ACJA ExecutiveTeam and Board of Directors

2020-2022 Updates

Maria is referenced on page 69 (under Mindfulness and the Personal Journey) in this publication by Oxford University Saïd School of Business.

Maria is contributed author of the 2017 Climate Abandoned Anthology of Jill Cody. She is the author of Chapter 24: Climate Crisis and Education.

Maria submitted her proposal: “2021 Climate Change Mitigation Through Local / Global Food Waste Composting” to the United Nations- We the People/ Digital Consultation – UN Accelerating Inclusive Global Cooperation Agenda 2021-page 43

Contributing Author representing ACJA in the 2021 New Jersey League of Conservation Voters Environmental Policy Guide – Climate Change Education –

Researcher and Contributing Author of a study of the World Bank Group (page 115, representing TCBRC). Women, Business and the Law 2021 provide objective measures of legal and regulatory barriers to women’s entrepreneurship and employment in 190 economies. Amidst a global pandemic that threatens progress toward gender equality, the report identifies barriers to women’s economic participation and encourages the reform of discriminatory laws. For more information, please visit our website at

One of ACJA’s Co-Founder, Trustee, Board Vice President and Director of New Jersey Affairs is María Santiago Valentin. She started a Coalition in 2017 that became a Climate Justice nonprofit in 2019. In 2020 friends in the diaspora reached out to her to help expand the mission and goals of her initial nonprofit and now it became ACJA. ACJA staff and board members have four trained Climate Reality Project leaders now. ACJA’s membership consists of other climate justice, environmental justice, grassroots organizations, rural and urban groups that accomplish its mission.


Climate Reality Project Leader, Mentor, and Trainer since 2013

Franklin Township Environmental Commission Member since 2020

National Association of Hispanic Journalists- New Jersey Chapter since 2018- Community Advisor

Kappa Delta Pi – inducted by Walden University KDP Chapter in 2021

2021 Fellowship Award – Royal Society of Arts, United Kingdom (Think Tank group)- RSA

2021 Member of the Global Research Network in United Kingdom – (Think Tank group)

Climate Reality Puerto Rico Chapter member, Great New Jersey Gateway Climate Reality member, and América Latina Climate Reality Leadership Corps member.

2018 New Jersey March for Science Steering Committee

2017 and 2018 Lead Organizer of the New Jersey People’s Climate Movement where New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, Assemblywoman Annette Quijano and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker were guest speakers

María’s quote: “ACJA is very personal to me. I wanted for so long to alleviate the conditions of communities of color impacted by climate change in many states, including Puerto Rico. ACJA is the result of the individuals who offered to help in its expansion. My gratitude to Deanee Ríos, her husband Hector Torres, Joshua Morales, Myriam Gomez for your energy and feedback. Thank you to Dr. Elsie Aquino Gonzalez, Patty Cronheim, and Sherna Alexander Benjamin for accepting the challenge to be on our Board. We are appointing ACJA Coordinators in other states, including Puerto Rico.”



2020-2022 UPDATES:

Mrs. Rios is the Chairwoman of Our Climate Moment Campaign, Westchester New York Climate Reality Chapter since 2020

Mrs. Rios is a member of the New York State Coalition Lobbying Team. Deanne met with 19 of 21 representatives of New York State requesting endorsement for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and Build Back Better Act.

Mrs. Rios is a member of the Climate Reality NYC Metro Chapter, Climate Reality Puerto Rico Chapter, Westchester CRP Chapter, and América Latina Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

She is a Board Member of the GLOCAL Board of Directors founded by Tobias Fox.

Mrs. Rios was recognized in 2021 as New York State Certified Citizen Public Health Leader related to preventing and addressing Covid 19, Health Literacy Factors Influencing Health, Public Health for Community Resilience, and Public Health Planning for Action.

Mrs. Rios received in 2021 the Presidential Service Volunteer Gold Award of President Biden for her community service and her advocacy for the environment.

Mrs. Rios is registered at the State University of New York to complete the SUNY Graduate School Nonprofit Management Certification.

