Matilda Raffa Cuomo’s life has been dedicated to service. As Founder of Mentoring USA, she has long been a respected and distinguished advocate on behalf of women, children and families.
As First Lady of New York State (1983—1995), she diligently worked as a volunteer with state and elected officials as well as community leaders to establish programs to prevent child abuse, strengthen families, promote adoption for foster care children, and prevent school drop-out. Mrs. Cuomo has been described as the most active First Lady in New York State’s history.
Mrs. Cuomo chaired and served as chief spokesperson for the New York State Decade of the Child initiative, co-chaired the Governor’s Commission on Child Care and chaired the New York State Citizens Task Force on the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. In addition, Mrs. Cuomo led New York State’s participation in the United Nation’s 1990 World Summit for Children and the U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. She also traveled to Africa with Harry Belafonte on behalf of UNICEF and was associated with the Day of the African Child since its inception in 1990. In 1994, Mrs. Cuomo was invited to the Republic of Malta by the International Steering Committee of the United Nations to launch the International Year of the Family; and in 1997, she was invited by President Clinton and Colin Powell to participate in the President’s First Summit on Volunteerism. Also in 1997, Family Circle magazine selected Mrs. Cuomo as the Lifetime Achievement winner. She now serves as a lifetime National Assembly Board Member of the National American Cancer Society and as a Board Member of the President’s Council of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
At the request of the Governor to prevent high school drop-out, Mrs. Cuomo established in 1987, the New York State Mentoring Program – our nation’s first state-wide, school based, one-to-one mentoring program. In 1995, she established Mentoring USA to continue the goals of the New York State Mentoring program after it was eliminated by the new administration. Since its inception, Mentoring USA has expanded nationally and internationally with an affiliate Mentoring USA Italia which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2008 and is now in Spain, Bulgaria, and Latvia.
To promote volunteerism and recruit more mentors, Mrs. Cuomo produced a book of personal stories by outstanding individuals from all walks of life recalling their mentors who inspired them during their formative years. The Person Who Changed My Life: Prominent Americans Recall Their Mentors, introduced and edited by Mrs. Cuomo with the foreword by Hillary Clinton, was first published in June 1999 with the 2nd edition published in December 2002. Seventy-eight contributors – including, Joe Torre, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin Powell, Diane Sawyer, Tony Bennett, Laurence Fishburne, and Governor Mario Cuomo – write about the people who had a lasting influence in their lives. All proceeds of the book go to Mentoring USA.
Mrs. Cuomo is married to former Governor of New York State, Mario Cuomo. She is a graduate of St. John’s University’s Teachers College where she met her husband. They were married in 1954, and have five children and thirteen grandchildren. Governor and Mrs. Cuomo live in New York City.