NEW WINDSOR – The Orange County Democratic Women (OCDW) held their 2014 Gala Dinner at the Meadowbrook Lodge recently, which was in part, a tribute to education.
Throughout the evening, elected officials talked about the importance of education, specifically public policy and legislation that affects education.
According to OCDW President Willa Freiband, "Democrats have a lot to be proud about when it comes to education."
Among the speakers were New York State Assemblyman Frank Skartados, Assemblyman James Skoufis and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther.
Since his election to the State Assembly, James Skoufis has championed the need to help those who need help the most and has been a vocal advocate of women’s rights, including reproductive rights, and affordable higher education.
During his remarks Skoufis spoke of how he led the successful fight to keep the Cornwall emergency room open. But that’s not all he has been up to. The young democrat has developed legislation that would create free tuition at SUNY and CUNY for students who commit to community service and sticking around New York to live and work for a minimum of five years after graduation.
Skartados stated that improving educational opportunities for New York’s children is a top priority. During his remarks he spoke of how he came to America at 14 from Greece and taught himself English. Seeing education as the great equalizer, he continued on to SUNY New Paltz before obtaining his masters degree from the State University of California at Sacremento.
Assemblywoman Gunther spoke of her work to expand access to quality, affordable heath care, provide a top-notch education from pre-K to college and create and retain first-rate jobs. She is the Chair of the Assembly Mental Hygiene Committee and the Sub-Committee on Women’s Health. She is also a member of Committees on Agriculture; Health; Racing and Wagering; Real Property Taxes; Tourism; and Environmental Conservation.
Guther spoke about her fight in Albany to restore critical funding to public education, especially for small schools like Middletown. She has also introduces and supported legislation to eliminate unfunded mandates on schools and prevent third-parties from profiting from private student data.
The Geraldine Ferraro Public Service Inspiration Award was presented this year to David Jolly. Jolly is the former Commissioner of the Orange County Department of Social Services. For 11 years Jolly held the top post, which was during some very tumultuous times financially in Orange County.
Jolly pointed out in his acceptance of the award, that under his guidance the department was unswerving in its commitment to the underserved and those without access to care regardless of race, economic status, age, sex, sexual orientation or disability.
Jolly also lead the countywide effort in reducing the number of youth in out-of-state residential placements. He has served on a number of boards, including United Way of Dutchess and Orange County; Past President of the NY Public Welfare Association; and Chairman of the NYSAC Medicaid and Human Services Resolutions Committee. Jolly is currently the Chief Operating Officer at the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center.