ROXBURY, NJ - A panel of mostly Roxbury-based women will share personal stories of leadership, growth and inspiration in “How She Leads,” a virtual program on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
One-hundred years ago, women in our country celebrated their newly approved right to vote, which, for many, was the first step in challenging convention and being able to participate equally in opportunities reserved for men.
Today, a century later, women celebrate personal victories of equality and success and can also cite challenges along their paths.
“How She Leads” is hosted by the Roxbury Public Library in conjunction with Unity in Community and Roxbury Coalition for Social Change as part of its “Common Grounds” series.
Through workshops and panels, Common Grounds is designed to help the community share differences of opinions and understand different points of view. By exploring differences through civil conversations, we can promote a common level of human understanding and compassion on different topics.
The women participating in the virtual panel include:
Jakki Cobb: Cobb is a wife and mother of three daughters and “Mimi” to one granddaughter. Born and raised in Morristown, Jakki and her family moved to Landing 15 years ago.
After a 30-year career with CIT, most recently as vice president of external reporting, Cobb was downsized in January 2019. She describes herself as semi-retired, splitting her time as a basketball mom and serial volunteer.
She serves as executive secretary of the Morris County NAACP, treasurer for Carette’s Inc., and is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Morristown Area League of Women Voters.
Previously, as a licensed minister, Cobb’s advocacy and volunteer service was through her faith community, and she led bible studies at the Morristown Correctional Facility and Market Street Mission. For years, she encouraged people to “look up and live” and wait for change; now she actively looks for ways to bring about changes she had prayed about for so many years. She reminds us that we have to be the change we want to see.
Kathryn DeFillippo: DeFillippo is serving her third 3-year term on the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She has twice served as freeholder director and is the board’s liaison and 2020 chair of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority. She also is the county governing board’s liaison to Human Services.
DeFillippo was a councilwoman in Roxbury from 2006 through December 2013, serving as mayor in 2009 and deputy mayor in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and as a member of the Zoning Board.
DeFillippo is a past president of the Roxbury Area Chamber of Commerce and retired in 2016 from the board of the N.J. Metro Chapter of the National MS Society after serving as a trustee for 10 years. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz with a BA in education and special education, DeFillippo is a retired Certified Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor.
She was the director of a sheltered workshop for physically and mentally handicapped adults in New York before working in the insurance industry in the Washington, D.C., area, providing medical management and vocational rehabilitation services to injured workers.
DeFillippo and her husband, Bob, have lived in Roxbury since 1994 with their three children, Scott, Laura Jean and Rob. She and Bob are also a proud grandparent to 5 grandchildren.
Neha Mehta: Mehta completed her undergraduate degree at New Jersey Institute of Technology majoring in Chemical Engineering in 2000. Since then, she has been working with the Department of Defense as a primary explosives and detonator team lead for the Explosives Development Branch at Picatinny Arsenal.
She is a subject matter expert (SME) in the field of primary explosives and detonators and leads a team to develop environmentally friendly green energetic materials. She holds many publications and over 12 patents.
A resident of Roxbury, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two boys, and she loves hiking, traveling and cooking.
Laura Oliynik: Oliynik has lived in Roxbury for most of her life, growing up here and now making it home for husband Matt and her three daughters, ages 2, 4 and 6.
On this panel, she represents her viewpoint of stay-at-home parents.
Certified in instructional supervision and as an elementary school teacher, Oliynik for seven years taught fourth grade in Jefferson. She has volunteered as a kindergarten room parent, in the school library and media centers, and as catechist for fifth grade religious education at St. Therese Church.
As a parent of a child with multiple food allergies, she coaches other parents as they begin caring for a child with food allergies. Her interests include local history, environmental initiatives, and educational opportunities for children and adults.
Rachel Smith: Smith is a 2016 Roxbury High School graduate who served as both editor-in-chief of the Roxbury Review and President of RHS Student Government. She graduated from The College of New Jersey in May and holds degrees in Communication Studies and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality studies.
In college, she served as president of the Women's Center, vice president of community relations in student government and vice executive chair of Women In Learning and Leadership.
Smith has a passion for activism and advocacy and has interned for Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey, U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, TCNJ's Office of Institutional Diversity Equity and Inclusion and the community relations office of Gov. Phil Murphy.
In her current role as a critical needs outreach coordinator for the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, Rachel assists in efforts of food insecurity outreach, funding for housing and rental assistance initiatives and resolving digital divide issues for students across the state.
In June, Smith helped establish Roxbury Coalition for Social Change, an alumni-founded community to push for diversity, equity, and accessibility in the Roxbury School District.
Diane Williams: Williams, president and CEO of Jersey Battered Women’s Services, is responsible to the JBWS board of directors for all current operations of the agency, the development of agency procedures, the ongoing financial health of the agency and the management of all agency staff.
Prior to joining JBWS in July 2018, Diane had over 20 years of experience in the non-profit field working with families impacted by trauma and abuse with fifteen of those years in management and executive management positions.
From 2012-2015 Diane was an adjunct professor at Montclair University’s Masters in Child Advocacy Program. She has had a private practice in Morris County since 2006 specializing in treating victims of trauma.
Williams earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Kean University and her master’s degree in social work from Fordham University with a specialization in working with children and families. She is a state licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and is certified to provide clinical supervision. Williams has been a Roxbury resident since 2004.
Radwa Ali: Ali, panel moderator and director of Roxbury Public Library, started her library career as a middle school volunteer at the Plainsboro Public Library. Through high school and college, she continued to work there, gaining experience at the customer service desk, reference and children's departments, volunteer management, collection development and the technological needs of a public library.
After she attained her bachelor's degree in information technology and political science, as well as a MLS degree from Rutgers University, Ali worked at the Johnson Public Library in Hackensack as their technology librarian, then as director of the Bogota Public Library.
She has been the director of the Roxbury Public Library since 2017.
Ali is currently a board member of the Morris Automated Information Network (MAIN) consortium of libraries in and around Morris County, co-chair of MAIN's DigiTech committee, former board member of NJLA, former co-chair of the Bergen County Cooperative Library System Technology Committee and a member of the Roxbury Rotary Club.
“Inspiration comes in many forms and people,” Ali said. “I look forward to hearing from our neighbors about what inspires them to do her best in her field, and how she can pay it forward to our next generation of leaders.”
The participating women may only also have Roxbury Township as a unifier, and will deliberately represent a variety of generations, career paths and ethnicities.
"As a women-led organization, Roxbury Coalition for Social Change is thrilled to co-host a panel about women in leadership in the workforce,” said coalition members Marla Lardiere and Jade Turner. “There are a variety of challenges that women face daily that impact their careers that deserve their own conversations in the community."
The panel will be presented virtually, and those who would like to attend should register at www.roxburylibrary.org, under the “How She Leads” event date of Oct. 21. All are welcome.