Meet Israel Santana – 2015 Utah Young Humanitarian. Israel is a junior at the University of Utah studying sociology. He is involved in a variety of community projects, with his most substantial commitment being with the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective (MAA).
MAA is a program that aims to empower high school students to develop leadership skills and undertake community-based research projects. The program currently partners with the University of Utah to give high school students college credit for their work in youth participatory action research. The two entities work closely to make sure this program uses framework that helps students feel comfortable talking about issues in their community. Students from all over the Salt Lake Valley are invited, but participants are generally comprised of west-side residents from low-income households. MAA’s fall 2015 semester ended with 25 committed students.
Israel has been involved with MAA for six years and currently serves as a Program Coordinator. He began the program as a student participant. “Later, I saw what this space helped students become so I continued,” says Israel. He now helps design curriculum, reach out to community members and speak about the program, as well as mentor students and new mentors.
What keeps Israel so committed to this program? “It has changed the way I think, it has changed who I’ve become,” says Israel. “This program is more than just a place for students to meet up and talk about cool things, it’s a family.” Israel believes it’s his turn to show students what they can become. For him, commitment to service is more than just putting aside some time every week. He is committed with his emotions, with the people he meets and the relationships he has created.
Israel was named the 2015 Utah Young Humanitarian and was awarded a $5,000 scholarship because he demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, a variety of valuable qualities. Focused service, strong leadership skills, consistent service over a period of time, hands-on service, self-driven service, collaboration with others, and a strong local community impact. These are the building blocks  of lifetime humanitarians.
We are searching for our 2016 Utah Young Humanitarian – and we know you’re out there. This isn’t the time to be humble or downplay your accomplishments. Students all over Utah are doing incredible work; celebrate this dedication to improving  your community. Apply now.