WHAT WE DO
Rhode Island for Community & Justice (RICJ) is a social justice nonprofit dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry, and racism and promoting understanding among all races, religions, and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution, and education. It is our purpose to transform communities to be more inclusive and just by empowering people to lead institutional change. We are the voice that calls people to common ground, with respect for differences but with the understanding that people of all backgrounds have common values and needs that unite them.
To promote understanding and respect across groups, RICJ believes society must acknowledge the dynamics of power and privilege and the role individuals play in creating attitudes, behavior and practices that support systems of exclusion and oppression either overt or covert.
Through its adult and youth programming, RICJ works with students, teachers, clergy, corporate and civic leaders to facilitate workshops, develop curriculum, convene race relations and inter-religious dialogues, and provide consulting on challenges related to bias, bigotry and racism. Our current focus on youth programs and juvenile justice reforms is due largely to the organizations belief that today's teens are tomorrow's leaders, and through them is the only way to create long-lasting positive change in our communities.
Fighting bias, bigotry and racism.
WHO WE ARE: OUR STAFF
Toby Ayers, PhD - Executive Director
Phone: (401)-467-1717 x 1
Dr. Ayers is a community psychologist with doctorate from Washington State University and postdoctoral fellowship at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Executive Director since 2004, Toby leads administration, strategic planning and fundraising, organizes the Civil Rights Roundtable and founded and directs our Juvenile Justice program. She teams with Rose, Becky and RICJ youth on our diversity and workplace consulting service.
Prior to joining RICJ, Toby directed the Rhode Island Commission on Women. She directed research and service for a Boston university/community health partnership, the Center for Community Health, Education, Research and Service at Northeastern University (where she founded the Community Advocacy Program). She developed multicultural education for the Guam School Department, and served as faculty at RISD, Brown Medical School and the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine. The 1987 Rhode Island State awardee for Outstanding Young Woman of America, Toby's goal is to help Rhode Islanders find common ground.
Rose Albert - Senior Associate for Youth Programs
Phone: (401)-467-1717 x 2
RICJ is thrilled that Rose Albert has re-joined our organization, first as Youth Program Manager and now as our Senior Associate. In 2018, Rose returned to RICJ after having earned her BA from Salve Regina University and her MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management from the School of International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, VT. Her work throughout the New England region has prepared her to lead. She was Graduate Program Administrator and Community & Neighborhood Coordinator for SIT and Diversity Facilitator for Landmark College. She also has been Equity and Diversity Facilitator and Camp Residential Diversity Counselor at the Discovery Center in CT, a camp program similar to RICJ's Project RESPECT.
Rose works with RICJ part time to run our Youth Programs. At the same time, Rose is an Assistant Director of Salve Regina University's Multicultural Center - a center that Rose founded during her time as a student.
Rose is a product of RICJ's leadership programs. A star student who actively participated during her time in high school and while she was at college, Rose was president of the youth group and co-directed Project Respect. Rose speaks six languages including French, American Sign Language, and Haitian Creole. Having immigrated to this country at an early age, Rose understands the challenges and difficulties faced by many of our youth.
Becky Kerner - Youth Programs Coordinator
Phone: (401)-467-1717 x 2
Rebecca Kerner's role at RICJ is the day-to-day operation of the youth programs, ensuring there is always an open place and a friendly face for our youth. She builds the capacity of our youth programs for sustainability, assisting Rose in ensuring successful outcomes for our youth. Becky serves as an important communications link to our youth and community. She seeks to be a supportive mentor to our youth.
Becky became the Youth Coordinator in 2019. Previously she had worked as our Youth Empowerment VISTA and as part of RICJ's fundraising team.
Social justice has always been Becky's passion. After participating in an 8th grade Civil Rights exploration trip through Gordon School, Becky aspired to become a lawyer for the Southern Poverty Law Center. After graduating with a BA in Anthropology from Wheaton College in 2017, Becky explored what routes could take her toward a social justice career - and found RICJ.
In her free time, she writes poetry, short stories and plays with themes about racial injustice, acceptance, and other topics relevant to today's social climate.
Jacob Osborne - Youth Empowerment VISTA
Phone: (401)-467-1717 x 2
In his role as the Youth Empowerment VISTA, Jacob supports Becky and Rose with Youth Programs operations and capacity-building. He organizes educational and enriching activities for RICJ's youth, helps to build long-term financial sustainability, and contributes to the recruitment and planning of RICJ's flagship youth programs.
Jacob arrived at RICJ with a background in performance, education, and social justice facilitation. He graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies before spending two years as a professional actor and educator in Los Angeles. He has performed in theater, film, and television projects in New York, Los Angeles, and, most recently, at The Gamm Theatre in Warwick, RI. Jacob has also begun working part-time as an actor-educator for Speak About It, a performance-based consent education and sexual assault prevention organization. In the summer of 2019, Jacob led a five-person team of consent educators on a tour of college orientations throughout the Midwest, engaging with thousands of first-year students and running facilitation trainings for campus leaders.
Jacob is deeply inspired by the work of RICJ's youth and staff, and is thrilled to bring his passion for spreading empathy and equity to such a committed and talented team.
