Women's Empowerment Panel
Dr. Melissa Alvarez `06, Internal Medicine Resident, PGY-III at Mercy Catholic Medical Center
Melissa is a proud 2006 graduate of Immaculate Conception. Following graduation, she went to Wagner College and studied biology and chemistry as part of the pre-medical program. While in college, Melissa was a part of many extracurricular activities and found a love for volunteering through Up ‘til Dawn (a fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital) and through various events she participated in with her sorority, Tau Kappa Sigma.
After college, she went on to obtain a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Medicine and Health Sciences, St. Kitts. By attending a Caribbean medical school, she was given the unique opportunity to live on the island of St. Kitts and Nevis for two years. During her time on the island she was able to continue volunteering through her school’s chapter of the American Medical Association. She was able to volunteer her time at a field day in a local orphanage, and in various health clinics provided free of charge to the local community. After two years on the island, she returned to the United States to complete her clinical rotations in various states on the east coast.
Melissa is currently a third-year internal medicine resident at Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Darby, Pennsylvania. While in residency, she has continued to be involved by volunteering at health clinics for the immigrant Hispanic community of Philadelphia and serving as a Peer Representative. She has had the opportunity to publish research papers and has had case reports presented at various conferences including the American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, and the American Heart Association. She also currently serves on the Medical Resident Working Group of the American College of Cardiology.
At the conclusion of her residency in June 2021, Melissa will be moving to Connecticut to complete a three-year fellowship in Cardiovascular Disease at Danbury Hospital. She hopes to continue to be actively involved with the American College of Cardiology, especially their Women in Cardiology group. She wants to help mentor and inspire young women who wish to pursue medicine to do so. She plants to explore her interests in the sub-specialty fields of Interventional Cardiology, Electrophysiology, and Advanced Heart Failure.
Ashlyn Hernandez `10, Interior Designer & Owner of Ashlina Design Atelier
After a career change following her graduation from ICHS in 2010, Ashlyn attended the New York School of Interior Design, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2017 and is an active Allied Member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Her inspiration to become an interior designer comes from a combination of two elements: The influence design can have in a person’s life through a fusion of functionality and aesthetic and being surrounded by multiple real estate developments with her father from concept to completion.
Since 2015, Ashlyn gained previous experience in other award-winning firms specializing in residential, commercial, hospitality, and retail design, and has managed to implement the same skills and techniques into her own practice, established in 2018. She also had previous experience as a design consultant at a global furniture retailer, closing sales with multiple clients a day. With meticulous detail and a personalized service, Ashlyn ensures the outcome of a project reflects not only the client’s aesthetic, but also the level of attention they deserve in such a process. She believes good design should not only be a reflection of you (or your brand in terms of commercial/hospitality) but enhances the desired lifestyle. What you look good in, you feel good in.
Lori Laverty `99 Social Worker, New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency
Lori Laverty is a 1999 graduate of Immaculate Conception High School, where Mr. Joseph R. Azzolino was her gym teacher. She attended Bergen Community College and Ramapo College and was one of the first graduates of the Baccalaureate Child Welfare Education Program which helps prepare social workers to join the child protective services field.
She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and joined the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency in 2007. She began working in the Adoption Unit, and eventually moved to the Intake Unit. She continues to work in the Intake Unit and investigates allegations of abuse or neglect of children, and works with families to get the assistance they need. This can take the form of financial assistance for basic necessities, counseling and education for parents and/or children.
Maria Morgana `07, Educator in the North Bergen School District
Maria Morgana is a proud 2007 graduate of Immaculate Conception High School. Her years spent at ICHS were filled with life lessons and lifelong friendships. After graduation, Maria went on to play Division II soccer and receive her Bachelor's Degree in Education at St. Thomas Aquinas College. Teaching had always been her dream, as she was inspired by so many amazing educators throughout her academic career.
Upon graduation, Maria taught at a Montessori School for a year where she was immersed in education like she had not experienced before. In 2013, Maria became a second grade teacher in North Bergen, New Jersey. Three years later, she was asked to transition to 5th grade. This was a big change from her second graders, but she welcomed the challenge and transformed her classroom into Hogwarts, J.K. Rowling's famous Harry Potter school. Although this was a big year of change and growth, Maria felt that it was time to pursue her passion for Technology and reach more students. That year she became the school's Technology Educator, a position that she still holds today.
