Ian Layton is a model Santa Clara student. I don’t say that solely because he’s intelligent—which he is—but because he embodies the values of competence, conscience, and compassion in his everyday life. We sat down for an interview about his work abroad, his life goals, and the changes he wants to help make in this world.
In the midst of his senior year, Ian is a Religious studies and Political Science double major, and heads up the SCCAP program, “Worker’s Connection”. His program works with the Day Worker’s Center of Mountain View, a center where mostly Latin-American immigrants are hired day by day for various jobs. Ian takes students up to visit the center on Saturday mornings to spend time with them and learn about their various experiences as immigrants in America to build trust with the community. Oftentimes these conversations will take place in Spanish, but that’s no problem for Ian, because he’s bilingual.
The work he does with Worker’s Connection is directly related to the time he spent in El Salvador with the abroad program Casa de la Solidaridad. His time living amongst the people of El Salvador influenced him greatly: “I think it’s the amount of exposure I had to injustices in that country, learning about U.S. involvement and the horrible atrocities that have occurred, learning about the ways that economic poverty affects individual people day to day … keeps them from having human dignity and silences their voices, keeping them in the shadows of society. It impacted me and made me feel a call to be with and work with those people.” It’s important to Ian that this is done correctly, by empowering impoverished people instead of leading them. He does this by shifting his focus to helping individuals realize their own potential, “even if their society denies them dignity. Sometimes pride plays into it and you want to be a leader, but you have to do it in a way that’s respectful and not diminish the voices of the people that you want to see empowered.”
Though he is comfortable taking the backseat when the time is appropriate, Ian has strong leadership qualities, and this winter led a group of students on the Arizona Border Immersion Trip through a program called BorderLinks. They were brought to different community groups in Tucson, Arizona usually made up of immigrant families, some of which are undocumented. While there, they visit border towns and study how militarization of the border and increased security has affected these communities. They also see the desert trails where migrants have walked, leaving backpacks and water bottles and even clothing behind on these dangerous trips to the U.S. During the trip, Ian facilitated discussion and reflection, and upon their return helped them figure out how to interact with the immigrant communities in the South Bay and be a part of the change, similar to the work he does with Worker’s Connection.
I took the above photo of Ian and his fellow supporters at the #JusticeMatters Rally on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and will let him explain in his own words why this cause was so important to him: “I was there supporting black lives matter, and showing my solidarity with the black leaders here who want justice for black Americans. And I was showing solidarity by not having my voice heard and rather showing my physical support and listening so that the marginalized voices are the ones being heard, versus me as a white person speaking on it because it’s not my experience. The people who are disadvantaged in our country are brown and black people, and as a white male it’s not my duty to lead those movements. “Recognizing my privilege and not projecting a savior complex is important. I want white people to be conscious of that because someone needs to tell you; it’s something that’s learned.”
No matter where his life takes him, Ian will certainly have a hand in making the world a better place. This kind of clear purpose doesn’t often come to us at such a young age, but hopefully his story will inspire all of us to find our passions in life and make a difference.