The Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights shall be comprised of the Executive Director, who will be the Chairperson of the Commission and 14 members (volunteers) representing a broad spectrum of the community, including, but not limited to the following factors: areas of expertise, advocacy, experience, community involvement, profession, education, race, ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, age, religion, and geography.
A member of the Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights shall be by reputation, inclination, training and experience, dedicated to the cause of human rights. Any individual appointed to the Commission will have demonstrated an abiding interest in the cause of human rights and a familiarity with the community, its needs, problems, strengths, and weaknesses that will greatly assist that person in achieving the goals of the Commission.
Commission members are expected to fulfill the following:
All terms for Commission members shall be 3 years except for the Commission’s initial slate of appointments in 2016.
Committed to human rights and equity for all, Jody Miller is the Executive Director and Chair of the Commission on Human Rights. From 2016-2020, she was the Human Rights/Equal Employment Opportutnity (EEO) Officer also responsbile for diversity & inclusion in the workplace. Prior to her role with Dutchess County government, she spent more than 20 years in the alternative dispute resolution field, working closely with courts, businesses, non-profits and the community to create innovative mediation and conflict resolution training programs that responded to community needs.
Jody has been an adjunct professor of mediation at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and is a Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation (ISCT). Jody is a certified trainer through the New York State Unified Court System’s Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution Programs (ADR). She has published articles about mediation, organizational change and conflict resolution. She has been a presenter at conferences throughout the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia. Jody is the 2016 recipient of the Lawrence Cooke Peace Innovator Award from the New York State Dispute Resolution Association.
Eric has leveraged his communications and financial expertise in support of both his professional career and community service. His experience with leading advertising and public relations firms, along with his two decades in senior management on Wall Street, inform his current position as co-founder and president of Compitium, LLC, a financial services consulting firm. Eric brings a similar perspective to his role on the Town of Washington Planning Board and his position as chair of the board of trustees of his alma mater, Emerson College. He has been a long-standing member of Emerson’s Board of Trustees and has served as chair of the Investment Committee and as a member of Academic Affairs, Finance, Audit, Trusteeship, and Institutional Advancement Committees. His active role on the board has provided a strong platform for his long-standing commitment to promoting diversity. Eric graduated from Emerson in 1978 with a BS in Speech.
When human beings experience events that leave them hurt, angry, and doubtful of their value and security, it is easy to lose sight of what makes life meaningful—connection and shared understanding with people like and unlike themselves. Victoria Anderson’s great passion is to remind people of the value of these connections, and what is lost when they are forgotten; a journey strengthening her personal faith in humanity, and that of others. Her path so far has led her to share, learn, laugh and cry with peers from her hometown of Poughkeepsie, to professionals in the state capital, to the vulnerable populations of South America and the Caribbean.
Ms. Anderson recognizes there is no single approach, no single strategy that will bridge communities and broaden understanding, which is why she has chosen to stretch her knowledge and skillset far and wide to encapsulate as much opportunity for growth as possible, studying and practicing skills such as mediation, facilitation, coaching, personal and professional development.
Victoria Anderson is a Training and Organizational Development Specialist for New York State. She received her Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Law and her Masters of Public Administration from Binghamton University. Along with these degrees, Ms. Anderson holds two graduate specialization certificates in Nonprofit Administration and Local Government Management. In addition to training and organizational development, Ms. Anderson enjoys volunteering her time to our globalized society, including international community and nonprofit organizations. She currently resides in Dutchess County with her family and her cat, Kitty.
Christina Aquino has been a dedicated Housing Coordinator with People USA, a peer-run non-profit organization, for over two years. As a Certified Peer Recovery Advocate, she uses her unique lived experience to help serve her community and house the underserved and often ignored. She works with participants living with serious mental illness, addiction, homelessness and criminal history. She is passionate about human rights and is currently completing her bachelor's degree in Community & Human Services at Empire State College, which will further enable her to serve others. She is looking forward to becoming more connected with the community while striving to enrich the lives of others through advocacy via her work on this commission, and her work at People USA. Her passion and focus are fueled by the ongoing housing crisis in combination with income inequality and discrimination, the stigmatization of mental illness and addiction, discrimination based on documentation status, and the lack of access to care. Through her lived experience and work in the social service field, she has developed a repertoire of knowledge that makes her specially informed to serve the community. Christina resides in the Town of Poughkeepsie with her husband Jose and their dog, Scrappy.
As assistant dean of students and director of the Educational Opportunity Program, Doris Diaz-Kelly provides leadership to the College's Center for College Access and Educational Opportunities, which includes both state and federal funded programs. The Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), TRiO: Student Support Services, Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program. EOP is the only program of its kind in the nation, granting access to higher education; it was SUNY's response to providing access to marginalized populations during the Civil Rights era.
All three grant programs focus on providing support to student populations that face more challenges than expected in pursuing a college degree. Her 20+ years of experience in higher education have been student-centered; she has dedicated her career to facilitating the college experience for youth, that like her, are mostly first-generation college students whom are eager to achieve and to make an impact in their communities.
