February 04, 2020

Gómez-Colón ’21 featured on panel at 2020 World Economic Forum

Student activist says “more work needs to be done”
by Nancy Hitchcock

Salvador Gómez-Colón ’21 is taking Mahatma Ghandi’s advice—to “be the change you want to see in the world”—seriously. And he isn’t wasting any time. At age 17, Gómez-Colón has made his way into “the room where it happens” at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Gómez-Colón was one of four youth changemakers, including Sweden’s renowned climate activist Greta Thunberg, invited to speak on a panel entitled “Forging a Path To a Common Future.” With the world as his audience, Gómez-Colón spoke about the work he has done and continues to do helping those in his native Puerto Rico recover from recent catastrophic natural disasters.

“Around the world, we’ve seen our generation standing up for the world we want to see, even when our leaders aren’t really taking charge,” he said. “We’re not taking 5, 10, 20 years to take the action we want to see. We’re not the future of the world, we’re the present. We’re not waiting any longer. We’re acting now.”

Gómez-Colón ’21 (center) at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The 17-year-old upper has already helped thousands in his native Puerto Rico and in the Bahamas recover from recent natural disasters.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico—two weeks after Hurricane Irma hit—leaving residents without power, food, or water for months. In response, Gómez-Colón launched the “Light and Hope for Puerto Rico” campaign with the goal of raising $100,000 and distributing 1,000 solar lamps and hand-powered washing machines. Using personal connections, social media, and online platforms, he raised more than $165,000 and provided residents in 17 towns with more than 5,000 solar lamps and 2,000 washing machines.

“When I gave them solar lamps and washing machines, I saw signs of hope,” he said. “Their faces would brighten. That’s what kept me going, seeing the impact I was having firsthand. We’re young people doing work in our local communities that end up having a global impact.”

Gómez-Colón ’21 distributing solar lamps in Puerto Rico.

Since his successful first campaign—which led him to be named one of Time’s 30 Most Influential Teens of 2017, Gómez-Colón has continued his advocacy, working to help residents of the Bahamas who were impacted by Hurricane Dorian this past fall. So far, he has raised money through crowdfunding and fundraising at school dances and other events such as an upcoming casino night. “We've reached over 500 families in the island of Grand Bahama. They're still in a state of chaos,” he says, and it’s been months since the winds whipped the islands. “The islands don't have power. It was terribly sad.”

Gómez-Colón left his native Puerto Rico in 2018 to attend Andover, which, he says, “has been extremely helpful in [broadening] my perspective. I’m grateful to be here and to be exposed to many different things.” At Andover, he is on the board of Model UN and Af-Lat-Am, he is a class representative, and a proctor in Taylor Hall.

“I’m seen as a youth activist in a lot of ways, but I think more about the acting part. Rather than just simply advocate for something,” he explains, “I work for it, and I see that as a really important distinction.”

Although he already has made an impact and helped thousands in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, Gomez-Colon said there is still work to be done.

Categories: Campus Life

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