Outside of her teaching career, Maria ran the New York City Marathon in 2017 after raising money for a charity called Homes for Our Troops. Her passion for helping others and working with various charities throughout the years was inspired by the volunteer work she did as part of her years at Immaculate Conception.
In 2018, Maria had the experience of a lifetime when a student driven initiative to get Ellen Degeneres to read to her students went viral.
Morgana said the idea for the video was inspired after several difficult discussions teachers had to have with their students in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. The initiative was meant to inspire students to use social media for good and to show them how far their words travel and how big their voices could be if amplified together. Ellen wound up flying Maria and a coworker to the show where Ellen donated $50,000 to her small Title 1 school.
In 2019, Maria graduated from NJCU with a masters in Educational Technology. Starting in 2019, Maria also began a partnership with Audible who donated accounts to all North Bergen students from 8th-12th grades. This Audible for Schools initiative continues today and has helped bring audio books to thousands students to help foster and inspire a love for reading.
In 2020, Maria was named Educator of the Year at McKinley School in her district. She says that this honor was one of the most humbling accolades of her career, but one she believes should go to every single educator who has had to navigate this unknown world amidst the global pandemic.
2020 Women's Empowerment Panel
On Thursday, March 5, 2020, Immaculate Conception High School and Rho Kappa History Honor Society welcomed a panel of seven distinguished women for their third annual Women’s Empowerment Panel. Hosted by the Rho Kappa History Honor Society, the panelists were accomplished women from different professions, backgrounds, and careers including:
Christie Del Rey-Cone, Esq., Partner at Cerasia & Del Rey-Cone LLP
Christie is a Founding Partner in Cerasia & Del Rey-Cone LLP. She is recognized as one of the leading labor and employment lawyers of her generation in New York. In 2016, Chambers USA described Christie as "extremely smart" and quoted sources as saying that she "knows the law but is also very business-minded." Chambers also stated that Christie is an "experienced litigator" who also is noted for providing clients with employment counseling and human resources training. In 2015, Chambers noted that Christie is "a very well-rounded attorney, has great experience and covers a broad range of subjects.” Clients also observed that “she's very smart and very practical. She definitely gives me the sense that she's going above and beyond on my cases." While in 2014, Chambers USA noted that clients commend Christie for her ability to"figure out what's really needed and what the most direct line from A to B is, to help you get the result you want in a reasonable manner." Chambers first recognized Christie in 2007, when it named her as the only “Associate to Watch” in New York for labor and employment. In 2012, she was one of Chambers USA’s five finalists for its national “Up and Coming” Female Employment Lawyer of the Year award.
As a full service employment lawyer, Christie represents clients in a broad range of federal and state court litigation and arbitrations, employment counseling, and human resource training. Her litigation experience includes, among other matters, complex discrimination, harassment and retaliation suits, and class/collective wage and hour actions for both employers and employees.
Her counseling experience includes terminations, employee classifications (e.g., exempt/non-exempt; independent contractor/employee), whistleblower issues and restrictive covenants. Christie regularly manages internal investigations into employee misconduct and advises clients involved in questions of wrongdoing or the initiating of complaints. She has substantial experience conducting wage/hour and employee classification audits in several industries and preparing human resources policies and handbooks.
Christie also spends time leading employment law training programs on topics such as conducting internal investigations, proper classification of employees, compliance with reasonable accommodation laws, and anti-harassment, anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies and best practices.
Christie has a genuine passion for labor and employment law, and attributes much of her success to being well-mentored both by the federal magistrate judge for whom she clerked after law school and the partners with whom she worked closely as a partner and associate at some of the world’s most prestigious law firms. What Christie most enjoys in her practice is that the nature of employment law involves solving problems for clients and dealing with people in a context of life that, for many, defines them – their livelihood.
Before entering private practice, she clerked for U.S. Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay of the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Christie is admitted to practice in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and before the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Second and Third Circuits, all the U. S. District Courts in New York, the U. S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Christie received her law degree from Seton Hall University Law School in 2002, where she was the Notes and Comments Editor for the Constitutional Law Journal, and her undergraduate degree in Sociology and American Studies from Franklin & Marshall College in 1999. Christie now proudly serves as a member of F&M's Alumni Leadership Council.
