Meet Our Committee
RYLA District 7255 Rotarian Committee
Lydia A. Wells
Lydia has been part of the RYLA family since 2002 and is currently the RYLA District 7255 chairperson.
Lydia has a BS in Elementary Education and a MS plus in Guidance and Counseling. She spent 30 years as
a Guidance Counselor in the Greenport School district and before that was a elementary teacher for the Department of Defense. Lyds has been a Rotarian for 22 years. She is currently serving her third term as
president of the Rotary Club of Greenport. She has held several Rotary District positions and has been
blessed to travel with Rotary on humanitarian trips to Cambodia, and Nepal. Lyds has several passions.
She loves to travel and she loves being part of the RYLA family. She has watched the program grow from
a one afternoon program run by adults to a year round program run by students. She is extremely
proud to have had the opportunity to to share our wonderful RYLA program by participating in several
international and zone panels for Rotarians worldwide. Lydia feels blessed to help guide so many young people in their leadership journey and loves that so many of our rylarians stay involved with the
program as they become adult leaders. She can’t wait to see how the program continues to grow with
all our leaders!!!
Diane Pacifico Marmann
Diane Pacifico Marmann is the President of the Mineola-Garden City Rotary Club (for the 4th time) and is also the Treasurer of the RYLA District 7255 Committee having been involved with RYLA for over a decade. Diane has served as the Youth Protection Officer for District 7250 YEP and a Youth Exchange host Mom twice. She was Committee Chair of the District Conference in 2020-21 and Co-Chair in 2011-12. She has also served on the Installation Committee for incoming District Governors. Diane loves interacting with the students who attend RYLA and hearing their stories about how the efforts made by the RYLA Committee has truly changed the lives of many young individuals. Diane is an attorney in Hicksville specializing in Real Estate and Wills, Trusts and Estates, and in her "spare" time is involved as a director, stage manager and actor with the Cultural Arts Playhouse and The Kings of the Coast Pirate Show.
Thud actively serves as the past-President of the Riverhead Rotary Club and past Chairperson of the RYLA Committee and has devoted extensive time and effort to community-minded organizations of various avenues. He is the Executive Director of Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch, located in Riverhead, New York. This is a not-for-profit agency that provides residential and group care for adolescents; he has held various positions within the childcare field including, administrative, clinical and direct care. Previously, Thud has served as President for Long Island Family & Youth Services (LIFY), Chairman of the Riverhead Youth Committee and a Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA) Board Member along with many other positions in his community including the Riverhead High School Varsity Football Team assistant coach from 1997-2005. Mr. Hill is an avid fan of both physical and mental fitness and is actively involved in the RYLA District 7255 Committee.
Jaquelyn Yonick, Jax, member of the Glen Cove Rotary Club, has been a proud member of the District RYLA Committee since 2010. Fitting in perfectly with her professional life as Youth Program Coordinator for the City of Glen Cove, RYLA has been a huge influence in her life and the teens she works with. Jax began working in youth development in December 2002 and has been leading and redefining the City's youth employment programs since. In 2009, she began a community garden to create healthy eating conversations and choices, be a hands-on tool to teach hard work, and later, inspire a farm to table cooking class. On a yearly basis she provides vocational training and employment to thirty-five seasonal employees, ages 14-24, who work with various departments of city government, manage local concession stands, and maintain the community garden. Through Rotary, Jax has travelled globally, witnessed open heart surgery, and has jumped out of a plane!
"RYLA is an experience...like driving a car - you don't quite understand its impact until you experience it yourself*. Leadership development comes from within at RYLA. In order to lead, we serve our communities, plan events, complete projects and develop person to person networks; at RYLA we thrive to succeed and to share our growth with others; and lastly, have courage and be kind**".
* Quoted by Kathy Gibson
** Quoted by Beauty (and the Beast)
Jean Mahoney has been a member of the Southold Rotary Club since 2012, and credits RYLA for piquing her interest in Rotary. An English teacher at Mattituck High School for the past 28 years, Jean is advisor to the Mattituck Interact Club, the 10th grade advisor, and coaches Junior High cross country, and Junior high track. A lover of dogs, Jean is often walking or spending time with her Bernese mountain dog, Morgan, and her rescue dog, Dobby. Otherwise, Jean can be found reading mysteries, or working in her garden.
