At ERVK, we work every day to ensure Eleanor’s light continues to shine and her voice continues to be heard through her profound ideals, great wisdom, and beliefs in freedom for all humanity.
What began for April, at a young age, as a desire to be an educator has evolved into a life’s work devoted to the betterment of community welfare through the nonprofit sector. A self-described altruist, April has more than 18 years’ experience as an organizational leader and is respected as a credible voice in decision making, finding strategic partners, and establishing governance structures that move organizations to the next level. With expertise in the areas of strategic planning, business development, marketing, public relations, and government affairs, she prides herself on being results-oriented and has developed and directed multi-million dollar fundraising campaigns. She has been responsible for agendas focused on the advancement of national and international healthcare, regional and local economic development, and the delivery of human services in her executive-level roles. April is distinguished by her ability to identify, leverage and develop talent, and brings a contagious enthusiasm and passionate belief in people that inspires them to become prouder, stronger, and more valuable contributors to their organizations.
From passion to profession, April has selectively worked on staff and consulted for organizations that fuel her desire to make a difference in people’s lives through education and youth development, and leadership and community development, including: Outward Bound, The Chamber Foundation, Inc., United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, Pattern for Progress, the Poughkeepsie Alliance, and Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. Prior to joining ERVK, April served as the senior director of public relations and government affairs for Cornerstone Family Healthcare, where she worked at the local, state and national levels to advance health equity in marginalized communities. Inspired by human connection and building relationships, April is excited to meet, collaborate and grow ERVK with like-minded people who believe the basis for human equality resides in the hands of our youth as change makers.
April is a native of the Hudson Valley where she lives with her husband and children 23, 16 and 13, and is heartily committed to engaging in civic activities that will help her community reach its full potential. A former executive board member of the Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie, April holds a BA in Early Childhood Education, K – 6, with concentrations in psychology and English language arts from Mount Saint Mary College.
When she left her 22-year teaching career seven years ago to relocate to the Hudson Valley with her husband, Lys never imagined she’d have such rich opportunities to explore educational work in the nonprofit sector. Before joining the Eleanor Roosevelt Center as a part-time special events coordinator in May 2018, she worked at the Omega Women’s Leadership Center: first as an administrative coordinator, and later as the Center’s community engagement specialist. Having recently accepted a full-time role as ERVK’s director of programs & development, she is delighted to be in a position that will not only allow her to share but also expand her expertise in the areas of facilitation, curriculum planning, program and resource development, community engagement, and fundraising. She is also thrilled to be part of ERVK’s mission to carry forward Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership legacy through youth education and mentorship.
Lys, who has also had a career as an editor, received her BA in English and Sociology from SUNY at New Paltz and her master’s degree in English/Secondary Education from Queens College. A certified end-of-life doula, she is a Hudson Valley Hospice volunteer, Funeral Consumer’s Alliance board member, and co-founder and facilitator (with her husband) of Death Café Dutchess. Lys also maintains a small private practice as a shamanic healer.
Mary Fetzko, recently relocated from the North Fork of Long Island to the beautiful Hudson Valley, where she joined the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill (ERVK) staff. Passionate about inspiring and empowering individuals and communities under the auspices of Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership legacy, Mary employs her diverse operational, office management, and executive support skills and experience from her tenure in municipal government and the insurance and financial services industries to maintain an efficient office environment. Mary often serves as the first point of contact for issues needing attention. As a part of the team at ERVK, Mary supports its mission to provide leadership opportunities for youth and Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy.
Board of Directors
Kathryn Reed, MHA, CMPE
Kathryn’s experience in non-profit administration and development, and most recently with community health centers and rural health networks, is a great asset to ERVK. Kathryn has a MA in healthcare administration and is a certified medical practice executive with the American College of Medical Practice Executives. Kathryn served as a long-standing member of the NYS Rural Health Council, executive director of the Catskill-Hudson Area Health Education Center, senior program Associate at the Institute for Family Health, and as a health care executive with the Institute in New Paltz and Brown University’s Family Practice Residency Program. Currently, she is the vice president administrative services of New Windsor Family Medicine and vice president of the board of Always There Home Health Services in Ulster County.
