Oscar De Los Santos
Oscar De Los Santos sits beside former President Obama. | PHOTO COURTESY OF OSCAR DE LOS SANTOS

How many USC Dornsife students  can say they’ve had a burger, fries and a milkshake with an American president?

Oscar De Los Santos ’15 can. De Los Santos won a competitive essay contest about effective leadership in 2012, and part of his award was lunch with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Last year, De Los Santos earned another great honor: He was selected from a pool of 882 applicants as one of 32 American recipients of the 2017 Rhodes Scholarship. The coveted scholarship provides all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England starting in October. The Los Angeles native, who now lives in Laveen, Arizona, is this year’s only Latino Rhodes Scholar and the first member of his family to attend college.

He graduated from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences magna cum laude with a degree in political science and was a Norman Topping Scholar and Phi Beta Kappa member. The Los Angeles City Council honored him as an emerging leader, and he interned with the National Economic Council and the House of Representatives. “I’m the child of Mexican immigrants, an anti-hunger advocate and a former teacher and political organizer,” he says. “My degree choices are a way for me to respond from a sense of moral urgency to help marginalized people.”

Since graduation, De Los Santos has continued to serve underserved communities, first as an English and social studies teacher for high-risk youth and now as a lobbyist and manager of public policy for the Association of Arizona Food Banks.

At Oxford, De Los Santos plans to read for a master of public policy and a master of studies in theology with a focus on Christian ethics.

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