Barbara Ackermann has been a member of the Southold Rotary for over 3 decades, having become the first woman rotarian of her district upon taking her oath! A retired Guidance Director and School Counselor of the Southold School District, Barbara began her professional career as a child protective caseworker and a medical social worker. She continues to serve her community not only through Rotary but on the Board of East End Counselors Association, and the North Fork School Advisory Committee, as well. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, and was involved in HUGS from its inception, serving on the Board of Directors for several years. She has served two terms as President of Southold Rotary, in addition to her plethora of other roles within the club. Barbara has served in a number of roles in Rotary including, but not limited to, a multiple time Assistant Governor, the District Scholarship Chairperson and a member of the Youth Exchange Committee. Barbara's valiant efforts to embed the mission of RYLA, "Service Before Self," in all corners of her life has garnered recognition from the Southold Rotary honoring her with the establishment of the "Barbara Ackermann Award for Most Improved Student" and, likewise, from the East End Counselors Association in the establishment of "The Barbara Ackermann Counselor of The Year Award." Barbara is grateful to the experience RYLA has gifted her with as she continues to grow alongside the young people who attend. She passionately believes that RYLA is a life changing experience for all who are involved.
Yean has been involved with RYLA since participating as a RYLArian during his sophomore year of high school in 2014. He was fortunate enough to serve on the committee of 2015-16 as a senior in high school, and now gratefully serves as an Alumni Co-Chair for the RYLA 7255 Organizational Committee. Yean has a B.S in Media/Communications, and is currently pursuing his M.A in Higher Education/Student Affairs at New York University. His dedication to RYLA has existed since day 1, not missing a single major event since 2014. He has come back to volunteer every year since graduating high school. Since starting in the role of Alumni Co-Chair, along with Sydni and Harry, Yean has helped jumpstart many new initiatives. His focus is primarily administrative tasks, applications, and mentorship. Investing in the students he mentors is his number one priority. Although he has always been an outgoing leader, Yean credits RYLA with helping him hone in on the kind of leader he wants to be. He truly credits RYLA, and his work with the Senior Leader Committee, for inspiring him to choose the career he is working on starting. Yean hopes to continue to grow in RYLA as an Alumni Co-Chair, and one day as a Rotarian. More importantly he can't wait to help all future generations of RYLA get the transformative experience he received!
Harry has been involved with RYLA since joining the program as a Rylarian during his sophomore year of high school in 2011. Harry has a B.S. in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration from Northeastern University. He has continued to come back as a volunteer and mentor since his sophomore year of college. Along with Sydni and Yean, Harry has helped jumpstart more formal mentorship and leadership training for the RYLA participants (particularly seniors). As one of the Alumni Co-Chairs in the program Harry focuses on recruiting alumni to remain involved after they graduate, expanding alumni integration in the program, and organizing alumni events throughout the year. Harry credits RYLA and the lessons learned there with helping him obtain and succeed in internships in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, a spring 2016 White House Internship, and with the Boston Red Sox during college. He is currently pursuing a law degree at Fordham University after spending two years working as a paralegal in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, and looks forward to continuing to use his experiences to help develop future leaders through RYLA.
Sydni Grossman has been involved with RYLA since entering the program in 2012 as a RYLArian and served on the 2013-2014 Youth Committee. She is a Syosset High School and Quinnipiac University (QU) alumnus and is currently practicing as an acute care physical therapist in New York. Working with others and giving back to the community has been a passion for Sydni throughout her life. She served as the co-president of her Interact club in high school and she created QU’s first ever wheelchair basketball tournament to raise funds for the adaptive sports community. Sydni is currently a co-alumni chair of RYLA and is passionate about helping high schoolers develop their leadership skills. You can find her at the center of any dance party or sing-along and loves to put the RA-RA in RYLA!
Judy has been involved with Rotary for three years and is currently serving as the President of the South-West Queens Club. Joining the District 7255 RYLA Committee last year, Judy is ecstatic to begin to get to work in RYLA! Her passion to give back to youth who lack adequate support at home has driven her involvement in RYLA as it did her career as a New York City Police Officer for over a decade. A proud Mom of 3 and Grandma of 2, Judy enjoys spending time with her own family just as much as her newly found RYLA family. When Judy is not spending time teaching new tricks to the Rylarians you will catch her teaching her 2 dogs, Flo and Fern whom she enjoys spending time with! Judy can't wait to see what is on the horizons for RYLA and is determined to expand the programs outreach further into Queens and Brooklyn.