Our Chief Executive Director, Co-Founder, and Trustee of the Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance, Inc. Mrs. Deanee Rios Gomez, lives in New York City. She is currently a Climate Reality Project Leader. We are truly thankful to have an Executive Director who has 28 years of experience in the environmental industry, who won awards in her journey, and who has been a consultant for elected officials in Puerto Rico and the USA. She is also a seasoned educator. Deanee is a Climate Reality Project Leader.

Deanee’s quote: “Everything you see, it was Somebody’s Dream that became True so keep the good work. KEEP DREAMING !” Deanee Ríos has a B.S Biology from the University of Turabo in Caguas and another degree in Communications Research at the University of Puerto Rico (Humacao College).

* 2007-2010 Department of Housing Office of Environmental Consultant Environmental Technician
* 2006-2007 Autoridad de Conservación y Desarrollo de Culebra Environmental Technician
* 2001 -2005 Office of the Special Commissioner Of Vieques and Culebra Commissioner’s Special Assistant II Master Plan of Sustainable Economic Development for Vieques and Culebra.
* 2003 Leadership Work Team for the Development of the Community-based Management Plan of Reserva Canal Luis Peña, Culebra. NOAA, FW Foundation, Coral Reef Task Force 7th Annual Hispanic Environmental Council Sustainable Energy Meeting Tucson Arizona
* 2000 Municipality of Culebra -Culebra Mayor’s Consultant at Al Natural Project Sustainable Economic Development And Natural Resources Hon. Iván Romero Peña Major
* 2001-2002 Methodology Analysis for the Collection and Identification of Discomycetes Fungi in El Yunque Rain Forest Dr. Sharon Cantrell, Turabo University Mycology, Botany National Science Foundation U.S.A.Forest Service Sierra Club Training Academy in Princeton, New Jersey Grassroots Organization Training.
* Dec 2001 6th Annual Hispanic Environmental Council Sustainable Energy Meeting San Antonio, Texas Summer.
* 2001 Characterization and Regulation of recN, secY , sodB, and fumC genes in Neisseria meningitides and Neisseria gonorrhea. Dr. Caroline Genco Cellular Molecular Biology, Genetics, Microbiology Boston Medical Center Infectious Disease Department National Institute of Health Classification of Epibiontics Organism in the Green Turtle Chelonian mydas. Shells. Culebra Island Natural Reserve DRNA Turabo University Dr. Sharon Cantrell Collection and Classification of Marine Fungi in Sea Grass Thalassia and Mangroves. Playa Larga, Culebra Turabo University Dr. Sharon Cantrell Studies for the designation of the First Natural and Marine Reserve in Culebra, PR. DRNA, GIAC, Asoc. de Pescadores de Culebra Turabo University Dr. Edwin Hernández
* 1991-1994 Collection, Classification, and Identification of Edible Mushroom in the East-Central region of Puerto Rico Dr. Pedro L Melèndez, Turabo University Mycology, Botany, Microbiology Ana G Mèndez Foundation National Science Foundation Summer
* 1994 Effects of Hurricane Hugo In the El Yunque Rain Forest El Verde Field Station National Science Foundation University of Puerto Rico Terrestrial Ecology Division Dr. Jess Zimmerman Summer.
* 1992-3 Penn State University Mushroom Science Dep’t Annual Meeting of Edible Mushroom

* 1999-2001 V.I.S.I.O.N. Program Turabo University NASA John F Kennedy Elementary and Middle School Science Teacher
* 1999-2001 GEAR UP Turabo University Department of Education Middle School Biology, Chemistry, Physic Pre- Engineering, Ecology Skills: Spanish and English fluent speaking and reading.
* Won 3 Academic Excellence Achievements Awards from Alliance of Minority Participation
* Won Turabo University 2001 Special Award in Science and Technology

