Daniela Santiago, a freshman theater major, poses for a photo. Santiago is one of this year's 12 Brenau Scholars. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau Scholar: Daniela Santiago

Daniela Santiago from Suwanee, Georgia, considered studying French and international business before following her true calling, musical theater.

“Musical theater has always been my passion, for a long time,” she says. “I remember telling my parents that I wanted to go into music when I was younger. They thought it wasn’t practical.”

Coming from a Filipino heritage, musical theater certainly seemed like an unorthodox path for Santiago to take. Her father, from Manila, earned an M.B.A., while her mother, from Lagasse, was in business as well. They both wanted to give their kids better opportunities, so they moved from the Philippines to the United States when Santiago’s older brother was 2 and her sister, who would later graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in biomedical engineering, was 5. Santiago is the first in her family to be born in the U.S. “They have a lot of friends from the Philippines that we hang out with, that really push their kids to go into being a doctor and being business people,” Santiago says. “I was very strong in my belief that I wanted different, that I wanted to go into theater. My parents quickly realized that they couldn’t force me into anything. It changed by my senior year [in high school]. They were more accepting of my decision to go to Brenau.”

Santiago nurtured her singing talent from an early age. At age 7, she started taking private voice lessons, later branching out to choral performances and moving into musical theater in middle school.

In high school, she was co-president of the French Club as well as an active member in Beta Club and the Tri-M Honor Society, a service group comprised of orchestra, chorus and band students.

Abbi Capri Paul, WC ’15, a Santiago mentor was also a Brenau Scholar, theater major and member of the Gainesville Theatre Alliance. Paul encouraged Santiago to apply. Santiago was soon offered the Brenau Scholar and GTA scholarships.

“My cousins on my dad’s side live around here,” she says. “They had four daughters and they all went to Brenau. When Brenau offered me the Brenau Scholar, my family knew that Brenau was a great school and that this was something that I wanted to go into. They were all for it.”

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