It’s not just Sarah Vélez’s position as interim director of student life at SUNY Buffalo State that encourages students to share their personal stories with her. It’s also her approachable and friendly nature. Vélez knows the students who are struggling financially, those who may be one scholarship away from dropping out, and the ones who are fulfilling their dreams despite a lifetime of hardship.
It’s her heartfelt connection with students that has inspired Vélez to give to Buffalo State’s annual Faculty and Staff Appeal. Vélez also has a relationship with the college from which she earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and master’s degree in higher education administration. During her graduate study, she met her husband, Daniel Vélez, who now serves as assistant to the vice president for student affairs. They have two children, ages 4 and 7.
“Giving to the appeal is a joint decision with my husband to give back to an institution that has given us so much,” Vélez said. “I’ve had so many wonderful experiences as a student and professionally. I want to help students who may have a difficult time making ends meet.”
Originally from Ipswich, Massachusetts, Vélez chose Buffalo State for its strong fine arts program and once here, she said she fell in love with ceramics. She has used that artistic creativity to plan programs and events with and for students.
After three years of managing operations for a student union and a conference center at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Vélez returned to Buffalo State in 2004 as assistant director, later associate director, of student life. Since returning, she has contributed to the appeal campaign.
The Vélezes give to the Bridge the Gap Scholarship, which is awarded to students who need help with tuition and fees to complete their education. They also designate a portion of their paychecks for the Robert A. Davis Endowed Scholarship, which was created in honor of a Vietnam War hero, and to the Buffalo State Child Care Center, where their children have been enrolled.
“I think giving to the appeal is a way to remain grateful for what we have,” Vélez said. “My interaction with students is a daily reminder of how far I’ve come. We want to pay it forward to the next generation.”