Oscar Mireles Selected for $50,000 National Award from
New York Life Foundation
The Nexus of Giving and Receiving
|Behind the Masks: Oscar Mireles (l-r), and New York Life’s Jenny
McAdow, Alex Aderman, James Allen, and Sarah Chadwick.
Oscar Mireles is one of those people engaged with the universe. He has sat on many boards including MMoCA, the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County, Adelante and
the Latino Consortium for Action. And through that civic engagement, Mireles learns about needs that need to be filled.
“During the protests and the aftermath, Michael Johnson had a call to come down to State Street and clean-up the Sunday after the protests,” Mireles said. “I went
down there. I ended up being by MMoCA and their gift shop, which had been broken into. We went into the building and we had to clear out the vandalism damage.
We spent five hours getting things situated. Soon afterwards, about 2-3 weeks later, Karin Wolf from Madison Arts asked if I could come out to help her. She had me
post flyers to say that the walls were going to have murals painted on them. I asked why there weren’t any murals at Overture and MMoCA. They said both don’t
have a director. I talked to the board presidents and said, ‘Look, this is a movement. This is something that is happening. Some of the current staff had wanted them
to have an artist selection committee and then they wanted to approve the art work. I told them that this wasn’t what this was about. This is a moment in history. I
was able to convince Betty Custer Harris and Mark Vitale that we needed to be a part of it. And then Karin was able to get artists involved. The murals got painted in
a week. But if I hadn’t intervened, it wouldn’t have happened.”
During the pandemic when people were not seeing each other in person, Mireles instituted a Person of the Day feature on his Facebook page. Through these daily
postings, people learned about people making an impact in Dane County and it helped to maintain a sense of community.
Mireles is also more than happy to mentor young people just to get ahead. One of them was Alex Aderman who was just starting out at New York Life. Mireles gave
him some advice.
“He said, ‘People don’t want to meet with me because they think I’m going to sell them something’” Mireles recalled. “I said, ‘Well that’s what you’re doing. What you
have to do is tell them you something to share. You just want to get together and you have something to share. That’s all you have to tell them. And then you tell
them that you are a young guy far from retirement. But as I am going through this job, I’m learning what compound interest is. I’m learning that at some point there
may not be Social Security. I’m learning that if you make these decisions now — even $25 per month — in 20 years, it’s a lot of money. I want to share with you what
I’ve learned.’ When he did that, he ended up becoming one of their top salesmen.”
Mireles has given Aderman other advice over the years and as Aderman rose through the managerial ranks, Omega School — and Mireles — helped Aderman and
New York Life get involved in the community.
“He ended up doing a back to school backpack event and last year, we had a couple of families who could benefit from Christmas gifts,” Mireles said. All of their
staff chipped in. It was bringing their staff together. And he kept track of his hours and then we ended up getting a $1,500 check. $1,500 does a lot for Omega
because we are a small organization. Then in June he said, ‘Hey, I want to nominate you for an award.’ I said okay. He said, ‘Well it’s due Friday, so I’m going to do it
today.’ I told him I wanted to look at it. We put together the nomination. I made the 50 semi-finalist list from across the country.”
The award Aderman nominated him for was the $50,000 Love Takes Action Award, a national award given by New York Life to 35 individuals from across the
country. Mireles made the cut and on December 9th, Aderman and other representatives from New York Life presented Mireles and Omega School a $50,000 check.
In their press release, New York Life cited Mireles’ commitment to the people that Omega School serves.
“For students to work online, Oscar provided them with laptops and made certain they had access to the internet,” New York Life said about Omega’s COVID-19
adjustments. “Students selected whichever of three formats best suited their learning styles: one that mimicked the one-to-one interactions normally experienced
with Omega instructors, one that was “gamified” (designed to be similar to playing online games), and one in Spanish. Madison College, where students normally
took their diploma-qualifying examinations, was closed for several months due to the pandemic. Omega responded by providing transportation vouchers to students
so they could make the trip to other parts of the state where the tests were still being offered. Instead of students’ losing time in working toward their goals, they
were able to keep going without falling behind.”
Life doesn’t have to be transactional. By doing good things for others, good things come around to you. And the quality of life is so much nicer that way. Everyone
wins when good vines — and works are sent off into the universe. Just ask Oscar Mireles and Omega School.
By Jonathan Gramling
There are some who won’t do anything in life unless there is something in it for them. They
need instant gratification and somehow feel used if they don’t receive something
immediately. And they tend to live very small lives because their existence goes no further
than their primal, immediate needs.
But there are others who seem to be engaged with the universe. They don’t have to receive
anything as long as it furthers a more big-picture value or mission and benefits someone.
And that good vibe sent off into the universe, but they are also engaged with a broader
sense of community. And as the saying goes, you must give in order to receive.