The Restorative Center is lucky to have the inspired & committed service of many creative volunteers to develop a curriculum, implement programs, and raise community awareness of our projects. We love new ideas. Get in touch!
Shailly agnihotri, founder & exEcutive director
Shailly Agnihotri spent more than 20 years as an attorney, and has developed an expertise in criminal justice through working as a prosecutor (Orleans Parish), teaching (Georgetown Law School) and as a public defender (New York City). She had the privilege of studying (as a Prettyman Fellow) with Professor William Greenhalgh whose love for the Constitution and the rights it affords the accused inspired her legal career. She has come to understand the power for individuals and communities to come to a deeper emergent wisdom of justice through a facilitated circles. She is a trained facilitator in Restorative Practices and a Certified Mediator, has a J.D. (cum laude) from Tulane Law School and a LL.M. (Prettyman Fellowship) from Georgetown Law.
Shailly has presented at conferences around the world on TRC's vision for an independent free-standing model for Restorative Justice which is codified as the Newburgh Model.. She has lead Trainings in TRC's distinct model of RJ for community members, Teens, social workers and attorneys. She has facilitated RJ circles in schools, community centers and the workplace.
Shailly also completed advanced training in yoga and meditation teaching (500 RTA), and studied techniques of breath work, restorative yoga, yoga nidra, yin yoga and meditation. Shailly is grateful for the privilege of studying with Alan Finger, a Tantric mystic and the founder of ISHTA Yoga, whose teaching--of the necessity of the discipline of surrender that meditation brings to our life--inspires her deeply.
Also an artist, Shailly has directed a documentary (Three Soldiers), published stories and has a play in development (Cosmic Dancer). She is grateful to be mentored by Bernard Kop- a generous genius of British theatre.
She is a mom of two amazing kids who never cease to dazzle her.
melissa jhunja, shadow keeper
For Melissa Jhunja, yoga has been an alternative medicine for mind, body and soul. She enjoys bringing these effects to others, particularly those lacking access but in need of the transformative effects of yoga and meditation. Having practiced for over 10 years, Melissa received her 200 hour certification from Yoga Works in 2012 and her 300 hour certification from ISHTA yoga in 2014. She is also certified to teach restorative yoga, trauma-sensitive yoga, chair yoga and yoga nidra in settings ranging from private and group to corporate.
A Licensed Social Worker, Melissa’s expertise has centered on trauma recovery and trauma-informed practices and instruction. Melissa focuses on bringing yoga to under-served and at risk populations; in addition to veterans and at-risk youth, she feels particularly grateful for the opportunity to bring the healing practice of yoga to prison populations. Off the mat Melissa is an attuned Reiki I practitioner, an animal lover and an avid traveler.
gabrielle burton-hill, program director
Gabrielle Burton-Hill, mother of two, resides in her Hometown of Newburgh NY. By day she works for McDonald's Corp at two locations as a Crew Trainer. At night you will find her home snuggled with her youngest daughter while sharing stories and reading books to her granddaughter. How does she spend her time between home and work? Gabrielle is very much involved in her community. In addition to The Restorative Center, she is on the Police Community Relations Board and is a mentor at The Center For Hope for local teens. In her spare time. She enjoys long walks through Downing Park or along the Hudson River.
Deirdre Williams, LMSW is a forensic social worker, who understands how useful it is to employ a level of mindfulness and respect to the treatment process to ensure a commitment to and provide quality care for all clients from various socioeconomic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. She has a familiarity working with diverse communities. Previously, she has assisted persons living with HIV/AIDS, teens in need of STD and dating violence prevention, and families and individuals in child welfare and Article 31 clinic settings. All of these settings have provided her with an understanding and hands on approach with a level of skill to perform short term therapy, provide psychosocial and risk assessments, effectively implement treatment plans, identify unmet psychosocial needs, mediate family disagreements, negotiate plans, and employ crisis intervention as deemed necessary. These tools have been acquired through work from differing modalities that have developed through individual, group, peer work, and family therapy approaches.
Currently, she has worked with individuals and their families in the juvenile justice system to empower clients to grow and achieve their legal, emotional, psychiatric, behavioral, and familial goals. Working at organizations such as the Vera Institute of Justice in their previous Adolescent Portable Therapy Demonstration Project and currently at Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Project have provided her a purpose in combating the challenges in the legal system.
It has been an honor for her to to join the Restorative Center team. As a social worker dedicated to building foundations and addressing gaps in various systems, the values of the Newburgh Model leaves you to be curious, vulnerable, and present your authentic self. It is powerful for you to have a sense of accountability for your story and hold space for other narratives.
Alice Quinn studied Social Thought and Political Economy at UMASS Amherst and has worked in the film industry, the local food movement, and environmental non-profits. She is a filmmaker, environmental and climate justice advocate, and believes deeply in the healing power of empathy and community building. She lives in Newburgh, NY.