Her work on behalf of the student experience at Dutchess Community College has provided her the opportunity to effect policy and procedures that promote student success for the most vulnerable and at-risk populations. Her personal experience brings her to this task with great sensitivity to the issues students and their families must overcome during college transition. Her work and passion is rooted in the belief that we all deserve an opportunity; that given the right mentorship and access, those who may otherwise not have a chance, can achieve success and make an impact on the future generations in their communities. Doris strongly believes that there is no better way to live your life than to live it in service to others; you have transcended when you discover the joy in giving opportunity rather than receiving.
Doris Diaz-Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts- in Sociology and Spanish Literature '94 and a Master of Arts in Social Sciences '97 from Binghamton University. She lives in Red Hook with her husband John Kelly, and is the proud mom of three daughters: Ayari Diaz-Kelly, Jaina Diaz-Kelly and Isabella Diaz-Kelly.
Gwen Higgins is a retired school teacher who currently presents workshops at conferences, school programs, Girl Scouts initiatives and spiritual retreats. She helps participants explore essential social principles through interactive activities and discussions. Her experiences allow participants to safely explore such issues as race, social class, prejudice, and positive relationships. She creates opportunities to sensitize them and give them tools that increase their competence in conflict resolution, bias awareness, multicultural sensitivity and the value of community.
Mrs. Higgins graduated from SUNY Cortland, did graduate work at Penn State, Salisbury College, College of St. Rose and taught at the Spackenkill School District for 37 years. She taught Physical Education, study skills, coached six sports and administrated a mentoring program called “Home Base”. She served as advisor to several clubs, activities and student groups. She has delivered many public speaking keynote addresses including graduation speeches. She has served on an extensive number of community boards including Dutchess County Mediation, Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, the American Association of University Women, Commission on Race and Religion and most recently has been selected to be on the board of the Human Rights Commission of Dutchess County.
Onaje Benjamin’s career spans five decades serving as a community activist committed to social justice and human rights. He served on the Dutchess County Criminal Justice Council and the Re-entry Task Force. Subsequent to his retirement from the Dutchess County Sheriff's Office where he served as a Transition Counselor for fifteen years, Onaje became an Academic Coordinator for Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, where he worked with SUNY Ulster College in the development of an Associate degree program at the Shawangunk Correctional Facility. He currently works part-time as a facilitator of groups for male offenders of domestic violence. He is also a Case Manager with the Domestic Violence Offender Project-An offender-focused initiative to prevent Intimate Partner Violence.
Onaje is the recipient of the Association of Black Social Workers Outstanding Achievement Award, and is the first recipient of the Moe Foner Fellowship for Social Justice awarded jointly by the Empire State College Graduate Degree Program at SUNY and the Bread & Roses Foundation-1199 Hospital Worker s Union SEIU, AFL-CIO. In 2007, he received his Masters in Liberal Arts from Empire State College and a Masters in Social Work from the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services in 2014. He was also a Community Organizing & Justice Advocacy in the 21st Century Fellow with Be the Evidence International, a research and policy institute at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services.
Growing up in a small, family business the critical message for a fulfilling life has always been service to others. In my search for this, I attended Villanova University (BA), Glassboro State College, and Rutgers University (MA). My wife, children and I moved to the Hudson Valley 20 years ago when I became the Superintendent of the Arlington Central Schools, previously serving at many levels of education in both urban and suburban districts with one short stint in an international school in Saudi Arabia. Each has provided opportunities to learn, appreciate, and support a wide array of students whose learning styles, ethnicities, backgrounds, identities, and circumstances required a special, careful, understanding. Now, in retirement, I continue to be very active in volunteer activities locally and in Dutchess County.
Jena Ray was raised in India, lived and worked in Switzerland for several years, and has called the US, home, for the larger part of 3 decades. Having studied and worked in 3 different continents, has shaped her perspective of the world. She believes one can learn and grow, from having an open mind, and embracing differences – religious, ethnic, linguistic. She is passionate about inclusion and equity.
As a software engineer and architect at IBM, she led, drove and facilitated large technology projects, which spanned several years, and required working with IBM employees, and vendors in Asia, Europe and North America. She has a successful track record of working effectively with people of different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
She has volunteered for multiple organizations, including Dutchess County Office of Aging, and Sparrow's Nest.
She is an active member of All For One, an inter-faith organization working on multi-faceted community outreach.
She has an established relationship of support for ASHA (Foundation for education, in India), and for EKAL (educational and vocational training in rural India).
She has on the ground engagement with Indian non-government organizations (CRY, Pratham) for children's rights and education.
She has a MS in Computer Science from Binghamton University, and a BS from Binghamton University. She worked at IBM for 29 years, and is engaged in continuous growth, as an information technology professional, and an advocate of human rights. She has lived in Dutchess County for 20 years.
