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Board of Directors

Evelyn Bautista-Miller: President & Founder

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Evelyn Bautista-Miller, LMSW, SDA is a bilingual Certified Licensed Social Worker (LMSW) in education with an impressive career in social work spanning over two decades. From working as a supervisor in a New York City Foster Care Agency to working within the education sector as a pre-school program director for general and special education students to educating the next generation of social workers as an adjunct lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work, Mrs. Bautista-Miller’s commitment to serving New York’s most underserved and vulnerable populations is unwavering. A graduate of the State University of New York at Albany the Rockefeller School of Social Welfare, she earned both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Social Work. Additionally, she attained her Educational Administration license at the Leadership Academy at (MCLA) Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and her bilingual certification from Touro College.

In 2014, passionate about using her experience and education to serve her community, Mrs. Bautista-Miller founded Tender Steps of New York, Inc. (TSONY, Inc.). TSONY Inc. is a 501(C) non-profit organization located in Rockland County, New York whose mission is centered on providing direct services to individuals who are struggling with some aspect of their lives including but not limited to eliminating inequities in education, helping families overcome challenges due to language barriers and addressing immigration and citizenship concerns. Whether it’s anger management, conflict resolution, educational advocacy, trauma support, or the many other services TSONY, Inc. provides, Mrs. Bautista-Miller leverages her skills, talents, knowledge, and compassion to provide support to families and youth that help improve their skills, attitude and outcomes for their future.

Her steadfast commitment to helping others, her ability to work effectively with clients from diverse backgrounds, and her professional commitment to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people are what drives much of Mrs. Bautista-Miller’s work. Her work extends far beyond the individual to the macro level allowing her to

influence public policy and legislature such as helping to introduce legislation (bill S.7526-A) that would mandate every school district to provide students with access to a school social worker to assist with the students’ mental health. A true community partner and advocate, part of her volunteer work includes the chartering of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.’s Tau Gamma Zeta Chapter in Rockland County in 2003. In addition, she has served on a Task Force with the District Attorney’s Office with the Clarkstown Police Department and has served two, 3-year terms as a board member for the Martin Luther King Multi-Purpose Center in Spring Valley, New York.

Whether it’s working with families one on one, training up the next generation of social workers, advocating for legislation, or managing the day to day operations of TSONY, Inc., Mrs. Bautista-Miller is a fierce advocate for change to improve social conditions and strengthen the social networks. She is committed to being a part of the solution and uses all the tools in her arsenal to be the change she wants to see in the world. She currently works in Rockland County as a district social worker. 

Degrees and Certifications:

  • Bachelor of Science (BSW) and Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW), S.U.N.Y. at Albany.

  • Educational license as a Certified Bilingual in Spanish Social Worker and School District Administrator (SDA) in both New York and New Jersey Education Department.

  • Certification with the New York State Department of Health for Group Development Intervention & Family/Caregiver.

  • Support Groups for the Early Intervention Program for skill-building, intensive in-home, and respite services.

  • Provisional Certification as a school attendance teacher.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2020 Woman of Distinction Award- Presented by Assemblywoman Ellen C. Jaffee, NYS  97th Assembly District.

  • 2019 Person of the Year awarded by the Rockland County Omega Psi Phi Chapter

  • 2019 “Trailblazer Soror” honored by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Epsilon Nu Chapter for continued service to the community.

  • 2018 Recipient of the “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Award honored by St. Charles AME Zion Church.

  • 2018 “Unsung Hero” and “William Darden Education Award” recipient by the NAACP Spring Valley Chapter.

  • 2018 “Ambassador” at the Dominican Parade and the Festival for the United Latin Festival which was held in Haverstraw, New York- August

  • 2018 Recipient of the “Distinguished Service Award” presented by Toney L. Earl, Chairman of the Rockland Legislative Office.

  • 2017 Recipient of the Outstanding Citizen Award awarded by the Town of Ramapo.

  • 2016 Recipient of Mayor Demeza Delhomme Proclamation proclaiming that April 17, 2016, is the Tender Steps of New York Inc. Day in the Village of Spring Valley.

  • 2015 Women’s History Month Honoree by The County Legislature Office in Rockland County for service within the community (includes the work done with schools and community organizations).

  • 2015 Recipient of the “Rising Star” for 40 Under 40 by the New York State Hispanic Coalition, Inc.  

  • 2014 Honoree at EPIC’s 25th Anniversary of the Rockland County Chapter.

  • 2014 Panelist for the AAUW Association of University Women Diversity Brunch.

  • 2012 “Zeta of the Year” honored by Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Tau Gamma Zeta Chapter.

  • 2012 Recipient of the “40 Under Forty” by REDC- Rockland Economic Development Corporation.

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Socorro Diaz, came to the United States at the age of 14 years old from the Dominican Republic. She arrived here with her family and suffered a culture shock learning a new language and adapting to a new way of life. As she is adapting to a new country and learning a new language, she faced many challenges.  As a young adult she held many jobs in the community, cashier at a supermarket and babysitting; as she is also studying at Lehman College. After graduating from Lehman, she became a case worker at a day treatment program and later became a bilingual teacher in District Ten in the Bronx. She holds two master’s degrees both in education from Fordham University and Mercy College respectively. 

