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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:

  • 2023 Latin Award Recipient with Schnepps Media

  • 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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Sandra Ortiz, MD
Vice President

Sandra Ortiz, M.D. F.A.A.P., has been serving the Bardonia, New York community as a pediatrician since July 2006. Prior to that, she was an attending and an Assistant Clinical Professor at The Children’s Hospital of New York/Columbia University for 9 years where she taught pediatric residents and coordinated several community outreach programs. Dr. Ortiz completed her internship and residency at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. During her time there, she served as chief resident. Dr. Ortiz obtained her medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She completed her undergraduate education at Manhattan College with a major in Biology. Dr. Ortiz, resides in Rockland County with her 2 daughters.  Dr. Ortiz is passionate about promoting positive community health outcomes especially for underserved populations. Most significantly, she has been a fierce advocate for Latino communities and domestic violence survivors throughout her tenure. She hopes to harness and build upon these experiences as a member of our board. 

 

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Djenane Griffith 
Treasurer

Djenane Griffith is an Internal Audit professional who is currently responsible for the internal audit (IA) department at TerraForm Power, Inc. She started her career in external audit at PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (formerly Price Waterhouse, LLP) and over the years have gained experience in a diverse range of industries by working at companies such as J.Crew (9 years – senior director), Deloitte & Touche (5 years – senior manager), and the Interpublic Group of Companies (manager – 2 years). Her career as an internal auditor has enabled her to cultivate strong skills in areas such as project management, team leadership, cross-functional collaboration, and communication. At the conclusion of each IA project, I have a closing meeting with a cross-section of management and must deliver a report that is factual, describes any operational improvements in a fair manner, and include operational recommendations that are actionable.

Djenane spent approximately 7 years as an active member of the St. Anthony Home School Association (HSA); and although there is no formal role definition in place, she has held various responsibilities such as: developing and executing the meeting agenda, developing the over-arching HSA calendar, bringing in music and computer programming extracurricular activities to the school, documenting and distributing meeting notes – including tracking and following-up of pending action items, and organizing and leading fundraising events.  Djenane has been a member of the Rockland Orange Chapter of Jack and Jill of America since 2015. She is currently in her fifth year as Chapter Parliamentarian. She has also served on various committees such as: Bylaws and Policies & Procedures, Membership, and Audit.

 

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Rachel Schlegel, LMSW, is a school-based social worker at Stamford Public Schools. Rachel graduated from Columbia University's clinical social work program with a concentration in school-based services. Rachel joined the board following her previous internship with TSONY. She is passionate about grounding her clinical work in anti-oppressive practice, fostering fulfilling connections, and staying involved in community outreach programs. 

 

Rachel Schlegel
Secretary
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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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Dr. Audrey Marie Baker
Board Of Director

 

Dr. Audrey Marie Baker pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics with a minor in Chinese at CUNY Queens College. She completed a Master’s of Science in Education Administration and Supervision from Pace University. Audrey also attended the Principal’s Center at Harvard University Graduate School of Education Summer Institute and also Critical Issues of Urban Education.  Amongst her other credentials, she holds sixteen (16) licenses, permanent state certification (SAS and SDA), and has been certified as a New York State Impartial Hearing Officer.  As a long-term educator with extensive experience spanning over 35 years, Audrey has had the privilege of serving in general, bi-lingual, special needs, and special education environments, from grades P-12.  Audrey served as a Principal of a newly themed middle school, School for Theater, Arts and Research (STAR) Academy in the Hunts Point area.  Under her leadership, in addition to the middle school's program, three (3) alternative high school programs (including recently released incarcerated student from the Stafford Juvenile Detention Center), a city-wide (District 75) special education junior high school program, and a Pre-K program, and a community-based organization, Pathways for Youth, all co-existed peacefully in her building.  Audrey retired in 2008 from the NYC Department of Education. Audrey served as an instructor at City University and is an educational consultant with a few educationally driven companies.   

