As we all practice Social Distancing, it has led to the cancellation of many events meant to honor the good work of our neighbors, including the Westchester County Youth Board’s 2nd Annual “Shero” Awards Ceremony.
The two women recognized as “Sheros” are Lisa Syron, the Executive Director of Student Advocacy and Shirley Acevedo Buontempo, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Latino U College Access (LUCA).
County Executive George Latimer said: “While we are all dealing with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that there is plenty of ‘good’ in our community – and when we get past this together – that good will shine like it never has before. I commend the members of our Youth Board on their efforts and congratulate Shirley and Lisa for this honor.”
Westchester County Youth Bureau Executive Director Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden said: “When the ‘Shero’ Awards were conceptualized, we knew there would be an extensive list of dynamic women who make a difference in children and youths’ lives on a daily basis. Although it is still difficult to select only a couple, these women reflect the Bureau and Board’s vision for innovation, diversity, equity and social justice.”
About the 2020 Sheros:
Lisa Syron has been a champion for student rights for more than 30 years. First as a professor and later as a Policy Advocate and Executive Director at Student Advocacy, a non-profit organization known widely for their legal support for students with special educational needs. Through her work at Student Advocacy, Syron and her team have made it possible for over 30,000 youth who have struggled in school to obtain school services and supports. Lisa has been instrumental in special initiatives focused on disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline by advocating for alternatives to suspensions, supporting the continued education of youth in foster care and ensuring full access to education for young people with disabilities. She also founded the Overcoming the Odds Awards, now in its 25th year, which recognizes and honors young people who have made their education a priority despite significant obstacles.
When notified of the recognition, Lisa, a proud product and current resident of Peekskill, NY commented, “It is so nice to have such a positive thing happen during these troubling days.”
Abe Baker-Butler, the Youth Board’s Vice President stated: “We are proud to celebrate Women’s History Month by recognizing two outstanding Westchester women who have made invaluable contributions to gender equality and social justice in our schools and communities. We thank Lisa for serving as a tremendous role model for youth of all backgrounds, particularly those who may have unique struggles in achieving success in school.”
Shirley Acevedo Buontempo has built a successful organization that brings together cultural relevance, bilingualism and program strategy to provide college access and opportunity to first generation Latino youth. Born in Puerto Rico and a first-gen Latina college graduate herself, she is passionate about advocating for the needs of low-income Latino youth and ensuring they can make their college dreams a reality. Founded in 2012, in only 7 years and under Shirley’s leadership, Latino U College Access has grown from a pilot program in one local high school with 2 Latino U Scholars to a well-recognized leader in the field of college access and opportunity. Her vision has expanded the organization's services to reach over 5,000 Latino parents and students and coached nearly 200 Latino U Scholars to successfully apply and enroll in college.
Acevedo Buontemp said: "I am honored to support the incredible youth of Westchester County and work together with the Westchester County Youth Bureau to ensure that all children can fulfill their academic and life potential. I believe in the transformative power of a college education to transform lives and provide security for children who will be the first in their families to attend college, their families and their communities. Now more than ever, at Latino U College Access, we are committed to ensuring that this dream becomes a reality."