Recent SUNY Oswego graduates Yadira “Yadi” Aranda Burgos and Helena Buttons were selected to receive the Oswego Alumni Association's 2022 Outstanding Senior Awards.

They received their awards during the annual Commencement Eve Torchlight Dinner on Friday, May 13, in the Deborah F. Stanley Arena and Convocation Hall in the Marano Campus Center.

A committee selected Burgos and Buttons from a highly competitive pool of 19 stellar nominees for the award.

“What a task this was to select winners from such a strong pool of nominees,” said Kerisha Lewis ’18 M’21, assistant director of student-alumni engagement. “Both Yadi and Helena have made such significant contributions to the SUNY Oswego campus that they are known to many and have received accolades from across campus. We are proud to recognize their accomplishments and have no doubt they will continue to contribute and improve their communities as they leave the shores of Lake Ontario and begin their next chapters.”

Guiding other students

Burgos graduates this spring with a dual degree in criminal justice and human development, with a minor in forensic science. Hailing from the Bronx, she is passionate about guiding other students and pointing them to resources that can benefit them the most in developing their futures.

Her passion has also translated into her campus involvements. She is the senior advisor for the Caribbean Student Association; treasurer and director of correspondence for sexual assault awareness group Two and a Half; director of finance for the Women's Center; treasurer for the national co-ed community service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega; graphic designer for the Latino Student Union; and social and special events coordinator for the Student Association Programming Board.

She was also a Laker Leader, including serving as a captain for the Office of New Student Orientation and serves as an Open House intern for the Office of Admissions. Following graduation, Burgos hopes to pursue a master’s in higher education and land a job working at a university.

“Being a transfer student was not the easiest thing in the world,” Burgos said. “I found myself in my jobs and clubs, and I'm so grateful for all the opportunities I received and the hard work I put into my positions on campus.”

Helping peers

Buttons, from Churchville, graduates with a dual degree in communication/social interaction and English, with a business administration minor.

During their time at Oswego, Buttons led the on-campus food pantry, SHOP (Students Helping Oz Peers). They were able to triple SHOP’s usage records, host over 100 student volunteers per semester, and complete two to three events, drives and collaborations per month.

Buttons also completed five internships during their time as a student, one within the Office of Communications and Marketing; one within the Office of Career Services; one based around sex education; one with SHOP; and one with SUNY Oswego Chief of Staff Kristi Eck.

They serve as the vice president for Lambda Pi Eta, the communications honor society, and they played a key role in the continued development of the on-campus Queer and Trans Outreach Center, in addition to being a leader in numerous other clubs and activities.

Buttons was recently honored with the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. After graduation, they will continue in not-for-profit work, working at the Center for Youth in Rochester in special events and fundraising.

Although Buttons does have a job lined up to answer the expected question about their future, they also have their own more meaningful response.

“I think I have finally found what I want to do for my career ... anything,” Buttons said. “It turns out that as long as I can teach and be taught, can support my people while knowing they support me, and can see the big picture of leaving the world a better place than when I found it, I will be so filled with love that I won’t be able to keep it in.

“It isn’t about what I am doing or where I am doing it,” Buttons said. “It’s about who I am working with and how it impacts the world. I want to work with people who may be imperfect but who are kind, passionate and strive to make the small changes that make larger equity possible. I cannot wait to take my passion for education, creative problem-solving and leadership, and funnel that into activism ... We cannot shine on our own, and I am so honored to be a product of the very, VERY extended family who raised me.”

The Outstanding Senior Award was established by the 2005 Senior Class Planning Committee and is funded by Alice Massimi Crouch ’02. The Outstanding Senior Award recognizes a graduating senior who has been highly involved on campus while maintaining academic excellence.