In 2014, Audrey pursued the open seat for the At Large position on the New York State Board of Regents. She was endorsed by the NYS Allies for Public Education, a cadre of 45 member organizations throughout the state. Although she did not win, she remains responsive to community needs and continues to proactively connect with teachers, educational leaders, parents, and students for the betterment of our educational system at all levels throughout our state.  Audrey earned a Doctor of Education (ED.D) degree from the CSA/CITE/Sage Colleges Doctoral Program in 2017. She also received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters (DHL) in 2016 from St. Martin’s College and Seminary in Wisconsin. She is a member of the Association of Black Educators of New York, Inc. (ABENY, INC.), the New York City Middle School Principal’s Association, New York Academy of Public Education (NYAPE), the 79th Police Precinct Community Council, Life Member of the Delta Kappa, Pace University, Delta Kappa Gamma International Society for Key Women Educators and Cornerstone Baptist Church.  Audrey has been recognized and honored for her accomplishments as an educator and community activist. One of her most significant awards was being a recipient of a Congregational Record Award in Education and Community Service honoring Women Who Dare To Be Different from the Honorable Congressman Edolphus Towns.  Audrey has also been recognized for her affiliation with organizations that include The Food Pantry, delivering food to the elderly.    Audrey believes that her responsibility is to give back to the public school system, she quietly contributes to a high level of commitment and humanity in helping others. She values the viewpoint of others and has sought to be a role model with a moral high ground and an ethical framework. Audrey knows that her mission on earth is not to be served but to serve.

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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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Michenson Joseph
Board of Director

Michenson Joseph was born and raised in Haiti. He emigrated to the U.S in the year 2000. he and his family emigrated to the United States because of the opportunities they knew and believe existed here. The opportunity for him to obtain a quality education was of the most importance to his parents. Upon completing a bachelor’s degree from Virginia State University in May 2009, he became further aware of his interest in the field of Human Services.  While attending the University, he served as a Mentor for the Big Brother Big Sister Program of Petersburg Virginia; additionally, he also worked as an intern for Chesterfield Juvenile Justice Court. Michenson has furthered his education by pursuing a Masters of Social Work at New York University. Michenson's background experience consists of working with at-risk adolescents and young adults dealing with an array of challenges from different backgrounds.  As a result, he has committed his most valuable professional experience toward Social Work. Most valuable and influential to Michenson's volunteer and professional work is his affiliation with the prestigious Fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. The group's mission is to create distinguished leaders, promote brotherhood, and academic excellence while providing advocacy and activism to communities and young scholars nationwide.  He is a full-time employee at the Social Security Administration, as a Claim Specialist.

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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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Alex Santiago
Board of Director

Alex Santiago, comes to this board with over 20 years of law enforcement experience and currently holds a master’s degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Alex has held multiple assignments leading up to his investigative career as a Detective. As a father of teens, he is actively aware of the different stages of needs: support, information, answers to concerns, rest and family time. Alex joined Tender Steps of New York so that he can assist with the necessary guidance for the youth and their families. He comes with plenty of wisdom and a love for history. As a pastime, he can be found watching the NY Jets and spending lazy afternoons with his husky, Zoe.

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Dr. Ritza Santiago
Board of Director

Dr. Ritza Santiago, comes to Tender Steps of New York as a professional and leader with many years of experience in the non-profit sector that includes Human Resources, job development, program management, career counseling, college admissions and education. Dr. Santiago is an active researcher-previously, focusing on first-year college students and their decision-making to attend college and how it was impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings summarized that college students were encouraged and supported to go onto college from childhood and the pandemic did not alter their goals. It was also highlighted that students lack options when it comes to plans after high school. Dr. Santiago also sits on the Board of the Gap Year Association and is the Chair of the Research Committee. Dr. Santiago is passionate about students planning for their future, as young as middle school, and pushes students to really research their interests and explore their possibilities after high school.  From her experience, going back to her early days working with the youth and families of NYC, she's found that decisions are not made by one person, but collectively from the whole support system. Dr. Santiago comes to Tender Steps of New York to help where necessary and serve her community.

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