Our Team

This participatory action research project was built by a group of over 30 students, educators, parents, and organizers committed to restorative justice, ending the school-to-prison-pipeline, and fighting for educational justice in NYC and beyond. Read on to find out more about our research team, including our focus group facilitators and project organizers; founding organizations; and, the extended community of people who helped make this project possible.

The On Our Terms Team

a photo of a group of 30 or so youth and adults, standing in a giant circle, facing each other in pairs while talking
Getting to know each other at the On Our Terms Summer Institute.

On Our Terms grew within and through the networks and structures of grassroots community organizations: Teachers Unite (TU), Restorative Justice Initiative (RJI), Dignity in Schools Campaign – New York (DSC-NY), and the Public Science Project (PSP). This project and this website are the result of the collective labor, insight, expertise, vision, and commitment of the entire On Our Terms community who contributed to designing and carrying out our participatory action research and analysis since our foundational Summer Institute.

four young people sitting in a circle on the floor, with papers with hand written notes between them
Youth researchers exploring ideas about restorative justice.

While individual participation ebbed and flowed over time, each of one you played an irreplaceable role at some stage of our collective work:

  • Youth & Young Adult Researchers: Bryan Aju, Ski Ayala, Luciana Batkay, Shaquille Benn, Juliet Brooks, Yodary Collado, Rubí De Amor, Jannette Estudillo Hernandez, Camryn Harrigan, Pamela Lopez, Melissa Mendez, Meril Mousoom, Maye Belen Navarro, Leanne Nunes, Christian Ortiz, Destiny Quinones, alethia ramos, Arely Rivas, Gillyanna Severin, and Jesly Vargas.
  • Parent Activist Researchers: Nieves Capellan, Dejohn (“D.J.”) Jones, Ionie Latham, Annagine Lewis, Josephine Ofili, and Rosemary Ofili.
  • Educator & School Staff Researchers: Rene Bosolet, Rebecca Del Toro, Elana (“E.M.”) Eisen-Markowitz, Daniel (“Herm”) Jerome, Byron Lee, Jody Madell, Timothy Metzger, Taeko Onishi, Gayl Shepard, Jessica Trubek, Sarah (“Zaps”) Zapiler.
a group of five young people and one adult sitting in a circle on the floor around a bunch of paper, making Vent Diagrams
Making Vent Diagrams about restorative justice.

Most of our team applied to be a part of the project in the Spring of 2018, and a few joined us later on in the project. Within our group, there were “school teams” that included staff and students from TU member schools engaged in restorative justice, as well as youth and adults affiliated with other DSC-NY member organizations, including Restorative Justice Initiative, Girls for Gender Equity, Parent Action Committee, Integrate NYC, Sistas & Brothas United, and Make the Road New York. And shout out to Jan, who was brave enough to join us without knowing anyone(!)—and then became a youth member of IntegrateNYC by the end of our Summer Institute.

We intentionally built a team that was intergenerational and diverse-in every sense of the word, varying in age (from 14 to 60+), race and ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, class, borough, language spoken at home, religion, neurodivergence—and of course along many other domains, like education, activist background, and direct experience with restorative justice. The word clouds below give just a glimpse of how members of our team defined themselves when they joined our project, with respect to race and ethnicity, gender identity, and sexuality.

Note: These word clouds include every distinct answer we received to these questions, and not everyone responded to all questions.

Race and ethnicity of the On Our Terms team

a word cloud with the many words team members used to self-describe race and ethnicity
On Our Terms team members’ self-descriptions of race and/or ethnicity

Gender identity of the On Our Terms team

a word cloud with the many words team members used to self-describe gender
On Our Terms team members’ self-descriptions of gender

Sexuality of the On Our Terms team

On Our Terms team members’ self-descriptions of sexuality

Focus Group Facilitator Crew

The focus groups were facilitated by a smaller group of On Our Terms community members, including youth, educators, and the project organizers. We worked in pairs, usually with one youth facilitator and one adult facilitator, with everyone bringing their unique experience and the intergenerational spirit of On Our Terms into the focus group conversations.

Luciana Batkay (she/her) joined the On Our Terms research team in 2020. Luciana is a recent alum of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she held restorative circles and expanded awareness of restorative justice practices through her student organization. Luciana plans to go to law school, but for now enjoys spending her time reading sci-fi/fantasy books and being a cat mom. 