Rich has been part of the RYLA family along with his wife Lydia since 2002. Rich is retired from the
government and also from his second career as a healthcare provider. Rich has been a Rotarian for six
years and he is a past president of the Rotary Club of Greenport and is currently serving as program
chairperson of his club. Rich enjoys traveling and has been part of several Rotary Humanitarian trips to
Cambodia and Nepal. With Rotary, the world is very small and he has had the opportunity to meet many
Rotarians at International conferences. Rich can be seen at RYLA either parking cars or being the “cut-up” guy. At summer, Rich gets up early each morning to fix fresh strawberries for the Rylarians. Rich enjoys watching the young rylarians grow and develop into confident leaders. Rich and Lydia have been married for 48 years and have two adult children and four grandchildren.
Joanne Maiorana-Davis has been a Rotarian since 2004 and has been Past President of two clubs currently the Secretary of Commack-Kings Park and Past Chairperson of a Group Study Exchange program. Joanne is currently works with First National Bank of Long Island in East Setauket as a Branch Manager. There are several reasons why she joined Rotary, it was an interest not only about “service above self” and doing for others but also about helping each other through business networking and having fun while doing both! There are so many great projects and programs to participate in Rotary but RYLA is one of Joanne’s favorites because we are helping our youths develop leadership skills and come out of their shell or as they phrase it “come out of their comfort zone.” Seeing the kids create new friendships, be non judgmental and learn from others is a very rewarding experience. Watching them grow into young mature adults is amazing. Apart from volunteering Joanne enjoys reading, cooking, traveling and sharing good times with family and friends!
Stephanie joined Rotary in 2019. She is the Past President of the Commack-Kings Park Rotary Club. She is currently the Chair of RMB District 7255 and on the marketing committee for the LGBT Fellowship. She has BAs in pure mathematics and psychology, and MBA in supply chain management, and Graduate Certificates in business analytics and industrial organizational psychology. She has 14 years of experience teaching at the K-12 level and is currently a college professor and business owner. Stephanie loves to travel and attend Islander games. Stephanie became involved with RYLA to further pursue her passion of working with students and helping to shape them to shape the future while becoming strong leaders.
RYLA District 7255 Senior Leader Committee
Jeannie Correa is a senior at Valley Stream South High School. She is captain of her school's Varsity Kickline team and a part of the Dance Concentration/Ensemble at her school's performing arts program. She recently attended Joffrey Ballet Schools: Jazz & Contemporary Intensive and has hosted a dance class to fundraise for the National Eating Disorder Association. She hopes to pursue a career in dance education and clinical psychology. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her family and friends, read poetry, journal and listen to music. Jeannie hopes to see RYLA continue becoming a safe space for high school students to grow and learn to directly tackle adversities they face in their communities.
Ronan Flynn is a senior at West Babylon High School. He is very active in his school’s theatre department, the captain of his school’s volleyball team, and the vice president of his class. Ronan is a member of NAFME’s All-National Choir and has also attended the Roger Rees awards. Ronan wishes to pursue a career in music after high school and to ultimately become a music professor. Outside of school, Ronan enjoys long walks on the beach, petting his cat, and using the McDonald’s app. Ronan hopes to see RYLA become a more organized and efficient program, aiming to be more inclusive to all students.
Paige Garvin is a senior at Southampton High School. She is the Class of 2023 Vice President, President of the Best Buddies Club, an active member of multiple honor societies, Captain of the Varsity Volleyball and Basketball teams, but most importantly a Senior Leader for RYLA 7255. She is dedicated to serving her local community by volunteering with the local fire department and youth programs. In her free time, she loves music and art, specifically playing in her school's symphony orchestra, and crafting on the weekends. Paige looks forward to giving back to the RYLA program as it has given her so much. She hopes to encourage Long Island youth to connect with their local rotaries and can’t wait to work with this amazing committee and help create such a loving and accepting environment!!