*Biologist in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Culebra Wildlife Refuge
Member of the Board of Marine Biology Consultants in the Fundación para la Conservación del Fondo Marino de Culebra.
* Member of the Sea Turtle organization.
*Member of GIAC Grupo de Investigación de Arrecifes de Coral Columnist at Aquarium trimestral magazine of the Foundation for the Conservation of Culebra’s deep sea.
*Member of the Staff of the Community Based Management Plan for Culebra Marine reserve Working Staff in the Ocean Conservancy International Coastal.
*Clean Up Member of Sierra Club (25 years membership)

President for 4 years of the Association of Student of Natural Science Member of the Red de Apoyo a Grupos Comunitarios en Desarrollo Económico Public Politics in Community Affairs Work with the community-based association in Vieques for the demilitarization, decontamination, devolution and development of Vieques.


In 2021 Mrs. Gómez received the Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Award of President Biden on behalf of ACJA for her dedication to the mission of the organization.

Our Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is Mrs. Myriam Gómez, who has worked for US non-profits for over 3 decades. Let’s welcome her. Myriam currently assists and consults for FUNDESCO in Puerto Rico at the same time she is our CFO.

Myriam has a B.A. Economics MINOR CONCENTRATIONS – STATISTICS, ACCOUNTING AND FINANCES from the University of Puerto Rico and a Masters Degree from the UPR Graduate School of Economics

Thesis Subject – The Diminishing Return of the Public Debt in Puerto Rico.

She is currently retired and now has a recent freelance job (2018 and 2019) as Applications Reviewer for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund under the US Department of the Treasury – Analyzed applications for affordable housing and economic development funding from a number of non-profit organizations including branches of state-based agencies. Funding requested ranged from $5MM to $22MM. Consulting, training, and grant writing for a CHDO. Also reviewed FHIP applications in 2020.

Myriam founded and is the owner of HALCOM PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT, a MINORITY FEMALE-OWNED SMALL BUSINESS. She also works for RURAL OPPORTUNITIES, INC. where Myriam was the DIRECTOR PUERTO RICO DIVISION. Responsibilities included oversight and direction of the local office of a nonprofit organization with main headquarters in Rochester, NY. The Puerto Rico Div. provided services to a six-municipality target area in the rural mountain area. Services included financing homeownership, housing rehabilitation, housing development, counseling, homebuyer education, and special services to farmworkers, among other housing-related and economic development activities, and creating partnerships. Under my directorship, the organization was included in the Puerto Rico Community Foundation Best Practices Handbook in 2003. Assisted farmers and families affected by Hurricane Georges.

These are only a few of the many accomplishments of our CFO that will take more posts. We are truly honored and privileged for having her with us.


Joshua Morales –Technical Support Director Born and Raised in Puerto Rico. Now lives in Virginia and works as a Programmer for ADT Security Systems. A Trustee and Technical Support Director Newly appointed by Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance in the New Restructuration Program. Studied a Bachelor’s degree in Video Games Designer and Programming.

Joshua’s quote:
“When a determinate number of people have enough faith to change this scenery, all other people in all parts of the Planet will beneficiate from these changes.”


Mr. William Colón

ACJA Grant Consultant and Writer, Events Coordinator

Bill is President and CEO, of the Latino Institute, Inc.

Mr. William Colón has more than 35 years of experience in the non-profit sector in education and government, as well as business consultant, and entrepreneur. Mr. Colón is an expert event organizer.

He has also been an adjunct instructor of business, international business, and marketing courses at the college level. He earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Puerto Rico, and a MA from New Jersey City University.

Mr. Colón is a Former Member of the Jersey City Board of Education as well as a Former Member of the New Jersey State Board of Education. He was the first Latino to serve in that capacity.




President of the Executive Board of Directors

Director of Education

In 2021 Dr. Elsie Aquino-González was the recipient of the President Volunteer Service Gold Award of President Biden on behalf of her contributions to ACJA.