Shaquille “Shaq” Benn (he/him) has been a part of the On Our Terms research team since 2020. He is currently attending college, hoping to major in Psychology and Urban Studies. He was a youth restorative justice leader in his high school as well as a past youth organizer with Make the Road. Shaq spends his time enjoying video games and working in a community garden.

Jannette “Jan” Estudillo Hernandez (they/them, she/her) has been a part of the On Our Terms research team since 2018. Jan is a recent alum of New York City public schools, and is currently a college freshman at York College. During high school, Jan was a youth director with Integrate NYC for 4 years, where they organized with young people throughout New York City in the fight for racial justice in NYC schools. Jan can be found rewatching the same four movies, and spending time with her family in Staten Island.

Daniel “Herm” Jerome (he/him/his) has been involved with the On Our Terms research team since 2018.  He is a teacher and restorative justice coordinator in the NYC Department of Education. After 16 years in the Bronx, he recently began working in Maker Academy in lower Manhattan. He is a member of Teachers Unite and is currently on the steering committee of the Movement for Rank and File Educators, a social justice caucus of the UFT (NYC’s union representing public school educators).

Byron Lee (he/him/his) believes in the power of communities and young people’s voices. To that end, he has worked in public schools for nine years as a speech-language pathologist, and has worked alongside students and staff to implement restorative justice through events and practices. He is from Brooklyn, works in a school in Brooklyn, and is raising an adorable son in Brooklyn with his wife. Byron joined the On Our Terms research team in 2020.

Tim Metzger (he/him/his) has been a part of the On Our Terms research team since 2018. Time is a special education teacher at a transfer high school in Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn cohort co-chair for Teachers Unite. Time lives in Brooklyn with his wife, but loves visiting his niblings whenever he can.

Project Organizers

Talia Sandwick (she/her) – On Our Terms Founder, Co-Organizer, and Research Lead. Talia founded On Our Terms with Mika from RJI and Rebecca Del Toro and Sally Lee, both formerly of TU. Talia is committed to using participatory & restorative approaches to democratize research and reclaim the “public” in public policy and public institutions. She has been engaged in interdisciplinary social justice research for the past 15 years, working with grassroots community organizations, research nonprofits, and government agencies with the goal of transforming education and criminal legal systems. Talia is a Ph.D. candidate in Critical Psychology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), a researcher with the Public Science Project, and a participatory action research consultant with Teachers Unite. She lives in Queens with her family, where she is a guest on the unceded land of the Canarsee band of the Lenape, who are the rightful stewards of this land.

Anooj Bhandari (he/him) On Our Terms Co-Organizer & Restorative Practices Lead. Anooj is a community organizer with passions for the relationship between community education and the transformation of harm, and exploring alternatives to, diversions from, and the elimination of, the carceral state. His work focuses on building microcosms that imagine and explore the possibility of liberation within the interpersonal, through facilitations and community experiences. Anooj is an artist, specifically a creative storyteller, playwright, and performer, who believes deeply in art as a process to ask quiet questions publicly. He writes, performs, and directs as an ensemble member of the New York Neo-Futurists, and can be found creating experimental art across the city. Anooj is currently the Senior Coordinator of Training and Youth Programs at Restorative Justice Initiative. Before RJI, Anooj took part in the On Our Terms Summer Institute and working dinners when he was a community organizer with Make the Road New York, and a restorative justice coordinator for four public high schools at a Brooklyn campus.

Rebecca Del Toro (she/her) – On Our Terms Co-Founder, Summer Institute Facilitator, and Co-Organizer from 2018-2019. Rebecca is a Special Education Teacher and Restorative Justice Coordinator at City As School High School in New York City. She has served as a public school teacher for a decade across different districts and states. As an educator, she has spearheaded various restorative justice initiatives, including designing and leading faculty professional development, launching a peer mediation program, and co-facilitating racial affinity groups. As a long time member of Teachers Unite, Rebecca has worked to transform school culture and end the criminalization of young people in our schools through citywide and school-based organizing. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Rebecca served as the Associate Director of Teachers Unite. It was during this time that Rebecca co-created the On Our Terms project with families, educators, youth, and organizers. Rebecca continues to work, learn, and build power with her students to dismantle the school to prison pipeline.

On Our Terms Founding Organizations

RJI logo

Restorative Justice Initiative (RJI) is a citywide, multi-sector network of interdisciplinary practitioners, advocates and community members seeking to increase support for, and access to, non-punitive responses to harm and community-centered healing practices for all New Yorkers. Fostering collaboration and collective action across sectors, we have grown a highly engaged network of over 3,500 and have become the go-to-hub for restorative justice resources and referrals in New York City. RJI builds bridges between community organizations, local government, and activist groups seeking to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, end mass incarceration and develop new models for accountability and healing. We believe that connection, collaboration, and transparency are essential in order to build shared power and a paradigm-changing movement that will reduce violence and create a more just and equitable city. 

