Freshman creates organization to help underserved communities
Raymiro Gomez-Galiano is not experiencing the typical freshman year — and that’s not just because he’s taking classes remotely from his home in Palmdale, Calif.
Between balancing an internship with e-board positions for three social justice organizations, playing trumpet for the Trojan Marching Band and binge-watching “Avatar the Last Airbender” — not to mention navigating his first semester of classes — Gomez-Galiano runs the New Colors Project, an organization that he founded to help underserved communities through the coordination of various projects.
New Colors is an umbrella organization with various micro-organizations, or projects, that focus on more specific social justice and equity issues. So far, New Colors has two micro-organizations: Aprende Inglés, an online school aimed at bringing free English education to low-income Spanish-speaking adults, and New Colors – New Hope, an advocacy project for individuals experiencing homelessness that will include food and clothing drives, starting with a food drive they will have with Palmdale SAVES on Oct. 4.
“Statistically speaking I was never supposed to achieve higher education,” said Gomez-Galiano, a freshman majoring in non-governmental organizations and social change. “I was supposed to work at a factory like my mother or obtain a fast food restaurant job. But because of resources I’ve been able to get, people that I’ve been able to talk to, learn from, it’s been pushing me. I’ve been believed in, and I want to believe in others to share that same sense of growing together.”
Throughout his education, Gomez-Galiano said he has had to figure things out on his own because his parents, who emigrated from Guatemala, worked late hours and didn’t have time to learn English. His experiences growing up inspired his organization and led him to create Aprendes Inglés to help adults learn English.
“I have been basically advocating for myself throughout my education, and I feel like it’s really hard to do that when your parents don’t know English, don’t understand the whole education system,” Gomez-Galiano said. “And that way, I want to help other parents throughout California and the world be able to connect with their child.”
Gomez-Galiano launched New Colors in May as an Instagram account that highlighted social issues, resources and undocumented heroes who have helped shape their communities. But when that project died down because members stopped posting, Gomez-Galiano said he realized he wanted to give the project new life.
The idea for an adult English tutoring program had been on Gomez-Galiano’s mind for some time, he said, since many of his mother’s coworkers had reached out to him for English tutoring. Many of them were undocumented, could not afford lessons and never had the opportunity to achieve higher education, so Gomez-Galiano said he wanted to create a program where other adults in similar positions would be able to receive free education.
Gomez-Galiano created interest forms, a plan, had his friend design a logo, then released the project on Instagram in August. Since then, over 20 volunteers and 30 students have joined New Colors, which is still expanding to new members and projects.
“One thing that I do tell my volunteers is that it is so open to share what you are passionate about,” Gomez-Galiano said, “I want to know what you’re passionate about, and I want to make that happen … it’s very open right now, we’re carving this whole organization together, creating, collaborating with things being put together and hopefully growing.”
Because New Colors is an online organization, Gomez-Galiano has been able to find students from Guatemala, El Salvador and around Los Angeles. Some of the volunteers are people Gomez-Galiano already had connections with, but about half of them found him through his Instagram account and volunteer sites.
Jaquelin Cantu, a senior from North High School in Arizona, said that she found out about New Colors through a website called From Students For Students. She is an English tutor and the historian for New Colors and wanted to join the organization to help others from low-income backgrounds.
“I’m a daughter of Mexican immigrants myself,” Cantu said, “Being part of [Aprende Inglés] allows me to use the gift of knowledge that I was given, growing up here in the United States, being able to speak English. We’re able to share this gift with others who, like myself, come from low-income backgrounds and might lack the opportunity to learn English because of a lack of access and opportunities. This really hit home to me when I found out about it.”
The volunteers are divided into two groups: the English tutors and the academia task force.
English tutors meet with students to figure out their personal needs and goals. Each tutor and student pairing works in a team with an academia task force member, who helps craft their personalized curriculum. Between October through the end of November, the English tutors will meet with their students once a week on Zoom, starting with a class-wide lesson that narrows into smaller breakout rooms.
Lula Haji, an English tutor and academia task force member, met Gomez-Galiano at a summer program two years ago. Haji said she was eager to help him with his project because she has always noticed his passion to advocate for others.
“Anybody that interacts with him can see that he has that natural and innate ability and desire to change the world,” said Haji, a freshman at USC majoring in international relations and law, history and culture. “Whether it’s through one interaction, whether it’s through this program that he created and founded, whether it’s through public speaking.”
Beyond Aprende Inglés and New Colors – New Hope, Gomez-Galiano said he is also planning a third micro-organization in collaboration with Leaders United for Change, a student-led organization that works to help the community by sharing their talents. Through that collaboration, he said he wants to provide resources and tutoring in math, science and English to low-income K-12 students, starting with schools in L.A. County.
Ultimately, Gomez-Galiano said that he hopes New Colors can become an official nonprofit — but beyond that, he hopes the organization can transform lives.
“I see it going big,” Gomez-Galiano said. “I see it partnering up with school districts, I see it going throughout the United States, throughout underserved communities, different countries and hopefully it can be an organization that can help many lives and transform them to what they should have been given in the first place.”
Gomez-Galiano’s vision does not stop at New Colors. He said that one day he hopes to become the mayor of L.A., a congressman, then president of the United States, to help every community succeed.
“I see the potential in this world, in this country,” Gomez-Galiano said, “And I want to make sure it happens.”