Nina R. Gibson
Nina, granddaughter of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, spent her formative years living with her parents in Val-Kill’s Stone Cottage. Earning her PhD in psychology from the Ohio State University, Nina worked in the public sector with disadvantaged families. She was a founding member and board chair of the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center. Currently, Nina serves on the boards of the Living New Deal Project, Cheetah Conservation Fund of Namibia, and Banner-UMC Hospital’s Sarver Heart Center Advisory Board and continues to be active with cardiovascular transplant patients and their families.
Following her grandmere’s advice to “touch other people with your life,” Julianna has worked with at-risk communities as a child psychologist and community activist in the United States, Mexico and El Salvador. With childhood roots at Val-Kill, she plays an active role in promoting human rights education and awareness locally, nationally and internationally. The promotion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Eleanor Roosevelt’s most significant legacy, is Julianna’s current focus. She is spearheading a variety of programs and initiatives to bring the 30 articles of the UDHR to as many children and young people as possible while also championing global affirmation of human rights in small places close to home and abroad to ensure that the principles of the UDHR becomes a reality for the millions of women, men and children still deprived of their rights 70 years later. Julianna resides in Long Beach, California, where she serves as cultural heritage commissioner and is founding member of the Long Beach Sustainable Business Council. Joyously, she is grandmother to 18 month old Elliott, designs gardens, and facilitates mindfulness workshops for all ages.
Keith is a senior relationship manager for TD Bank in the New Windsor regional office. He has worked in the banking industry for 38 years and brings a wealth of financial expertise to ERVK as the organization’s treasurer. Keith serves as a moderator for the Hudson River Presbytery and an elder at the First Presbyterian Church of Monroe. Caring immensely about making an impact in the lives of others in the areas of education, income equity and health, Keith is active with United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, participating in their annual grant review process. Keith and his wife, who have been married for over 34 years, have three children and two grandchildren.
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIR
As Marist College’s chief of staff and secretary to its board of trustees, Emily works closely with the president to promote Marist’s mission and advance the president’s agenda. She received her BA from Cornell University and completed an MFA in Poetry at George Mason University, where she was a teaching assistant, the editor of the internationally circulated literary journal, Phoebe, a Journal of Literature and Art, and the Heritage Writing Fellow. Emily is the past co-chair of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 40 Under 40 Selection Committee and a member of the Walkway Over the Hudson’s board. She lives in Rhinebeck, New York, with her husband and two children.
Wesley Eugene Dixon
Wesley Dixon oversees the operations of the Office of the President at Vassar College and manages the operations of the College’s Board of Trustees. Additionally, Wesley serves as the college representative for international strategic partnership development in China and Rwanda. With a background in global health, Wesley has been recognized for establishing numerous national and international youth and adult leadership programs–most recently in his role as program manager for the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute (GHLI), where he managed a number of GHLI’s health system-strengthening programs in Ethiopia, China and the UK. With a vision of eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities, Wesley was selected by the state of Connecticut to lead the development of Health Disparities Institute’s web platform for the University of Connecticut. Wesley is also involved with the Born this Way Foundation and the National Minority AIDS Council Youth Scholar steering committee in Washington DC, where he helps to develop youth-specific strategies to decrease HIV prevalence among young people. Wesley holds a BA in Environmental Engineering Sciences and African Studies from Yale University.
Moonah Ellison, entrepreneur, business professional, and experienced magazine executive, is the publisher and editor of New York Moves, an influential lifestyle and fashion magazine targeted to city career women (and men). With a progressive vibe, Moves often takes on social, political and global topics and showcases how women are shaping our world today. As a graduate of Durham University in the UK, Moonah has more than thirty years-experience advancing international companies through innovative business development, marketing, and communications strategies. She was instrumental in developing Public Finance Magazine, NCH Corporation, and NTL Cable Communications, and is the proprietor of Virtual Media, a revolutionary and exploratory TV concept for audience participation. As the annual host of NYC’s Power Women Gala, Moonah is a fierce advocate for women’s rights, social fairness, and equal opportunity. Moonah and her husband reside in the Hudson Valley.
