advance. Then the community comes together for three and a half days at the beginning of Holy Week to create their stencils and finish the rugs. They are on display for the next two days and then burned on Good Friday to symbolize Jesus’ sacrifice. “You are just in awe knowing that you were the one who created something this beautiful, something this amazing,” reflects Santiago. Extra attention: Although already bilingual and close to his church, Santiago enjoys Theology and Spanish at school. “The teachers are really amazing, and I like to stay close in my faith,” he says. “I get to stay rooted to my culture and learn a little bit more about myself.” Overcoming adversity: Earning the title of Eagle Scout is no easy feat. But Santiago doesn’t take all the credit. “There was a time when I thought it was almost impossible,” he says. “But with my mom there helping me out, I was able to get past those struggles.” Dreaming big: After high school, he hopes to play college football and become a NASA scientist. “I never let my doubts get in the way of my dreams,” he says. “My mom put that into my head at a young age.” Staying strong: The football and track star needs as much energy as possible to keep up with his busy schedule, so one of his favorite meals is steak. “I love protein,” he jokes.