- This is Poly
A profile and photos by Dov Weinstein Elul ‘24
In our student voices series, “Get to Know,” Dov Weinstein Elul ’24 introduces us to fellow Poly students he meets around campus.
Felipe Santiago ‘26 has always loved to express his emotions musically. At the age of seven, he first learned how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the piano. In the intervening years, he has only fallen in love more with the instrument, “It’s a good place for me to articulate ideas that I can’t express verbally, since music is a language that everyone can understand.” He plays often in his church and has been composing his own music for a number of years. Last year, he performed one of his original pieces at an assembly for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Felipe discovered a passion for writing after coming to Poly in ninth grade. This has given him another way to express his emotions. He started writing down his thoughts and ideas after watching a YouTube video that stressed the importance of that. He studied Shakespeare in [Julia] Edwards’ English class. While reading Othello, Felipe was inspired to write his own play. “I like to think the way Shakespeare thinks: [how he] created words, looked deeply into characters, and wrote in an eloquent manner.” Ms. Edwards played a crucial role in encouraging Felipe to write.
Felipe’s play is a work in progress and focuses on the struggles society faces today, such as the access to truthful and accurate information with the rise in social media. Now over 200 pages deep into his play, he credits his teachers who have helped him along the way. He recalled sitting on the bus with [Sean] Mullin, his English teacher, at the beginning of 2023: “We were just watching things pass by out the window and developing ideas about what’s going on outside in the world, and how you can put that into a play.”
Felipe has also been composing poetry, which he plans to incorporate into his play. “I like to use poems to really bring that kind of verse into play,” he said. He shared an excerpt with me:
“Do you not know that the Stygian incarnation is malevolence’s hellish foundation?
To be adventurous is daring, and daring in excess is foolish.
As you walk upon the threads of rancor and as long as upon enmity you are anchored, you drink from malice’s tankard.
Malice runs through society, but goodness shall surely smother it. The fire does burn and smoke shall it emit, but to allow it to burn in perpetuity, water shall not permit.
The fumes of evil around us huff and billow, cinders convert into wickedness’ caudillos, but righteousness shall mightily flow.
Be vigilant and be on guard, o evildoer, for as in peace you lay, the streams of rectitude shall sweep you away…”
Poly’s World Languages Department has had a positive impact on Felipe as well. Transitioning to a new school for high school was very challenging for him. One thing that helped Felipe, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, was connecting with Spanish teachers Maite Iracheta and Ronald Sarcos. They have spoken with Felipe about his writing and language. “It’s always nice to be able to communicate with people in a language that feels more maternal to me,” Felipe said. Iracheta mirrored his admiration. “Right away I noticed he [Felipe] had a very mature mind, and that he was very sensitive and sensible,” she told me. “He is not only committed to being a good student, but also a good member of the community with students his age and also with teachers and administrators.”
“I’m a firm believer in just being kind to everyone. If you’re kind to people, people will be kind to you.”
Connecting with Poly’s teachers came easily for Felipe. “I’m a firm believer in just being kind to everyone. If you’re kind to people, people will be kind to you. I always try to say ‘hi’ to my teacher, ask them how they’re doing, how the weekend was. It’s allowed me to gain the trust of people and for them to guide me.” Felipe often shifts between languages in his poetry to reflect his life and identity. Besides his play, he is currently composing a poem in Spanish about bones for Dia De Los Muertos for addanomadd.com, a literary bilingual website managed by Iracheta.
Even though Felipe is just a sophomore, he is also a president of UNIDAD, the Latin American and Hispanic Heritage affinity group. “Portraying myself accurately and showing myself as a leader last year, encouraged the departing seniors to elect me as president,” he said. The experience for him thus far has been great: he and the other student leaders have been working toward a “Poly for Good” donation to help Latino immigrants and have already presented an assembly about Hispanic Heritage Month. Going forward, Felipe wants more people to get involved with UNIDAD participating in things like assemblies and “Poly for Good.” “It’s been great to have people get involved outside of the UNIDAD block,” he said. As a younger leader he is excited to make these changes and watch them play out over his next three years at Poly.
Lastly, Felipe hopes to perform one of his plays at Poly, “I know Poly is really into student involvement, so that would be a dream come true.”