One of our Board Members and our Board President (Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance), is Dr. Elsie Aquino-Gonzalez, Ph.D. Dr. Aquino- González is a researcher and an Education Consultant. Her research interests include Eco-Justice Education, Environmental Education, Ecology, Sustainability, Climate Change, Film, and Video. Elsie has worked at the City University of New York (CUNY) as a Development Officer responsible for the development of over 200 Internships for 11th and 12th-grade high school students interested in the teaching profession and as a Museum Educator at El Museo del Barrio in New York City, among others. She has presented her research at the Ecological Society of America (ESA), the Eco-Justice Conference in Eastern Michigan University and, The Holistic Teaching Conference at Southern Oregon University. In 2018 she became a Climate Leader of the Climate Reality Project (CRP) founded by Al Gore, ex-Vice President of the U.S. Elsie is one of the founders and an active member of the CRP-Puerto Rico Chapter and since 2020, serves as the Chair. As President of the Atlantic Climate Justice Alliance (ACJA), a non-profit climate and environmental justice organization for humanitarian relief, advocacy, and educational purposes, Elsie has worked arduously in designing, developing, and presenting teaching materials for teachers and their students at the Eco-Schools Program in Puerto Rico with the urgent message of the climate crisis. Last year, Elsie was elected Chair of Latina Voice, a non-profit organization founded to confront intersectional issues with awareness, education, and support services. During the pandemic, Elsie worked on the completion of an E-Book on solutions that can be used to combat the climate change crisis for students in 4th through 7th grades. This month her article: The Role of Young Leaders in Combating the Climate Crisis was published in the iLEAD Global Magazine of
Nigeria, Africa. During her doctoral studies, she was a Fellow of the prestigious Rumble Award at the College of Education at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.


In 2021 Mrs. Alexander Benjamin received the Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Award of President Biden on behalf of ACJA for her dedication to the mission of the organization.

Executive Board Member Sherna Alexander Benjamin from Trinidad Tobago I want to introduce you to our Board Member, Co-Founder of The Center for Building Resilient Communities of New Jersey, International Influencer and Climate Reality Project Leader from Trinidad Tobago S Alisa Alexander.

Sherna Alexander Benjamin is a Human and Social Development Practitioner, a thriving survivor of severe childhood and adult abuse, and an advocate with over twelve years of experience in the areas of conflict transformation and peacebuilding, social protection, and women, peace, and security. As a result of working with diverse groups, she developed an appreciation for cultural and social diversity and inclusion. With a specific focus on how unhealthy dominant norms, oppression, access, and control enable structural, symbolic, and political violence.

Alexander Benjamin brings her experience and knowledge of transformative change processes, intersectionality, and linkages, asset-based community development, and development analytical lenses when addressing violence at the family, community, and national levels.

She is a member of the United Nations Spotlight Initiative: Civil Society National Reference Group (CS-NRG) for Trinidad and Tobago. A World Pulse Digital Ambassador and recipient of a Joint Legislative Resolution from the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey.

Her other achievements include being selected as one of 10 co-authors to write two chapters of a two-volume academic book to be published in 2021 that looks at Gender and Domestic Violence in the Caribbean. She is a recipient of an International Women Leaders Award from Scotia Bank of Canada and a National Youth Ally award from the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Was featured in Our Secure Future – Women, Peace, and Security Global Polling Project Report in 2019. She is the recipient of two international story awards. And one of her Op-Ed pieces was published on

Alexander Benjamin is pursuing Social Work and Research as her academic areas of focus to restore human dignity, tell stories, and advance social protection and sustainable development. She is a Certified Project Management Associate who holds an International Diploma in Development Leadership. Alexander Benjamin is also a certified Victim Advocate who holds various professional development certificates inclusive of NGO Management. She is a writing enthusiast, nature lover, radical collaborator, strategic innovator, and public speaker, who cannot imagine the world without grace, second chances, and smiles.

