30th Annual American Dreamer Achievement Awards
The Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Special Services held its 30th Annual American Dreamer Achievement Awards on May 24, an event that honors individuals who perform outstanding works of service for, and on behalf of, students with special needs. The heartfelt awards luncheon recognizes the exceptional work done by both students and community partners throughout the SWBOCES community.
Andrea Byrne, Director of the Center for Special Services, opened the ceremony with welcoming remarks about the importance of the awards, acknowledging those who have elected to make a difference in the lives of others.
"Every one of our students has their own aspirations, dreams, and unique set of skills,” Ms. Byrne said. “Our goal is to provide them with the opportunities and support they need to thrive in life. We want to see them engaged in meaningful work, pursuing activities they enjoy, and becoming integral parts of their loved ones' lives. By keeping them safe and fostering their growth, we can help make their dreams a reality.”
Dr. Brendan Lyons, SWBOCES Chief Operating Officer/Deputy Superintendent, also shared remarks on the event’s symbolism, stating "The American Dreamer program serves as a powerful reminder of two fundamental principles. Firstly, it reaffirms that our students are at the heart of our mission. They are the driving force behind everything we do. Secondly, it highlights the significance of the interlocking links in our BOCES logo, symbolizing our interconnectedness. Today, we witness the profound impact of our community partners in assisting us in supporting our students.”
Jessica Walker, Assistant Director of the Center for Special Services, presented the awards to deserving recipients while highlighting their exceptional contributions.
Erica Morra of Raymond Opticians was honored for her unwavering support of students in the workplace.
Justine Riordan, parent of a former Tappan Hill School student, was recognized for her continued collaboration in enhancing celebrations for current students with her donations and creating joyful experiences for all.
The North Castle Police Department were honored for their swift response, empathetic communication, and invaluable support in fostering a safe and nurturing environment for the students at the Rye Lake Campus.
Sara Savalli, a chemistry teacher at the Irvington School District, received recognition for her dedication to ensuring all students receive the necessary support to overcome challenges and succeed.
Karen Lewis, a longstanding member of the SWBOCES Achilles Kids™ program, was honored for her enthusiasm, dedication, and support in helping students stay fit and connected through the Achilles Kids virtual marathon and Run to Learn Program.
The awards ceremony also celebrated the extraordinary efforts of Margaret Ahrend, Angela Chan, Lauren Philips, and Tiffany Major, young adult peer mentors from the Young Adult Institute (YAI), for their ongoing commitment to mentoring students with disabilities.
Reflecting on the event, Dr. Lyons said, " This ceremony perfectly demonstrates the importance of the role that we all play in helping our children develop and thrive. Today, we recognize individuals, businesses, law enforcement agencies, volunteers and volunteer agencies and the purpose of our gathering is to simply say thank you and recognize that we simply cannot do it alone.”
Since 1991, the American Dreamer Achievement Awards has brought together a community of compassionate individuals committed to enriching the lives of students with special needs. The annual event provides an opportunity to honor and thank those who have elected to make a difference in the lives of others.