Queer Student Union president aims to help all generations

TU’s inclusive community a home away from home for student leader

By Kyle Hobstetter on June 16, 2022

Ailinn Santos '23
This fall, Towson University senior Ailinn Santos will begin an internship with the Casey Cares Foundation. They will also serve as president of the Queer Student Union. (Lauren Castellana / Towson University) 

When picking a college, sometimes the perfect school is right down the street. But for senior Ailinn Santos, the perfect school was over 300 miles away from their hometown.

Growing up in Keane, New Hampshire, Santos knew they wanted to work in child development. But they didn’t want to do it inside the classroom. So, when looking for a college that fit their passion, the closest school that had an established program was Towson University and its family and human services major with a track in child life.

When asked what attracted them to working with children, Santos’ answer was a simple, yet confident, one.

“I’m just good at it,” they laugh. “I was pretty decent with math and science and all that stuff, but where I excelled was working with kids and the dynamics of family, society, community and how that impacts growth and development.”

Working with Department of Family Studies & Community Development faculty, Santos has been able connect with local resources and learn just how important these services are in helping with a child’s development. They have also learned just how flexible these services can be when working with children.

“For child life, there is a certification board nationally that has approved certain schools for the certification exam,” Santos says. “So, you could go to any school, really, and they have a check list of things you need. But it’s honestly easier to get internships and practicums later on if you have a specific degree in child life, like the one offered at TU.”

In fact, through connections at TU, Santos will get their first professional experience this fall when they start an internship with the Casey Cares Foundation, a nonprofit that works with families throughout the Mid-Atlantic to provide ongoing and uplifting programming to critically ill children and their families.

“I’ve volunteered before, but [through Casey Cares] I get to be hands-on with what goes into building these programs and experiences for children,” Santos says. “This is going to give me training for when I get out into the real world.”

But while Santos is getting ready for the real world, they are making sure to get the most out of their Towson University experience, even if sometimes they had to be dragged “kicking and screaming.”

That’s how Santos described initially getting involved with the Queer Student Union (QSU). Santos, who identifies as non-binary, initially didn’t want to go to QSU meetings because they were later in the night and happened on days Santos had a hectic class schedule.

But Santos’ roommate saw the QSU was having a Halloween party, and persuaded Santos into attending. After that first contact, Santos began getting more involved with QSU.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Santos was a regular member of the group’s weekly Zoom meetings. When students returned to campus during the fall of 2021, Santos took on the events coordinator position within the group.

Then this summer, Santos took over as president of the QSU, and will serve in that position for the next year.

“I have a lot more friends than I had my freshman year,” Santos laughs. “Just having a place to hang out after classes, and you recognized people from your meetings on campus and in dining halls, it just makes your experience better. I met my best friend through QSU, who is a computer science major, and I would never have met her without getting involved.”

As Santos gets ready for the fall term, a new internship and the start of a new presidency, they have a lot on their plate. But with QSU, which Santos describes lovingly as the “most chaotic group on campus,” they are ready to hit the ground running in the fall.

“We really try to have people from all different backgrounds and work for both students who identify as queer from a sexuality standpoint, but also from a gender standpoint,” Santos says. “And we want our members to embody the different breakdowns and backgrounds of Towson University in general.

“We're always trying to be better and to be more inclusive but we advertise as the most chaotic group because we do have so many people of so many different backgrounds and when we put us all together, it's fun, but it's organized chaos.”