Areas of Expertise:
*Advocacy conceptualization, development, and implementation: community and systems;
*Bystander approach: engaging individuals to become active bystanders;
*Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding;
*Critical analysis and reporting;
*Curriculum development and implementation;
*Developing community-based coordinated client-centered programs to prevent violence against individuals and groups;
*Developing a theory of change to drive social impact;
*Development of culturally specific programs: to respond to victims of sexual violence;
*Digital literacy to promote online safety;
*Engaging men and boys to be active agents of change in violence prevention;
*Facilitation, deliberative dialogue, capacity building, training, and development;
*Monitoring and Evaluation;
*Program assessment, enhancement, development, and implementation and;
*Understanding, accessing and working in domains of change.


Patty Cronheim, Advocacy, and Climate Education Consultant

In 2021, Mrs. Cronheim received the President Volunteer Service Gold Award of President Biden for her advocacy through many years and for supporting the ACJA mission.

Patty’s Quote: “I wholeheartedly support the important work of ACJA and look forward to working with them to help promote their goals of ‘on the ground’ climate education and advocacy.”

Patty is the Campaigns Director for the New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. A lifelong New Jersey resident, Patty is a co-founder of ReThink Energy NJ, where she worked as Outreach Coordinator to help foster a swift transition to renewable energy and reduced use of fossil fuels. Through education and local engagement, she organized communities statewide to improve their health and safety by opposing fossil fuel projects, such as the PennEast Pipeline and the Northeast Supply Enhancement Project. She has consulted on various fossil fuel projects around the state, working with New Jersey Conservation Foundation and Eastern Environmental Law Center, and served on the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance Sandy Justice Round Table. 

Patty has a BFA in Film and Television from NYU, and Master of Science from Columbia University in Nutrition and Applied Physiology. She was awarded a Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Technical Assistance Grant (TAG) to study pipeline safety at RCP Engineering in Houston, has served on the national Pipeline Safety Trust Stakeholder Engagement Group, and has advocated in New Jersey and Washington, DC on pipeline safety and health issues. 

Patty has volunteered for most of her life, starting as a teenager working on New Jersey farmland preservation. She now spends time leading Hopewell Township Citizens Against the PennEast Pipeline, and serving on the Climate Advisory Committee for the NJ Sustainable Business Council, and Mothers Out Front Health Impacts Advisory Committee. She is a board member of The Watershed Institute. 

Patty lives in NJ with her husband Mike and is a mother of two adult children. When she’s not out surfing New Jersey’s waters, or playing with her big dogs, Patty – an award-winning recording composer and jazz vocalist – enjoys performing music with various bands. Patty has won the West Coast International Song Writer awards, Billboards World Music Awards, and performed original music on the Jane Pauley Show


Tobias A. Fox – Food Distribution and Humanitarian Relief Consultant

“I may not be able to single-handedly solve world hunger, but I do know how to engage with residents in my community and transform a vacant lot into a community garden so they could have more access to fresh, locally grown produce. I think global, act local, and that’s glocal!” –Tobias A. Fox

Tobias A. Fox is the Founder and Managing Director of the community-driven, 501(c)(3)
nonprofit organization Newark Science and Sustainability, Inc. Aside from being a writer and
having ten years of independent publishing experience, Fox is a Professional Organizer, Urban
Farmer, Photographer, and Coordinator of an annual Sustainable Living Empowerment
Conference. He conducts various community events, presentations, and workshops on
sustainable living practices and has assisted numerous urban farmers and gardeners with the
cultivation of their agricultural space. Fox has earned many accolades for his work, including:
• In part of Newark’s 350th anniversary, selected by peers for outstanding contributions to
the Newark community to be part of the 100 People of Newark. This Newark Project, a
series of 100 photographs and on-camera interviews with Newarkers, was produced by
the 100 People Foundation in partnership with PSE&G Foundation.
• In 2016, Community Service Award was presented by the Northeast Earth Coalition.
• In 2014, awarded the Newark NAACP Environmental Justice Honoree.
• In 2013, presented in TEDxBroadStreet, an independently organized TED event fueled
by the theme “Reach, Rise, and Revive,” that took place at the Rutgers Business School
in Newark, NJ. TEDxBroadStreet is Newark, NJ’s first citywide TEDx event developed
in collaboration with Newark residents.
• In 2012, awarded an Exemplary Service Recognition by the Greater Newark
Conservancy for Community Organizing.


