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Salvador Gómez-Colón, 15

Salvador Gómez-Colón is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is determined to not let his young age prevent him from creating positive impact. Gómez-Colón is an active participant in the Model UN at his school, and says that immersion in relevant and interesting topics helps him develop his individual way of thinking. When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2016, Gómez-Colón understood his community’s lack of access to clean water and electricity, and witnessed the resultant public health emergency. Though most advised Gómez-Colón that he should focus his efforts in fundraising for NGOs or to distribute construction materials and medical equipment, Gómez-Colón could not remain passive and ignore the daily needs of heavily affected communities. Gómez-Colón quickly organized Light and Hope for Puerto Rico, raising over $100,000 to purchase and distribute solar-powered lamps and hand-powered washing machines to households.

Gómez-Colón attributes his devotion and ambition to his mother, Marta, who has always encouraged him to enjoy every moment as a learning experience. Gómez-Colón’s writing process starts with active research, delving into the topics that pique his interest. His style is simple and direct, and he hopes to transform his ideas into something accessible for his readers. Gómez-Colón feels that writing presents a unique opportunity to transfer one’s emotions into words and engage others to perceive experiences and ideas that are entirely different than their own.

Gómez-Colón writes to express his feelings and discuss ideas that are close to his heart, like the widespread culture of mistreatment that distorts our society. Gómez-Colón has a fundamental belief that everyone must respect everyone, that they must listen and try to understand others’ beliefs. He believes that the 2017 and 2018 riots in Puerto Rico are a reflection of the disrespect that is common in our society.

Gómez-Colón hopes to continue his efforts in public health, medicine, and international relations, perhaps as a diplomat. He says that the lack of drive and responsibility is a very concerning issue in today’s world. If we want change, we must work for it.

 

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: The Immigrant Experience

By Salvador Gómez-Colon

 

In 2014, Obama said, “America isn’t Congress. America isn’t Washington. America is the striving immigrant”. When immigrants come to the United States seeking a better life, they become the backbone of America, yet they must go through many hardships to be able to create prosperous lives for themselves and their families. In The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, the family of characters have immigrated to the United States from Afghanistan face hardships when trying to settle into their new country. Baba and Sohrab struggle to learn English, Baba barely sustains his family by working at a gas station while refusing food stamps, and Soraya faces a clash of cultures where her native traditions differ from American culture. As immigrants enter the country seeking prosperity and happiness, they often end up at a disadvantage as they enter blue collar jobs due to various circumstances. Many end up becoming grocery store baggers, gas station managers, or domestic employees, which may not pay enough to build their lives. Even though immigrants are the backbone of United States, they must go through immense hardships to thrive in America.

Communication is key to human interaction, and it is evident that learning English proves difficult for immigrants. In many cases, when they come to the United States, they are afraid of their new situation and the cultural change, which includes learning the new language. Even though immigrants might feel resignation towards learning English, they should be aware that doing so can greatly benefit them and help them interact with those they meet. In a Pew Research Center study poll for Latinos, 87% of respondents of it said that it is important for adult immigrants to learn English to succeed. Yet, twenty million of the immigrants to the United States cannot speak English adequately, which is close to half of the entire immigrant population. When immigrants are not willing or not given the tools to learn English when coming to the United States, this significantly lowers their access and potential for success and a higher quality of life. Living in a new country without fluency of language leaves immigrants at a state of disadvantage because they cannot properly interact with other people, posing a great obstacle to the development of their future.

Many immigrants face issues when entering the labor force, usually through blue collar jobs. Immigrants make up around 17% of the labor force in the United States, and the top ten jobs for them do not require a higher education degree or specific connections to acquire, and do not usually pay enough to properly sustain their families. This was the case for Baba, Amir’s father, who went from being an extremely successful businessman to a low-payed gas station manager who did not enjoy the number of connections he had in Kabul. Amir compares the difference between his father, a blue-collar worker and him as a student: “My student hand, clean and soft, on his laborer’s hand, grubby and calloused” (130). This clearly represents the effects of different social responsibilities and roles, especially having to do with entering the workforce. Being a student, Amir is able to dedicate his time to studying to be able to get a higher-paying job to sustain his family. On the contrary, Baba is forced to start from nothing, with none of the resources he used to have, with the same responsibility of supporting his son. Amir’s father in law, General Taheri, leads a life parallel to Baba’s: while living in Afghanistan during the monarchy, General Taheri was a very powerful and highly respected military officer for the Ministry of Defense. Yet when he moved to the United States, he decided never to get a job because he “preferred to cash in government-issued checks than degrading himself with work unsuitable for a man of his stature” (176). Every day, he “donned his gray suit, wound his pocket watch, and waited” (177), for the day when the monarchy would be restored and he would be called again for his services. 30% of immigrants work in blue-collar occupations, compared to 17% of US-born workers work in this field. When immigrants arrive in the United States and search for a job, they are often doomed to find only blue-collar jobs, which usually do not provide enough to sustain their families.

Though immigrants are essentially the backbone of the United States, new immigrants arriving in the United States must face incredible amounts of hardships and struggles while trying to build their new lives. Many immigrants face serious issues when attempting to learn the English language, which is necessary to assimilate and interact with people in the United States. The overwhelming majority of Latinos believe that it is imperative for immigrants to learn English, so better measures must be implemented so that new immigrants can have the tools and resources to learn the English language and be able to properly and effectively communicate with others in the United States. Because of many varying circumstances, immigrants usually end up in blue-collar jobs, which many times do not provide enough to be able to sustain their lives and families. As immigrants are not equipped for better job opportunities, mainly due to a language barrier, they are largely left in the dark and are not able to acquire better jobs, which limits their prosperity and success. Adapting to the culture in the United States frequently proves difficult and challenging for new immigrants, especially those whose traditions clash with those they must adapt to. Immigrants may experience a strong culture shock which can put many of them off track and worsen their experiences as immigrants in the United States. All these factors present tough challenges for immigrants, no matter where in the world they are from. Regardless of the hardship that immigrants face, leaving them in the dark may be considered a deliberate transgression of the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.