Joel Gonzalez Gomez ’16
Joel, a boarding student from Mexico, graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 2016. He joined SJA halfway through his sophomore year, boarding in Waterman dorm. Like many international boarding students, Joel came with the intention of remaining at SJA for one semester. He had such a good experience that he and his family decided that he would continue through graduation. Joel took advantage of all SJA offers. When asked about his favorite classes, he said it was hard to choose just one: “I fondly remember chemistry with John Sayarath (science faculty), entrepreneurship with Abigail Henderson Murphy ’94 (career and technical education faculty), business environment with Sarah Emery, and literature with Nicole Dauteuil Begin ’88 (English faculty). At SJA it was not only about knowledge, but also values and how to combine both for the community’s well-being and improvement.” Outside of the classroom, Joel expressed great thanks to Buffie Fortin Hegarty ‘90 (Executive Assistant to Academic Affairs) and John Robillard ‘83 (Dean of Resident Life) for making his life on campus so enjoyable.
Joel participated in track and field. He said, “In track and field I learned how to work on a team. Sometimes it’s believed that track and field is a one-man show; however, I felt part of a community. Whether it’s your coach or your teammates, they want you to improve, they support you, they advise you, and they give you company. I had the honor of representing SJA in both long distance and long jump. Also, it was fantastic to get to know students from other schools and visit other Vermont high school campuses.”
After graduating, Joel studied economics with a concentration in economic policy at ITAM, one of the most prestigious universities in Mexico. He said, “My transition to university was quite complicated because I didn’t feel the community sense that I felt at SJA. In college, it was more about working for your own personal and professional goals.” Joel’s interest in business and economics also began at SJA. He said, “I became involved in economics and business because at SJA I took courses I really enjoyed related to both subjects which eventually led me to choose economics as a major.”
After graduation, Joel became a Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Propel Foods, an AI-powered startup that develops highly realistic plant-based and novelty food alternatives that are sustainably sourced. Joel explained how this came about: “I was faced with two problems: 1. the price of conventional vegan products, and 2. the dissimilarity between vegan products and their animal counterparts. After a lot of bootstrapping, my team and I came up with technology and a business model capable of tackling both issues at once. We realized not only is plant-based and novelty food the future of the food industry, but animal protein production systems are unsustainable worldwide. So, we combined knowledge in order to create Propel Foods.” He continued, “My favorite parts are knowing we can truly create good with food, for local communities and the environment. Propel Foods is not only for vegans, it’s for a community of conventional but conscious consumers that know a little can go a long way and enjoy a good meal. We had the chance to participate and pitch on the international stage, and successfully win the biggest entrepreneurship competition in the world, the Hult Prize. Now, we’re finalists of MassChallenge, a world-class startup accelerator program born in Boston, and a hub for the best Mexican startups.”
Joel currently lives and works in Mexico City. Outside of work, he enjoys outdoor activities and sports, something he says “became a habit after SJA”. He also enjoys continuous learning, whether it is a new technical skill or a soft skill.