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About us

Our Adirondack Core Team

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Nicky Hylton-Patterson
Director

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Nicole “Nicky” is not a diversity trainer. She is not an Inclusion specialist. She is a Black Queer Activist Scholar and Community Organizer, who has spent the last 25 years working with marginalized and minoritized communities around the world to seek justice. Today, she continues to draw inspiration from the wisdom of her ancestors, who helped guide her quest to attain an undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College, multiple master’s degrees from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology and Syracuse University, and a doctoral degree in Women & Gender Studies from the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. Her education is only eclipsed by an extensive career in the U.S. foreign service, a racial justice officer for the YWCA, Elmira, human rights coordinator for the Chemung County Legislator, and an academic who has taught courses in critical race and Black feminist theories, queer of color critique, Pan African studies and Africana philosophy.  In her current role as the Inaugural Director for the Adirondack Diversity Initiative, she continues to mobilize and deploy the entirety of her personal, political, and professional experiences. Her mission: To equip communities in the North Country with the tools, strategies, language, and VOICE needed to dismantle systemic racism and structural oppression.

Melanie Reding
Associate Director 

Work Cell: (518)-354-9279

Melanie has been engaged in the fields of environmental education, diversity and inclusion, and communication for over 20 years.  As an educator, she has focused on providing high-quality, conservation, climate, and cultural education programs that engage the learner while empowering them to make informed decisions and take responsible actions. Melanie holds a degree in Outdoor/Education and Native American Studies from Northland College in WI and a certificate in Community Based Social Marketing from the University of Florida. Over the last several years she has focused on using research-based communication tools known as Strategic Framing, to help elevate social issues by creating public understanding, unique partnerships, and building public will for social good. In her spare time she develops humane education curriculum for a number of elephant advocacy organizations in North America and Africa. 

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David Yisreal Epstein HaLevi  
Scholar ACTIVIST

Work Cell: 518-354-9617 

David earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities, where he focused on philosophy of education. David enrolled at Northwestern University's School of Education and Social Policy as the Ruth J. Simmons Fellow and earned his teaching license for all secondary sciences. He earned a masters in adolescent education, with a teaching license in social studies, from the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY in 2011. Thereafter he began his PhD at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he was also managing editor for the Comparative Education Review journal. David transferred to UAlbany in 2013 and is now nearing completion of his PhD in Educational Policy & Leadership with a focus on eco-pedagogy, systems thinking, and their intersections with equity and justice. He has published book chapters as well as journal articles, on topics ranging from critical consciousness, critical civic literacy, inter-being, and eco-social resilience using alternative development methods such as permaculture. 

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Core Team

Rocci Aguirre

Co-Chair, Deputy Director Adirondack Council.

Rocci is the Deputy Director/Director of Conservation for the Adirondack Council and is responsible for the design, implementation, and leadership of the Council's statewide conservation program. Primary duties focus on public land-use planning, natural resource management, and environmental policy within the six-million acre Adirondack Park.  Rocci graduated with a BS in Outdoor Recreation and a BA in History from SUNY Cortland in 1995 and completed a MS in Resource Management and Conservation from Antioch University New England in 2012.

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Cali Brooks

President & CEO, Adirondack Foundation.

After working with nonprofit organizations in Southeast Asia, Central America and the United States, Cali returned to the Adirondacks on the staff of the HKH Foundation where she conducted a survey to assess the economic, social, cultural and environmental strengths of the Adirondack region. She then joined the Public Affairs office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and co-founded the Wildlife Conservation Society's Adirondack Communities and Conservation Program. Today Cali is the CEO of Adirondack Foundation which is dedicated to enhancing the lives of people in the Adirondack region through philanthropy

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Dr. Donathan Brown

 Assistant Provost and Assistant Vice President at the Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Dr. Brown is also a tenured member of the faculty, former U.S. Fulbright Professor, appointed member of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) climate justice working group, and is a US Fulbright Scholar Alumni Ambassador. He too is co-founder of the human resources consulting firm, Adirondack Diversity Solutions.

