Giving Back to His Community

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan plowed through the Philippines with 25 million people in its path. Braeden Santiago was one of those people when the lethal storm hit.

Santiago, who was serving an LDS mission to the islands, walked away from the typhoon without a scratch, but the area was left in ruins. He was immediately reassigned to a new area where he would be inspired to change his academic and career pursuits for the rest of his life.

While the reassignment was difficult, it led to what Santiago described as a “miracle.” While out knocking doors one day, he happened to meet some of his own distant cousins and began to teach them a message that brought them closer together.

As Santiago continued to strengthen ties with his Filipino heritage, Santiago began to feel a desire to give back to his family and the tight-knit community he had grown up with in Hawaii. As he began to think of a career he could follow after his mission, he remembered attending HR conferences with his mother and seeing her example. That’s when Santiago decided he would do anything to major in OBHR.

“The ultimate goal is to go back to Hawaii and build the HR scene there,” Santiago says. “A lot of what I have decided to do in my career has to do with giving back to them, to my family, and to my people.”

But when he returned to Hawaii in 2014, Santiago learned that he had a long way to go if he wanted to reach his goals. Santiago was forced to apply to the program multiple times, all the while putting in every last effort to improve himself, including seeking the mentorship of professors and upperclassmen.

“I knew people I networked with here would help me in my future,” Santiago says. “I knew they would be key players in my professional career, not just as a student.”

His efforts paid off. Santiago was accepted and immediately participated in an on-campus internship with General Mills. During school breaks he also worked as an HR intern for Y. Hata & Company back home in Hawaii.

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Because he was proactive and started internships early, Santiago leveraged his experiences to gain the internship he hoped for with Cisco Systems. He spent the past summer with the company and will return again next year.

“I’ve come a long way,” Santiago says.

Ever since finding a new path amid the debris of Typhoon Haiyan, Santiago continued to overcome setbacks and reach goals. He thanks the professors and Marriott School programs for their support and encourages other students to never give up.

“Find your passion,” he says. “Focus on your strengths. Focus on your talents and pursue them. As my favorite Hawaiian saying says, ‘I mua E Na Poki’I,’ meaning, ‘push forward my brothers and sisters.’”