 

Education became her career and life. She recently retired from the NYC Department of Education after32 years of service. Ms. Diaz held many jobs in her educational career from teacher, professional developer, coach, Title VII coordinator, director, founding principal of Entrada Academy and Bronx Borough Director of Multilingual Learners. During her entire career she became a strong advocate for students who learn English as a new language.

Socorro Diaz
Board of Director
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Ronda Mercado
Board of Director

Ronda Mercado, graduated from The city college of New York with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in jew studies. I was a stay at home mom for 23 years raising my 3 children. I own and operate 3 successful businesses for the past 9 years. I'm a girl scout troop leader and a member of 2 school boards. I am successful in fundraising for the school board where I've raised over 60 thousands dollars in the past 3 years  

 

Ronda Mercado is a dedicated and accomplished board member known for her passion, commitment, and remarkable achievements. With a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Jewish Studies from The City College of New York, Ronda's educational foundation reflects her unwavering pursuit of knowledge. 

For 23 years, Ronda took on the vital role of a stay-at-home mom, devoting herself to raising her three children. During this time, she demonstrated exceptional organizational skills and a nurturing spirit that would later serve as the bedrock for her professional endeavors. 

 

Ronda's entrepreneurial spirit shines through as she currently owns and operates three successful businesses. Her remarkable ability to balance these responsibilities showcases her outstanding leadership and business acumen, which have not only yielded financial success but also contributed significantly to the community. 

In the past nine years, Ronda has also played a pivotal role in her local community as a Girl Scout troop leader and a member of two school boards. Her dedication to education and community development is evident in her impressive track record of fundraising. Over the past three years alone, she has raised over $60,000 for her school board, demonstrating her exceptional talent for mobilizing resources and her unwavering commitment to providing enhanced educational opportunities for local students. 

Ronda Mercado's multifaceted background, from her academic achievements to her successful business ventures and her tireless dedication to community involvement, makes her an invaluable asset as a board member. Her ability to connect with people, lead with integrity, and drive positive change exemplifies her outstanding contributions to the organizations and communities she serves.

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Leslie Rodriguez
Board of Director

Leslie Rodriguez, is of Dominican descent and was born and raised in New York City and later moved to Rockland County. After graduating from North Rockland High School, she earned her Bachelor of Arts from Dominican College, now known as Dominican University. She earned her Master of Science in Mental Health Counseling and has been a Licensed Mental Health Counselor for approximately 10 years. 

Prior to working at the Center, Leslie has had extensive experience providing therapeutic services to children and adults.  In 2018, Leslie started working at Center for Safety & Change as a Bilingual Therapist in the Special Victims Department providing therapeutic services to victims and/ or survivors of domestic violence, sexual trauma, human trafficking, and other crimes.  In 2020, she was promoted to her current role as Director of Children and Youth Services, where she oversees the Children and Youth Program and supervises the therapists in her department.  She is dedicated and passionate about helping victims and/or survivors heal from their trauma, all while providing a safe, warm, and empathetic environment. 

Leslie was recognized as the Dominican Leader of the Year by the Dominican Unity Group in the Lower Hudson Valley in 2019.  She is also a mentor for Wonder Girls, which is an after-school program for middle and high school girls, whose mission is to build confidence, leadership, and other skills needed to succeed no matter what career path they choose. Leslie is passionate to be able to pay if forward to her community! She is proud to be a Board Member to the 100 Hispanic Women-Rockland Program. Recently, she was welcomed as a Board Member to Tender Steps of N.Y.  Her hope is to empower and provide guidance to help women achieve their dreams and break glass ceilings!  

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Jennifer Baez, is a bi-lingual Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She graduated from Hunter College with a BA in Sociology and obtained her master’s degree at SUNY Stony Brook University. Jennifer has over 15 years of experience working with children and adolescents in various settings including schools, mental health clinics, hospitals and medical centers. It has always been her passion to support and empower young adults as they venture through their journey of self-discovery and healing.  Being a first-generation Latina has also influenced her views of the world we live in. Personal experiences have allotted her to be compassionate, empathetic and a strong advocate for others. Jennifer has recently moved to Rockland County with her family and is eager to share in community and establish roots in Rockland County.

Jennifer Baez 
Board of Director

 
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Hello, I’m Dr. Ritza Santiago. I’m a professional and leader with many years of experience in the non-
profit sector that includes Human Resources, job development, career counseling, college counseling

and education. I am a researcher-previously, I focused on Northeastern first year college students and
their decision-making to attend college and how it was impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. My
findings concluded that college students were encouraged and supported to go onto college from
childhood and the pandemic did not alter their goals. I also found that students are not given much
diversity when it comes to their options after high school. This is why I push for students to really
research their interests and explore their possibilities after high school. What I learned from working
with the youth and their families, is that decisions are not made by one person, but collectively from the whole support system. I come to Tender Steps of New York to help where necessary and serve our
community.

Dr. Ritza Santiago
Board of Director
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Alex Santiago
Board of Director

My name is Alex Santiago and I come to this board with over 20 years of law enforcement experience
and currently hold a master’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. As a father of teens, I
know what it’s like at different stages to need: support, information, concerns answered, rest and
getting into the closest carpool. I’m with Tender Steps of New York so that I can assist with the
necessary guidance for the youth and their families. I come with plenty of wisdom and a love for
history. As a past time, I can be found watching the NY Jets and spending lazy afternoons with my husky,
Zoe.

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