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Celebrating Disability Awareness Month: Steven Santoyo

Image of Steven Santoyo When Steven Santoyo, a communications studies junior, came to UT Austin, he immediately immersed himself in a number of programs and activities to discover his passions. After joining DiscoverLaw.orgPLUS, a five-week summer program that prepares undergraduates for law school and beyond, he realized that becoming a lawyer would allow him to pursue a rewarding career in advocacy.

Spreading awareness…Santoyo’s passion for advocacy stems from personal experience. Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 13, he has spent most of his life learning how to advocate for himself and others. As president and founder of Type Texas, UT’s first chapter of the College Diabetes Network (CDN), he’s spreading awareness about the two different types of diabetes and supporting students with diabetes in need of friends, mentors and resources.

Navigating the ups and downs…In addition to connecting students with resources, the CDN chapter also provides a sense of belonging for those who often feel like outsiders on a large college campus. “We’re a resource group and community. We talk through the highs and lows of our lives each week—which can be a funny pun in the world of diabetes. Studies have shown that the daily medical routine can lead to diabetes burnout, so it’s important to have a lot of support.”

Creating communities…While assisting students and meetings and awareness events, Santoyo always thinks of his close friend from high school, Kayce, who passed away from complications with Type-1 Diabetes during her freshman year at the University of Missouri. To honor her memory, he made it his mission to provide a support network for students living with diabetes. “I realized I’m here on this earth to help people and to be a resource. The aim of Type Texas is to connect, inspire, and empower individuals living with diabetes. ”

Following his heart…After graduation, Santoyo will continue to honor his friend throughout his legal career.  Only time will tell where he’ll attend law school. He knows, however, with absolute certainty he’ll be following his heart. “Not a day goes by where I don’t think about Kayce. I’m not sure how I’m going to weave diabetes and health care advocacy into my legal career, but I do know that this work is at my heart’s core.”

Getting real…A first-generation college student, prior to his participation in Discover Law this summer, Santoyo wasn’t entirely convinced that a career in law was even possible. His dream of becoming a lawyer quickly turned into a reality when he attended a student panel the program hosted.  “I remember the panel was called ‘The Real Talk’ and it featured three different students currently at UT Law. They shared stories about their disadvantaged backgrounds, gave us tips as students of color, and really helped me see that law school was within reach.”

Proud to be a Longhorn…A natural extrovert, Santoyo is in his element when he’s leading campus tours as a student ambassador for The Guides of Texas, showing off his beloved campus to the public. On any given day, he can often be spotted on campus wearing burnt orange attire embossed with Longhorn insignia. “There’s a lot of great schools in this country, but there’s only one UT Austin. I love that our core purpose is to transform lives for the benefit of society. This university has changed my life.”

A word of advice… “When you get to UT, don’t be afraid to communicate. There are so many resources awaiting you, so it’s up to you to make that first ask. When you do, it will change your whole experience here. Also, do not be afraid to fail. You learn your best lessons from your worst failures.”

Santoyo’s programs and activities include: Type Texas: The College Diabetes Network Chapter at UT Austin; Discover Law, Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence; Pre-Grad Intern, Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program; Senior Fellow, Moody College of Communication; Resident Assistant, Division of Housing and Food Services; Tour Guide, Office of Admissions; Communication Council; UT Student Government