Christie spends a significant amount of time giving back to her community. Christie serves as President of the PDR Foundation for the Study of Uterine Cancer (a grass roots organization started following her mother's brief, but valiant, battle with cancer). Christie and the PDR Foundation are passionate supporters of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in New York City, which provides free lodging for cancer patients being treated in New York City. Christie’s life outside of her professional life and the organizations revolves largely around family and, particularly, cooking big Italian dinners on Sundays -- a tradition she inherited from her mother and embraced. She also enjoys serving as a fitness instructor at the Bar Method and is the co-host of the From Where She Sits podcast.
Khiana E. Duncan, MBA '14, Principal Management Assistant to Chief Legal Officer of University Hospital
Khiana is an alumna of the class of 2014. During her time at IC she was a member of student council, national honor society, yearbook, stage crew, and collegiate academy. She was the first to graduate IC with 30 credits through the collegiate academy program. She then went on to Felician University where she graduated with honors with her Bachelor’s in just two years. Upon graduating Khiana went to work for the Governor Christie administration.
Khiana obtained her Master’s in Business Administration from Felician University while working at the Hackensack Meridian Health. She then went on to Rutgers Law School where she is a current second year evening student.
Dedicated to her principles of giving back Khiana continues to volunteer at her local parish as well as performing pro bono legal services, specifically bankruptcy for low income individuals. She is currently employed at University Hospital as the Principal Management Assistant to the Chief Legal Officer (that roughly translates to law clerk).
Maggie Flood '13, Lead Baker at Flakely
Maggie Flood graduated from Johnson and Wales University in 2015 with an associate degree in Baking and Pastry Arts.
After graduating, Maggie became the production manager and head of recipe development at By the Way Bakery, one of the leading gluten-free and dairy-free bakeries serving the tri-state area. Maggie’s original recipes are now featured at restaurants and country clubs around New York. Most notably, Maggie developed By the Way’s line of gluten-free bread, currently being served at three-Michelin-star restaurant Le Bernardin in midtown Manhattan.
After leaving By the Way, Maggie worked under Chef Sean Considine on the pastry team at two-Michelin-star restaurant Jean-Georges in Columbus Circle.
In addition to decorating cakes at Tous les Jours in Paramus, Maggie is currently a lead baker at Flakely, a new gluten-free company specializing in croissants and other puff pastries; the first of its kind. Maggie is a proud alum of Immaculate Conception, Class of 2013.
Catherine A. Mazzola, M.D., Pediatric Neurosurgeon at NJ Pediatric Neuroscience Institute
Dr. Catherine A. Mazzola is a pediatric neurosurgeon, certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgeons and the American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery. She completed her Pediatric Neurosurgical Fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh in 2002 and did her neurosurgery residency at New Jersey Medical School, under the supervision of Dr. Peter Carmel, the President of the AMA in 2011-2012. She served on the Executive Committee of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons (CNS) and is an active member of the Executive Committee of the Council of State Neurosurgical Societies (CSNS). Dr. Mazzola is the Chair of the Medicolegal Committee and just ended her term as Chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). She is on the Morris County Medical Society Board of Directors, and is active as a Board Member of the Medical Society of New Jersey.
Dr. Mazzola believes in advocacy, ethics, truth, hard work, transparency, parity, and has spoken for physicians as a resident, as a young woman starting her career, and as a senior neurosurgeon, who has been at Morristown since 2005.
Dr. Mazzola started the Craniofacial program at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in 2007, the Pediatric Brain and Spine Tumor program in 2009, now called GNOP, and the Spasticity and Movement Disorder Program for Children at Morristown in 2010. She has demonstrated ability to work with others in inter-disciplinary centers. She has written IRB’s and done both clinical and translational research in the neuroscience field. She is very active in the medicolegal and socioeconomic aspects of medicine.