Melody Rashada began her professional career in the Accounting field; and retired in a completely different field of pastoral care as a Chaplain at correctional facilities for women in New York State. She possesses a certified certificate for teaching English as a second language and also teaches basic Arabic. A few years ago, she completed and earned certification in mediation and conflict resolution. Melody has earned several degrees in her life, including an AAS in Accounting with Computer Science, BA in Organizational Management and a Masters in Islamic and Social Sciences. Post retirement from DOCCS has brought exploration in a family-owned business, Come Unity Link, LLC.
She has expressed that her many volunteer experiences within the Muslim community as well as the larger community, such as participating in community circles with The Restorative Center, has broadened her life experience. She feels blessed to be married over 41 years, mother of two sons, and grandmother of 1 boy and 2 girls so far and a step-mother and step-grandma too. Her favorite ways to spend quality time is with family, socializing with other women, and is pleased to be a self-published author.
She also enjoys traveling to other parts of the world and other parts of the USA; some travel locations, so far, include Makkah for Hajj, Madinah, Paris, Egypt, Panama, Columbia, Hawaii, Alaska, the Grand Canyon and several Caribbean islands.
Zahyr Lauren, director of teen trainings
Zahyr Lauren is a law and policy coordinator with Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions, an independent research, training and advocacy Human Justice think tank, founded and developed by academic professionals with prior experience within the criminal punishment system. It is the first of its kind in the country.
Z is excited to be a part of a restorative framework that honors stories, expressions of individual truths, and emerging collective wisdoms in a way that helps build, maintain, and elevate community power. As an attorney working on criminal punishment issues, and as a former Human Rights investigator, Z has seen, both personally and professionally, the generational consequences of communities being denied their own right to collaborative problem solving. Z understands the importance of training young people and the communities they live in on restorative strategies that do not expose them to justice system involvement.
Zahyr is also a meditative artist practicing internal peace keeping through the creation of geometric landscapes on paper. Z’s meditations revolve around, and are in honor of, the personal and political freedom of oppressed communities. Each peace is a visual interpretation of the blossoming of the human spirit above and beyond repression. You can check out Zahyr’s artwork on Instagram @kororulesthesun. Website forthcoming.
Elizabeth Chase Toksu, creativity consultant
I am an advocate for patients in NYC acute care hospitals. I began my work during the AIDS epidemic and am currently in cancer care. My life unfolded parallel to listening to staff and patient perspectives, in an effort to enhance care and understanding. I understood, after tragedy struck my life in the most profound way, the importance of having the opportunity to connect with others by being the teller of my own stories (and not only the listener). This was possible thanks to an excellent therapist, who was an expert in the humanities, and then in my coursework at Columbia University’s Narrative Medicine program. It was an irreplaceable opportunity to both write and speak my stories, first with an assigned storytelling partner and then in a performance. The initial one-on-one therapeutic support empowered me to follow my interests by pursuing a graduate degree in Narrative Medicine, a relatively new interdisciplinary field which places patients/families and their life stories back where they belong: at the center of their care.
It was a chance reunion with Shailly. We were walking along 68th Street in opposite directions, both in the middle of cell phone calls. She was on the phone with her son, celebrating his birthday and I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, consoling her about the loss of her same age grandson. Out of a chance encounter was born this storytelling collaboration on behalf of a shared vision for restorative justice. Two teachers who are both mental health and theatre professionals, Dr. Murray Nossel and Dr. Paul Browde,taught me their “What Happened” method. Their method involves stating only the facts of a stories,leaving out description of the emotions experienced. The idea is to trust that the listener will more fully experience and understand the teller’s feelings through the story’s rich description than by the teller saying “and that made me feel really bad.” These teachers also convinced me that It is the listening that shapes the telling. As a mid-life recipient of support, I am equipped and inspired to provide support for others as we all make our way in the world. We need to give second, third, and fourth chances to one another, something that functional and humane societies know to be key to the ultimate success of its members. My educational background is in History and Fine Arts. My current interests include everything under (and over) the sun and moon, especially storytelling, museum education, collaging, and therapeutic poetry writing. Everyday life, nature, people, and the mysteries of life inspire me to continue seeking and striving to do and be my best, for myself, and for others.
JENNIFER MANCUSO, NYACK PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Jennifer Mancuso has been a NY State Licensed Massage Therapist the past 16 years.
Through one of her massage clients, she was introduced to a woman at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, who was serving three life sentences. That relationship led her to become an advocate for prison justice. She has held several community awareness raising forums in Nyack, NY about issues of mass incarceration, restorative justice as an alternate paradigm to crime and punishment, and reentry challenges.
In 2016 she co-founded the Rockland Prison Justice Project. The group has been meeting and advocating for prison reform in Rockland county and NY State.
Jennifer believes it is especially fitting that her involvement in prison advocacy work and restorative justice grew out of a commitment and belief in one incarcerated person. It feeds her belief that we can only affect change by addressing individual needs and traumas and holding space for one another.
Jennifer is also the Coordinator of the Nyack Center’s Family Connections program, which provides support and case management to incarcerated mothers in the Rockland County jail.
Jennifer has trained with The Restorative Center, as well as Kay Pranis, to begin learning the art of restorative justice circlekeeping.
Jennifer lives in Nyack, NY with her partner, Mayra, and their 7 year old son, Sky.