Seema Rizvi is a physician-specialist in Geriatrics (elderly care) and a Faculty Attending teaching Geriatrics in the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Vassar Brothers Hospital. She is a first-generation immigrant who has lived in Dutchess County for over 20 years with her husband and daughter.
She is the Founder and President of 501 3C nonprofit Organization "All for One -One for All - United We Stand - Divided We Fall" with a mission to deliver a message of peace, solidarity, kindness and tolerance.
During the start of COVID-19 Pandemic in 2020, in two years she organized three food drives for over 3000 families in need affected by COVID-19 pandemic through the "All for One” Joint Community Effort food drives in Dutchess County, New York.
Recently January 2022 helped 50 plus Afghan Refugee families with their resettlement through her Organization All for One, these families moved to Schenectady USA due to instability in their country. All for One organization is also working in collaboration with Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights, African American Clergy and Jewish Federation on United Against Hate Planning Groups
As a volunteer, she has served for many years on a variety of area boards, Complete Committee Count Census 2020, Community Stakeholder Workgroup Police Reform and Modernization Collaborative Workgroup . She was also a former Board of Trustees Member for Wappinger School District. Currently serving the Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights, Dutchess Interfaith Council, Jewish-Muslim alliance,
She is a philanthropist involved in global health, education inequalities, refugee’s resettlement in NY. She has organized and worked at medical camps in remote areas of Pakistan to help the needy. Recently was involved in providing COVID care and Children Cancer Hospital through financial means in Pakistan
Immigrant, driving force is to impact the community with the ability to bring different voices. Believes it takes hard work and collaboration to involve significant changes.
Biography coming soon!
A Beacon, NY native, Tara Simmons bikes and runs to educate and inspire. Through her efforts, Tara seeks to empower and inspire all humans to turn powerlessness into living fearlessly and living with purpose while respecting ourselves and each other.
Since 2007, Tara has been teaching math with White Plains School District. In addition to being an ambassador for Human Rights, Tara is an active member of I Am Beacon, and Beacon Endurance. Tara has led empowerment activities such as workout sessions and book clubs for the Beacon community. Through this work she had helped others to feel strong and cultivate their ability to love and be
loved. In March 2020, Tara launched her initiative, Flipit4Life.
The mission of FL!P IT 4 LIFE is to increase love and to conquer fear. Through her experience, Tara works to bring her community along the journey. She wants others to know that they are more than the labels we may be wrapped in by ourselves, others or society.
To launch this work, Tara ran 100 miles on October 3-4, 2020 from Albany, NY back to her hometown of Beacon, NY while spreading her message of human rights awareness, love and acceptance. She plans to continue taking on distance challenges by foot and on bikes each year until she is able to go from Death Valley, California to Beacon, New York.
As a new member of the Dutchess County Commission on Human Rights, Tara plans to continue to educate, empower and encourage ALL about the importance of receiving and giving respect to ourselves and each other, in each moment, because we ALL deserve it.
Advocating for the dignity and equality in opportunity for all motivates Gregory Totino to serve on the Commission on Human Rights.
A lifelong Dutchess County resident, Greg serves as press secretary to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. Greg previously was secretary to Town of Fishkill Supervisor Ozzy Albra, specializing in communications and social media management. In this capacity he has helped organize a number of community outreach events, including food drives and distribution events for COVID-19 test kits and personal protective equipment. Greg has served as the secretary to the Town of Fishkill Police Reform Committee, Town of Fishkill Comprehensive Plan Committee and Drinking Water Source Protection Committee. He is a voting member of the Dutchess County Transportation Council, representing the Town of Fishkill. Greg has prior experience as a newspaper reporter in Dutchess County and the Catskills, where he wrote about education, health care, environmental issues and human interest. Prior to this, Greg volunteered countless hours fighting hunger in the Hudson Valley with the Fishkill Food Pantry, and at the St. John Paul II Center in Danbury Connecticut as a volunteer recreational aide in the geriatric memory care unit.
Greg attended John Jay High School in East Fishkill, graduating in 2010 as a member of the National Honor Society and Societa Onoraria Italica. For undergraduate study, he attended the College of the Holy Cross (political science), and then the State University of New York College at New Paltz (digital media and journalism). Greg holds certifications with the New York Planning Federation in planning and zoning, and the International City/County Management Association in ethics.
Bailey Williams first joined the Commission when it was reinstated in 2016. After a brief move away from the area, Bailey returned to the Commission in 2019.
Bailey's background is largely in education; she received her M.Ed. from Arizona State University, where she specialized in Autism Consultation and Collaboration. She has taught at both the middle school and collegiate levels, and has designed and implemented curriculum focusing on Human Rights and Social Movements. In addition to her experience in the classroom, Bailey has worked as a Volunteer Coordinator for GLSEN Phoenix, as well as provided life skills training to adults with traumatic brain injuries and children with autism.
Bailey lives with her family in Red Hook. In addition to the Commission, Bailey also serves on the Board for the Red Hook Community Center.