Oscar Mireles, principal of Madison’s Omega School, has been selected as one of the 35 winners of the national $50,000 “Love Takes Action,” award presented by the New York Life Foundation.

The award money will be used for general support of Omega School which has helped thousands of youth and young adults earn their High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED)/General Education Diploma (GED) and setting them up to move ahead with further education or career advancement. Specifically, the money will go toward much-needed repairs and renovations for the school and online GED programming support for students.

Mireles tells Madison365 that this national award came about from a conversation with Alex Aderman, a New York Life agent he had been mentoring for a while.

“The economic challenges caused by the pandemic have made it more challenging for our students since we have not been able to meet in person,” Mireles says. “I am grateful to our dedicated board of directors and GED instructors for their patience and hard work. The $50,000 donation will help us continue to focus on our work to provide services in a virtual environment as well as provide support for our building renovations.”

Mireles, who has been principal/executive director of Omega for 27 of its 50 years, was chosen out of a national pool of 130 nominations submitted by local offices of New York Life. The competition was designed to “recognize extraordinary action during the COVID-19 crisis and in commemoration of New York Life’s 175th anniversary.”  The New York Life Foundation notes that winners “responded to the COVID-19 pandemic in extraordinary ways and demonstrated passion and deep commitment to community.” 

“While many of us put our everyday routines on pause when the pandemic hit, some incredible individuals leveraged their skills and mobilized their resources to help vulnerable or underserved populations in their community when they needed it the most,” said Marlyn Torres, senior program officer for New York Life Foundation, in a statement.

When Omega School closed its doors due to the pandemic, Mireles continued to work in his office and re-designed the student intake process to online and telephone interactions. Instruction was shifted online with weekly or as-needed phone conversations. Mireles and Omega School provided the students with laptops and made certain they had access to the Internet. The organization also provided transportation vouchers to students so they could make the trip to other parts of the state where the tests were still being offered since Madison College, where students normally took diploma-qualifying examinations, was closed for several months due to the pandemic.

In addition to being the executive director/principal of Omega School, Mireles is a published poet who served as Poet Laureate of Madison for two terms and continues to write and publish. Mireles is a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and serves on the board of directors of MMOCA, the Overture Center for the Arts, Boys and Girls Club of Dane County, and Latino Consortium for Action.

The $50,000 “Love Takes Action” check will be presented on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 4 p.m. at Omega School, 835 W. Badger Rd. in Madison.