SUNY Oswego senior Henrry Leon was recently one of 42 students in SUNY’s Educational Opportunity Program to receive the inaugural statewide Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for Student Excellence, recognizing ability to overcome obstacles to achieve success.

“Henrry has taken on leadership roles on campus that include being a Spanish tutor, School of Business office assistant, note-taker for Accessibility Resources and zumba instructor,” said Grace Maxon-Clarke, an EOP counselor who nominated him for the award. “Henrry’s long-term goal is to open a Peruvian restaurant and bring his mother to the U.S. from Peru.”

A double major in business administration and finance from Woodhaven, Leon was born in Peru and moved here with his father at the age of 7. Due to his father’s work schedule, Leon became responsible for himself at a young age, including working hard to excel at school, Maxon-Clarke noted. 

“Henrry is admired by his peers for his commitment to his school work, receiving Deans’ List status since he started and, most recently, President’s List for his 3.92 semester GPA,” Maxon-Clarke wrote.

“I believe that this award was given to me for being a hard worker and demonstrating to myself and my school that despite the amount of work I have, one can succeed in anything one desires,” Leon said. 

He takes a lot of inspiration in his faith and his family, and finds motivation in knowing that “through every single accomplishment, I'm able to show my family that my sacrifice of being far apart pays off,” Leon said.

“My best advice to other students is finding their motivation, thinking about any sacrifice they have made to be where they are and make it worth it,” Leon said. “Value every single penny you are paying to school and take the most advantage of it.”  

Leon also hopes his story can inspire others. “I say my personal story targets students that come to the United States very young and have challenges learning a new world,” he said. “Thus, this award demonstrates that anything in life is possible when there is commitment.” 

McConney was among the architects of the statewide Educational Opportunity Program and a tireless champion of youth empowerment. The award honors EOP students who have overcome significant obstacles in their lives to achieve their educational and personal goals. The award ceremony took place Oct. 17 at the SUNY Global Center in Manhattan. 

“Through the EOP, SUNY has changed the course of so many lives and has given so many students the chance to excel and pursue their dreams,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, who spoke at the event. “We are enormously proud of the students receiving these awards today. Many of them have overcome enormous obstacles to fulfill goals that once may have seemed unattainable. I applaud every one of them for demonstrating perseverance and determination.”