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Elizabeth Cooper

Executive Director, ANCA  

Born and raised in the Adirondacks, Elizabeth really developed a love for this region when she was 15 and worked for Scenic Tours, assisting with seaplane rides.  Elizabeth attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy and while there, traveled the world.. Receiving her Commission in the Air National Guard, Elizabeth became an Aircraft Maintenance Officer, developing leadership skills as Commander the Maintenance Operations Flight.

Elizabeth brings real-world entrepreneurial experience to her role, having started and successfully run a small business in one of the most remote corners of the Adirondack Park. In addition, she has professional fundraising experience and grant administration experience. Most importantly, she has a passion for seeing our region thrive.  

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Paul Hai

SUNY ESF

Paul is the Associate Director of SUNY ESF’s Adirondack Ecological Center in Newcomb. In addition he  leads the Northern Forest Institute for Conservation Education and Leadership Training (NFI), which is also based at ESF’s Newcomb Campus. Paul has a strong commitment to reconnecting children, families and adults to nature, a commitment he infuses throughout his professional and personal work. He is co-founder of Children in Nature, New York, and serves on the Grassroots Leadership Team of the national Children and Nature Network. In partnership with NYS DEC, he co-founded the Hudson River Environmental Opportunities Network and is one of four co-founders of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative.

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Clifton H.

Harcum Sr.Program Director/Interim Diversity Officer, SUNY Potsdam.

Clifton is a father, author, educator, and outdoor enthusiast. He earned his BA in Sociology from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and his MSM in Nonprofit and Association Management from the University of Maryland Global Campus.Honors include receiving the Jefferson Award (2013) and was nominated for the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award, prestigious national awards which honor the most outstanding achievements in public service. Clifton is a member of the Rotary Club, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Groove Phi Groove S.F.I., Prince Hall Masons, and many other civic minded organizations.  He currently serves as the Director for the Center for Diversity within the Division of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at SUNY Potsdam.

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Kim Irland

Dean of Student Life and Diversity Officer, North Country Community College (NCCC).  

Kim has served as the Dean of Student Life and College Diversity Officer since 2016 and adjuncts in the Department of Social Sciences. Her career in higher education has been diverse and rewarding including experience working in residence life, student activities, leadership development, diversity education, student conduct, and college recruitment. As an undergrad at SUNY Oswego, Kim studied Journalism and Sociology, and as a graduate student at Binghamton University she earned her Master’s in Social Sciences with a concentration in Student Affairs and Diversity. Kim has lived in many a north country spaces including Minnesota, Maine, and across New York State, and loves hiking, snowshoeing, and kayaking with her family. 

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Martha Swan

Director, John Brown Lives!

Martha is the founder and Executive Director of John Brown Lives! (JBL!), a freedom education, racial justice and human rights organization and the official New York State “Friends Group” of the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid.  She also teaches Spanish full time at a small public school in the Adirondacks and lives in New York’s Champlain Valley with her beloved Vito and their four-legged companions.

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Kelly Metzgar

Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance

Kelly serves as the Executive Director of Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance, and on many non-profit boards, where her activism creates a safe space for the LGBTQI community of the Adirondack North Country.

Chris Morris

Tell Media 

Chris is a communications and marketing consultant based in Saranac Lake. He worked for Adirondack Foundation for five years, where he first joined ADI's Core Team, and prior to that worked 10 years in journalism. He volunteers with Play ADK as a board member and Dewey Mountain Recreation Center as a youth ski coach. In his free time he enjoys skiing, paddling, and playing music.

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Pete Nelson

Educator/Advocate

Pete is a co-founder of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative and member of ADI’s Core Team.  He has been involved in diversity work for more than three decades, from community work to academic institutions and politics.  Pete is also a writer, co-founder of Adirondack Wilderness Advocates and a mathematics teacher at North Country Community College.  

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Cindy Rodriquez

Adirondack Diversity Solutions

Cindy is the Co-Founder of Adirondack Diversity Solutions, a Human Resources consulting firm focusing on diversity and inclusion within the workforce and beyond. Adirondack Diversity Solutions works with organizations to create and execute initiatives that share the organization’s vision, support its mission, and live its values through forward-leaning innovations that materialize the social and economic benefits of a diversified workforce and client base. 

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