Chef, Award Winning Community Organizer- Carolina Moratti – ACJA Advisory Board Member and Food Education Consultant (Humanitarian Relief Efforts). Carolina Moratti came to the United States at the age of 20 in 2005 and during those years work intensely on learning the language and being a single mother of her son Abraham now she is a co-founder of Sisterwork and former committeewoman of the Democratic party Committee of Middlesex boro. She is a committed community advocate, food and entertainment entrepreneur, and healthcare technician based in New Brunswick. Carolina champions different programs for immigrant mothers and applies her expertise in community marketing, public speaking, and community management to grow the people of her city of New Brunswick.
As a result of the pandemic, Carolina started a food and diaper drive in collaboration with Sisterwork and coLAB Arts. Another exciting program she created is called the Birthday in a Box project, which provides a birthday cake and supplies to kids in the community in order to celebrate their birthdays. Also, she has created a weekly show call rifas comunitarias gratuitas where she raffles free items thru the community with the purpose of promoting local entrepreneurs, artisans, currently, this show is on a monthly basis.
She also started the “Cooking Outside the Box” cooking show with coLAB Arts, as well as being a featured chef with the Middlesex County Share Your Foodways Project.
In New Brunswick, she has hosted the monthly seasonal market Mercado Esperanza with coLAB Arts and has served as a bilingual culinary educator at Elijah’s Promise in addition to active membership in New Brunswick Tomorrow’s Esperanza Project she is also a founding member of the first Latino theater company in New Brunswick called Teatro Esperanza the purpose of Teatro is to empower and trained members of the community and their kids to become actors. Through her work, she aims to empower survivors of gender-based violence, immigrant mothers, and their families to thrive in the face of adverse experiences.


Climate Reality Leader, Global Studies and Environmental Studies Director of Northampton Community College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Doctoral Candidate Anita Erdos Forrester, is joining our Advisory Board as Higher Education Consultant.

Anita Erdős Forrester is a Geography and Global Studies professor at Northampton Community College with a focus on human and environmental interactions. Born in Hungary and raised all over the place, she grew up as a child of the world as her parent’s work took her to numerous international settings, exposing her to so many cultures, peoples, and traditions that it became an obvious choice for her to become a political scientist first, and then a geographer. She has earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Hunter College CUNY. Anita is currently working on her dissertation at Drexel University focusing on the importance of developing Global Studies programs in Community Colleges since this will increase both cultural and global awareness and is the best path to creating global citizens. She is a proud Climate Reality Leader and focuses on climate and environmental issues in the Lehigh Valley, and around the world. Her favorite moments are with her two grown sons and with her students, especially with the members of the NCC Climate Action Network club who inspire her and give her a reason to keep on fighting, and getting in good trouble.


Honorary Member

Mr. Tim Guinee

Tim Guinee was honored by Former Vice President Al Gore in 2020 with the Alfredo Sirkis Memorial Green Award. Tim is a Climate Reality Project Leader, Mentor, and Trainer. He talks about the climate crisis in prisons, fire departments, and groups outside the environmental world.

Guinee, was born in Los Angeles, California, and raised in Illinois and Texas. He attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas[1] before he founded a theater group in Texas. Later he moved to New York in order to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Following this study, he attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where he graduated and had his film debut. He met his wife-to-be, Daisy Foote, at the production of Hallmark Hall of Fame: Lily Dale (1996). Foote is the daughter of 1962 Academy Award-winning screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize-winner Horton Foote, who adapted Lily Dale for the film himself.[2]

Guinee is known for his role as Tomin in the television series Stargate SG-1. In 2005, he starred as record producer Sam Phillips in the Golden Globe® Award-winning miniseries Elvis. Guinee stars as Ben Matheson in Revolution.[3] He was a cast regular in AMC‘s Hell on Wheels, playing railroad entrepreneur Collis HuntingtonHell on Wheels aired on AMC from November 6, 2011, to July 23, 2016.

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