Teachers Unite logo

Teachers Unite (TU) is an independent membership organization of public school educators in New York City collaborating with youth and parents to transform public schools. We resist institutions that segregate and criminalize Black and Latinx youth, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, by organizing educators to work as allies in campaigns for social and economic justice. We develop and share resources for restorative justice and school-based power-building that promote grassroots leadership in public education, and we conduct collaborative research on pressing educational issues. We believe that schools can only be transformed when educators work with and learn from parents and youth to achieve social and economic justice.

Dignity in Schools Campaign - New York logo

The Dignity in Schools Campaign-New York Chapter (DSC-NY) is a coalition made up of more than 20 organizations across the five boroughs, and the local chapter of The Dignity in Schools Campaign national coalition (DSC). DSC builds power amongst parents, youth, organizers, advocates and educators to transform their own communities, dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, build supportive alternatives, and fight racism and all forms of oppression. We bring together our members through direct action organizing, public policy advocacy and leadership development to fight for the human right of every young person to a quality education and to be treated with dignity. In New York City, DSC-NY works to support effective and participatory implementation of restorative and culturally relevant approaches to education and to end policing and criminalization in New York City schools. Youth and adults from many DSC-NY member organizations have been involved in On Our Terms throughout the life of our project, including Teachers Unite, Restorative Justice Initiative, Girls for Gender Equity, Parent Action Committee, Integrate NYC, Urban Youth Collaborative, Sistas & Brothas United, and Make the Road New York.

Public Science Project logo

The Public Science Project conducts and supports participatory action research with a commitment to the significant knowledge people hold about their lives and experiences and a belief that those most intimately impacted by research should take the lead in shaping research questions, framing interpretations, and designing meaningful products and actions. We collaborate with academics, community organizations, schools, prisons, and public institutions to design and support research and practice aimed at interrupting injustice. 

A special thank you to…

  • Abigail Miller, the talented and patient designer of the onourterms.nyc website and companion report. We are forever grateful for your collaborative spirit and your capacity to take our vision and turn it into reality–creating a platform for our findings and action that holds the complexity, beauty, and transformative potential of restorative and healing-centered schools. 
  • Annabelle Berrios, who translated the website into Spanish, from the vantage point of a restorative justice practitioner. Thank you for engaging with the liveliness of the texts with curiosity and excitement, and being such a flexible, kind member of our team.
  • Elana E.M. Eisen-Markowitz and Rachel Schragis, co-creators of Vent Diagrams, for your creativity and generosity in sharing vent diagrams as a tool for research, organizing, and community building. You have enriched this project repeatedly.
  • The voice actors who recorded the audio for the quotes on this website: Hilary Asare, Anooj Bhandari, Katie Kay Chelena, Timothy DuWhite, Michaela Farrell, Yael Haskal, Ayanna Lee, Kate McDonough, Mirabella Raschke-Robinson, Aicha Sangare, Kyra Sims, Zariah Singletary, Robin Virginie. Your contributions made it possible to infuse the website with the energy and spirit of our focus group conversations, while still protecting the anonymity of the participants.
  • The staff past and present of Teachers Unite, Restorative Justice Initiative, Dignity in Schools-New York, and Public Science Project who have lent organizational support to this project in uncountable ways:
    • Mika Dashman, Restorative Justice Initiative Director & On Our Terms co-founder
    • Rebecca Del Toro, former TU Associate Director & On Our Terms co-founder
    • Sally Lee, former TU Founding Executive Director & On Our Terms co-founder
    • Tyler Brewster, former TU Cohort Coordinator
    • Michelle Fine, Public Science Project & Distinguished Professor at The Graduate Center, CUNY
    • Jared Becker, formerly of the Public Science Project
    • Kate McDonough, DSC-NY Director
    • Charlotte Pope, TU Co-Director
    • Bella Week, TU Co-Director
    • Veronica Agard, RJI Communications Associate
    • All of the Teachers Unite and Restorative Justice interns who supported this project: Luciana Batkay (RJI), Fiona Kennedy (TU), Rachel Still (RJI), Ricardo Vega (TU), and Sharad Wertheimer (TU).