Dr. Mazzola has been involved in mentorship, training and education of pre-medical undergraduates, medical school students, and residents. She was the Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurological Surgery from 2005 to January 2019. She served on the Operating Room Committee, Trauma Committee and the Medical Executive Committee. She has published over forty-five peer-reviewed papers and have been the main author on the AANS/ CNS/ AAP endorsed Pediatric Hydrocephalus Guidelines, Plagiocephaly Guidelines and Spina Bifida Guidelines, published in 2014, 2016 and 2019. She is very proud of her work in evidence –based medicine and have worked with the ACR as a co-author in the Appropriateness of Imaging for Pediatric Head Trauma.
Dr. Mazzola became a single mother, in college. She met and married her husband of twenty years, as a resident, and together they have four more children: Paul, Joe, Patricia and Rosemary. Dr. Catherine Mazzola has gone on neurosurgical missionary trips to Kenya and is currently planning a mission trip to Guatemala City in January 2020. She is proud of the volunteer work that she does in NJ and abroad.
The Honorable Bonnie Mizdol , AJSC, Assignment Judge of Bergen County
Honorable Bonnie J. Mizdol, A.J.S.C., was in private practice for 24 years before her appointment to the Superior Court in February 2006. A graduate of Montclair University and Seton Hall Law School, Judge Mizdol served as a Municipal Court Judge for 15 years prior to her Superior Court appointment. She was the Presiding Judge for the Family Part of Bergen County, New Jersey, from 2008 through April 2015, and served as Chair of the Conference of New Jersey Family Part Judges.
As of May 1, 2015, she was elevated to the position of Assignment Judge of Bergen County and Currently Serves on Judicial Council and the faculties of Judicial College.
She acts as Chair of the Supreme Court Family Practice Committee, is the former Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on Arbitration of Family Matters, and is a current member of the Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Education, the Supreme Court Statewide Committee on Court Security and is the New Jersey Designated Representative for the International Hague Network of Judges.
Dana Regan `88, Director of The Felician 21 and Over Program at the Felician School
Dana LoIacono Regan was born and raised in the Borough of Lodi and is proud to be a 1988 graduate of Immaculate Conception High School. Dana went on to graduate from Seton Hall University where she earned a dual degree in Elementary and Special Education.
After teaching students with disabilities in both the public and private sector, Dana became a stay at home Mom, raising her three daughters. While at home Dana established a successful baking business, "Specialty Cakes by Dana," which flourished for years. Although the home-based business fit the demanding schedule of having three school aged children, she missed the interaction and rewarding experiences that came along with teaching.
Recognizing a significant need for continuing care and training for adults with disabilities, Dana, along with Sister Rosemarie Smiglewski, Executive Director of The Felician School for Exceptional Children, established the 21 and Over Program. The program opened in 2011, naming Dana as the Director. From humble beginnings, with an initial enrollment of four clients, Dana spearheaded the dynamic day habilitation program, giving individuals the opportunity to be exposed to social, pre-vocational and recreational activities, as well as focusing on the skills needed to live independently. Today the program is proud to have over seventy clients enrolled. It has become the model for other programs which have emulated Felician’s success.
Dana has collaborated with the Northern New Jersey Coalition of Day Program Providers to create additional programs that will benefit both individuals and their families, helping them to better navigate the ever-changing adult world. In addition, Dana holds seats on various advisory boards including The Bergen County Division on Disability Services and Felician University’s School of Education.
Dana resides in Morris County, with her husband Rob, and their three daughters, one of whom attends Immaculate Conception High School.
Sharon Towler, Ph.D., Director of Graduate Educational Leadership and Assistant Professor at Felician University
Dr. Sharon Towler was born in South Carolina but raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. She has been married for twenty -two years and has two wonderful children, a son and daughter.
Dr. Towler obtained her BA in English Literature with a concentration in Education in 1991 from Fairleigh Dickinson, Rutherford campus. She completed her MA in Urban Education Administration from William Paterson University in 1993. Finally, she earned her Doctorate in Leadership in Educational Administration from Capella University in 2014. Her instructional experiences include teaching 6-12th grade English Literature and Creative writing for 10 years in the Newark and Elizabeth School districts.
Dr. Towler's leadership administration experiences include becoming Head Teacher for Evangel Day School, Dean of Students for Lady Liberty Charter School in Newark New Jersey, Grant Writer and Program Director for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, CCLC for the Rahway School District for 8 years and four years at Kean University.
To read more about the evening, please click here.