Chelcie Speaks - Youth Coordinator for YFC Program
Chelcie is 16 years old and attends Classical High school. Some of her interests are writing, reading, and listening to music. Writing is a stress reliever for her, as well as a way to get her thoughts out if it's a good late-night epiphany. She loves reading, whether it be her writing or books that are deep and eye-opening, and music always brings her joy, especially old music from decades ago.
She was a part of YFC last year and the experience was beyond anything she could ever have thought of. It was an eye-opening, educational, and light-hearted experience. She learned so much about the social justice issues that she knew about, and even more about the social justice issues that she did not know about. She learned so much about the world she lives in and how these issues affect her and her day-to-day life. She learned so much about herself in the process and how much she loves sharing her knowledge with other people, especially when it is the knowledge that could open their eyes to a reality that they may live in. Even though this program was her job, she gained so many friendships and met so many people from all walks of life. She met people who she never thought she would meet, but she is so glad she met them because they have given her new perspectives on the world and they’re just overall great people.
Sarah Ortes - Youth Coordinator for YFC Program
Sarah Ortes is a 17 year old rising senior who attends Classical High School. She is a thrower for the school’s Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field teams. Besides playing sports, her interests include doing makeup, writing and reading poetry, baking, and listening to music. Considering she labels herself as an introspective, analytical being, she enjoys giving advice to others and listening to their story. She also has a passion for psychology, especially the detriments trauma has on victims, and intends to major in the subject.
She began working for RICJ in 2019 for the Youth Facilitating for Change (YFC) program. It had been difficult to find people who were as enthusiastic about social justice as herself, but YFC gave her the opportunity to put her voice in a space where people would be respectful and listen. She made connections with people who she now calls family, all while engaging in conversations regarding social justice. After seeing firsthand how impactful the experience was, she was eager to rejoin the following year. YFC helped her become more knowledgeable on important issues and built her character as well. She gives credit to the program for making her become more outspoken and advocate for the changes she wants to see. She firmly believes that everyone needs to know about social injustice, because everyone is affected, regardless of race, sexuality, gender, religion, age, or class. From the leadership skills and supportive community she gained from YFC, she is now confident that she will create great change one day.
Nathalya Peña - Youth Coordinator for YFC Program
Nathalya is 15 years old and is a part of the Class of 2023 at Classical High School. Her interests include playing basketball, listening to music, and cooking. Her experience at YFC in 2019 was fun, eye-opening, educational, and also memorable. In her time at YFC, she made friends that she will keep with her forever. At YFC she also learned information about the world around her — things that she didn’t know were occurring in the streets of her community. While she was at YFC, she had a lot of fun making activities and workshops to be able to spread knowledge and information to those around in her local communities.
YFC wasn’t always educational; she was also able to have fun with others in the program. She did exercises and activities not only to get to know and trust the other facilitators, but also to have a good time. YFC allowed her to use her leadership skills to help her facilitation group reach its fullest potential. Nathalya and her group presented their workshop not only to students of their age group, but also to adults, parents, and others that worked their community. YFC helped her reach her fullest potential in the Social Justice work that her group was doing, and also helped her find her voice. YFC got her to realize that her voice can make a true difference in her streets and community.
Michelle St. Onge - Youth Programs Intern from the Met
Michelle St. Onge is a sophomore at The Met School in Providence. While participating in RICJ’s 2019 summer program, Youth Facilitating for Change (YFC), she gained a great interest in social justice. This YFC experience inspired her to continue her work with RICJ, and she is now their student intern for the school year.
Michelle is currently interested in social justice, theater arts, and education. She enjoys music and cats. After high school, she hopes to go to NYU.
Board of Directors
President: David Winoker, Belvoir Properties
Vice President: Joelle Kanter, RIPTA
2nd Vice President: Michael Evora, RI Commission for Human Rights
Secretary: Kelly Coutcher, Fidelity Investments
Imam Farid Ansari, RI Council for Muslim Advancement
Lucie Burdick, RI Human Services
Andrew Douglass, Douglass Law
Stephanie Hague, Jewish Alliance of RI
Col. Steven Paré, City of Providence
Lizzie Pollock, CCRI
Ramona Royal, Amica Insurance
Dr. John McCray, University of RI (Past President)
Sam Palmisano, Amica Insurance (Past President)
Metcalf Media Awards Sponsors
Community & Justice Awards Annual Fund
RICJ began in 1952 as the Rhode Island and Southeast NE Region of the National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) in support of the burgeoning civil rights and interfaith movements of that time. Through the 1960s, the organization focused on advocating for fair housing. By the mid-70s it took the lead in anti-prejudice education in elementary and high schools and in sponsoring forums on hate crimes. Beginning in the 1990s, the focus began to turn toward long-term prevention, multicultural education, building the leadership capacity of youth and community, and promoting inclusive and culturally competent institutions.
After an over 50-year history as an NCCJ chapter, in 2005, we joined all former chapters in becoming an independent nonprofit. Since the organization's beginning, educators, corporate leaders, community organizations, government officials and faith leaders have recognized RICJ as a powerful resource for addressing issues of diversity and social justice.