The Youth Commission shall consist of 16 members, appointed by the Board of Selectman, serving two-year terms ending on July 1. Eight members shall be appointed each year. Minors/youth are permitted to be members of the Youth Commission; three to four of the 16 members are to be youth.
Denise Qualey, MSW, Managing Director, Clinical and Program Services, began her career with Kids in Crisis in 1982 as a student intern. Since then she has risen through the ranks, holding numerous senior counseling and crisis services position. As Managing Director since 1993, Denise directs all programs and community services efforts and oversees a staff of 50+ counseling and therapeutic staff. Denise, who lives in Ridgefield with her husband and two children, is previous chairperson of the New England Consortium for Families and Youth, a member of the Stamford and Greenwich Child Protection Teams, and the Chair Person of the Ridgefield Youth Commission. She holds a B.A. from Iona College and a Master of
Social Work from Fordham University. Denise has been happy to give back to the Ridgefield community by working on the commission. The young people involved are inspiring.
Monnie Newman, Outside Financial Consultant
Monnie works full time at Fairfield County Bank as a Financial Advisor and Customer Service Specialist. She belongs to the Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce networking group, as well as Ridgefield Toastmasters and Temple Shearith Israel. For 3 years, she served on the Yes 2 Youth Committee, which raises funds for the Barn Teen Center, Skate Park, and other youth venues. In her spare time, she enjoys open water swimming, walking, reading and gardening. It is important to Monnie to give back to the Ridgefield community and by joining the Youth Commission she hopes to make a difference in the lives of Ridgefield children and teens.
Jim has lived in Ridgefield since 2011 with his wife and two young children. He has worked at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan since 2012 and currently serves as the school’s Director of Studies. His main areas of focus include academic counseling for grades 8-10 and creating both daily schedules for teachers and students and the School’s annual calendar. He spends his spare time reading, traveling, and supporting his beloved UNC Tarheel mens’ basketball team. He’s proud to serve on the Youth Commission and give back to his community.
Mark has been an active member of the Ridgefield community since moving here in 1992. Previously, he served as a member of the Ridgefield Economic Development Commission. He is the parent of a son and daughter who attended Ridgefield schools from pre-school though high school and Mark joined the Youth Commission to help give other kids the support that his own kids enjoyed. Mark is chairman of Effective Leadership for Ridgefield, a think-tank of local civic leaders who develop collaborative solutions for local issues, former chair of ROUND; Ridgefielders Organized for Understanding of Diversity, and former member of the board of A Better Chance of Ridgefield, an educational opportunities organization for academically gifted minority students.
Ashley is the Teen Talk Counselor at Ridgefield High School, and a new member of the Ridgefield community. Originally from the Boston area, Ashley is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who specializes in child, adolescent, and family therapy, with specific training in trauma and developmental disabilities. Ashley enjoys spending time getting to know the children and families that she works with, helping them to identify and utilize their strengths and natural resources in order to be their best selves. Previously, Ashley worked for three years as a Child and Family and Crisis (211) counselor at the Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut, in Stamford. While there, she carried an eclectic workload which included: conducting developmental evaluations and assessments for children under the age of 5; group, parent and family, and individual therapy for children and adolescents; collaborating with community programs; and conducting suicide and high-risk behavior assessments and interventions. Ashley completed a dual degree program in May, 2013, simultaneously obtaining her Master’s Degree in Child Development Psychology from Sarah Lawrence College, and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from NYU. She has found that her unique educational experiences have allowed her to be able to take a full biopsychosocial perspective with all of the children and families that she works with, and to be flexible in order to respond adaptively and creatively to crisis situations.
Shane is a student at Ridgefield High School in the Class of 2018. Shane was Captain of the RHS Freshman Soccer Team, a member of the Varsity Tennis Team, and participates in the RHS Debate Team. Shane has served the Ridgefield Community as a SCOR Soccer Coach for the House Program for 7 seasons, and he actively participates in the Lion’s Heart Service Organization, where he was awarded the President of the United States’ Volunteer Service GOLD Award in both 2014 and 2015. In addition, Shane was awarded the Torchbearer’s Award for dedication and service to the community in both 2013 and 2014. In his spare time, Shane enjoys golf, skiing and playing paddle tennis. Shane spends most of the summer months at Camp Dudley on Lake Champlain where he serves as a Junior Leader.
Linda Caponetti, Youth Special Programs Director for the Town of Ridgefield
Linda is a 20 year resident of Ridgefield. She moved here with her family from Long Island in 1992 and raised her three sons, Gary, Paul and Andrew, here. Now grown, they have each found success and happiness in their own lives. Gary and his wife, Francesca, (also from Ridgefield), have two beautiful daughters, Marisa and Ava. Linda was a part-time proofreader for The Ridgefield Press, took minutes for the Planning and Zoning Commission and headed many volunteer committees. But, she is best known for co-founding Ridgefield’s skate park in 1998, along with Suzanne Dickinson and the SPIRIT group. Under the Ridgefield Parks and Recreation Department, she has continued to run the skate park. In addition, Linda has more recently taken over as Director of The Barn Teen Center, which she and Assistant Barn Director, Jeff Bonistalli, have run since 2008. Linda says her motivation comes from “taking part in meaningful work, especially surrounding adolescents and teens,” which she sees as “a vulnerable and often misunderstood group.” Linda is committed to providing places where young people are “free to be themselves within simple parameters: respect each other, respect us, respect this place.” Linda has grown “very close” to this community of young people. Outside of work, she enjoys writing, hiking Ridgefield’s “beautiful” trails and enjoying nature. She especially loves the ocean, and vacations with her family on Martha’s Vineyard every summer.