Anna Eleanor Fierst
Anna is a great-granddaughter of Eleanor Roosevelt and the daughter of Eleanor Roosevelt’s oldest grandchild, Eleanor Roosevelt Seagraves. Anna has a professional background in publication editing and marketing and managed the communications department of the Woman’s National Democratic Club (WNDC) before becoming its president in 2012. During her tenure, Anna guided the WNDC through a series of governance and operational overhauls. Anna recently stepped down from the WNDC to heartily focus on promoting the values espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). A strong believer in Mrs. Roosevelt’s credo that human rights begin “close to home,” Anna also served as president of a large civic association and is currently active in a local watchdog group, the Coalition for Bethesda Area Residents. Anna holds a BA in history from Columbia University, and with her husband, raised two children in Bethesda, Maryland.
Khalea Ross Robinson
Khalea is currently pursuing an MFA in film production at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program, where she is focusing on screenwriting and directing. Before making the decision to pursue her MFA, Khalea served as associate producer for 60 Minutes’ digital branch and was an associate producer at Face The Nation on CBS News. Prior to this, she was a producer on PBS’s the Tavis Smiley Show. Khalea graduated Phi Beta Kappa from MIT, where she majored in civil engineering and double minored in French and Political Science. While at MIT, she worked as a teaching assistant in the Physics department and held internships in Washington, DC at the Executive Office of the President at the Office of Management and Budget and in France at the legendary civil engineering firm Eiffage. From a bloodline of human rights heroes, Khalea is an articulate and passionate advocate for equality and social justice.
Christopher Roellke, PhD
Christopher, who is a professor of education and dean of the College Emeritus at Vassar College, earned his BA in political science from Wesleyan University and his MS and PhD degrees in educational administration from Cornell University. Prior to entering the doctoral program at Cornell, he taught secondary school history and social studies in rural, suburban, and urban settings. His research interests are in the politics and economics of education, teacher education, and secondary school reform. His most recent publications include articles in: The Journal of Education Finance; Education and Urban Society; The Peabody Journal of Education; School Business Affairs; Education Finance and Policy; and Leadership, Policy and Schools. He is also the founding director of the Vassar College Urban Education Initiative (VCUEI), an urban education outreach and professional development project funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. Christopher is past chairman of ERVK’s board of directors and resides with his family in the Hudson Valley.
Lynne A. Ruggiero
Lynn, a licensed mental health counselor and retired associate psychologist with the New York State Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, worked with adults with disabilities (and abilities) and with mental illness, along with family and staff who cared for them. She holds a PhD in social and personality psychology from the City University of New York, an MA in school psychology from Fairfield University, and a BA from Marist College. Lynn’s doctoral research and work were in international conflict resolution, with an emphasis on the Middle East. Lynn believes that serving marginalized people is a humanizing and affirming profession, and works to support and empower people to become their best. International travel is a passion through which Lynn meets people from various countries of the world and shares in the cultures and perspectives of others. Much like Eleanor Roosevelt, Lynn believes people-to-people exchanges affect the world in small but significant ways.
Erica Salzmann-Talbi, MBA, CFP
Erica Salzmann-Talbi, an MBA graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and certified financial planner, has helped individuals for more than thirty years reach their financial goals and prepare for retirement. Erica’s expertise and experience spans personal financial planning, insurance and estate planning, tax planning and preparation, and asset management, with an emphasis on socially responsible portfolios. With an unyielding dedication to developing girls to navigate social barriers and become empowered women and inspiring leaders, Erica has given her time as a member of the board of directors of the Ulster/Dutchess chapter of Girls Inc., and for the last 16 years has availed herself as an active member of ERVK’s Girls’ Leadership Worldwide advisory council, facilitating partnerships, developing outreach, and participating in hands-on program activities. She has also opened her home to host international program participants and their families. Though she is an avid world traveler, and was born in and returns often to Sedona, AZ to visit family and friends, the Hudson Valley is now her home.