Clare Gayer is a senior at Eastport-South Manor Junior/Senior High School. She is her Class Vice President, an involved participant in numerous Honor Societies, and a Senior Leader for her school’s Natural Helpers organization. Clare plays both Varsity Soccer and Basketball, as well as having an active role in her district theatre program. She is passionate about giving back to the community and loves to volunteer whenever possible both in and out of school, including involvement with programs such as Habitat for Humanity. In her additional free time, you can find Clare taking pictures of the sky, watching period drama movies, or talking about how much she loves roller coasters. Clare looks forward to continuing to spread the positive energy that RYLA generates, welcoming students from diverse areas to this phenomenal program full of amazing and supportive people that have helped her grow into her best self today!
Isabel Gonzalez is a senior at Beacon High School in Manhattan, New York City. As an Art Honors student, Isabel is a member of the National Art Society and she is also heavily involved in her school’s community through a variety of other after-school clubs and cultural associations. Isabel is the treasurer of Beacon Collaborative Minds, a mental health awareness and advocacy club that fundraised $1,000 for the Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that provides 24/7 crisis hotline support services to LGBTQ+ youth. She is also the president of her school’s miSTEM club (Minorities in STEM), a co-president of Beacon Latine Student Union, and a Board Member of Beacon United Unions who works to advocate for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive school environment for traditionally marginalized students. Aside from Isabel’s academic and extracurricular endeavors, she enjoys spending time with her friends, crafting and making art, reading books, and listening to music. As a senior leader Isabel is ecstatic to further share the knowledge of RYLA with students from all backgrounds and continue to watch the program become a more accessible and diverse environment for all participants.
Gabriela Mendoza is a high school Senior who attends The Young Women's Leadership School of Astoria in Queens NYC. She is an active member of Fridays For Future and a variety of other climate justice organizations based in New York City. She is also the president of her graduating class and the Environmental Club at her school. In her free time she enjoys playing with her dog, crocheting, and trying new foods with friends. Her vision for the future of RYLA is a diverse space full of ambitious young people from all parts of Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn. She is so excited to continue her work with RYLA this year and cannot wait to meet and welcome new faces into the program!
Ben Proothi is a senior at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, New York. He is the captain of his county finalist Mock Trial team, president of Key Club, and holds leadership positions in a variety of STEM-oriented clubs. Ben plays Varsity Tennis and is a Suffolk County finalist. Ben dedicates much of his time to research at Stony Brook University, where he works in a Quantitative Biology Lab on Protein Modeling. He hopes to pursue an education in Physics and is a United States Physics Olympiad Silver Medalist. When he is not studying, Ben is often listening to rock music, skiing, or mountain biking. Ben hopes to promote future planning in RYLA, providing an individualized experience through which students can explore their strengths and learn how to apply them in their own career and leadership journey.
Melani Quituisaca is a senior at Bay Shore Highschool. She is an active member of the Athletes Helping Athletes, Environmental, and National Honor Society programs in her school. She plays Varsity Bowling and Swimming and has trained in martial arts for 11 years and counting. She has been awarded a junior black belt at 14 years old and her 2nd-degree black belt in June of 2022. She is the only student to have ever received her 2nd-degree black belt at Heijoshin Dojo and is paving the way for future athletes to excel in their training. In her free time, Melani loves watching the moon and sunsets, playing with her dogs, and listening to music. She hopes to continue to create an open and diverse community in RYLA that allows for all to feel welcome to build themselves up and apply their leadership skills to their own unique lives.
Gavin Vander Schaaf
Gavin Vander Schaaf is a senior at Westhampton Beach High School. There, he is Vice President of Interact Club, as well as a member of the executive board of the Youth to Youth drug prevention club. Gavin plays Varsity Volleyball and Tennis and is captain of the tennis team, as well as an All-County player. He is a member of National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society. Gavin is in Chamber Choir at his school, and has performed in many honors choirs such as HMEA and SCMEA/NYSCAME. Outside of school, Gavin spends his time volunteering for multiple non-profit organizations. He is National Director of Human Resources of the organization Second Serve, and gave a motivational speech for the non-profit Life Serve. He received the United States Tennis Association Junior Courage Award, and seeks to pay forward all of the kindness he has received in his life. He is also an active member of his church and youth group. In his free time, Gavin is usually playing tennis, watching a movie, listening to music, or petting his dogs. Gavin looks forward to making a significant difference at RYLA, and hopefully changing at least one person’s life for the better!