Mondaire was born to a young, single mother at Nyack Hospital and raised in the working-class Village of Spring Valley, which is in Rockland County. Life wasn’t easy, but the Jones family managed. And Mondaire’s mother always encouraged him to dream big in spite of their circumstances.
After Mondaire was born, his mother dropped out of college. She worked multiple jobs just to make ends meet—even with the aid of a Section 8 housing voucher from the federal government. Mondaire learned early on that, in a low-wage economy that doesn’t work for the average American, government assistance is necessary to fill in the gaps. When he was two years old, Mondaire’s mother was diagnosed with a devastating mental illness.
Like many single moms, Mondaire’s mother leaned heavily on her parents for help raising her kid. Both grandparents had left Jim Crow in Virginia to start a family in New York, where their community in Rockland County embraced them. Mondaire’s grandfather was a janitor at Pomona Middle School. His grandmother cleaned homes in the hamlets of Congers and Hillcrest. When daycare was too expensive, as it is for millions of parents in the United States, she took her grandson to work. In the wealthiest nation on Earth, people should not have to make this absurd choice. Later, Mondaire’s grandmother served lunch in East Ramapo public schools. She did this well into her 70s, on bad knees, just to cover the costs of over-priced medical procedures and prescription drugs. This showed Mondaire the immorality of our nation’s healthcare system.
In addition to being born and raised in Rockland County, which is in New York’s 17th congressional district, Mondaire has lived in the district for most of his life. He attended public schools in East Ramapo throughout his childhood, and remains proud of the education he received. He is also a lifelong member of the First Baptist Church of Spring Valley.
Mondaire realized at a young age that, to improve his community, he should not wait on others to take action. Faced with the constant threat of defeat of the East Ramapo public school budget, while in high school, Mondaire revived the Spring Valley NAACP Youth Council and led that organization in registering and mobilizing voters. When he was 19, Mondaire was elected chair of a committee on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors. Mondaire took his activism to Stanford University, where as a student leader he championed progressive causes, from faculty and graduate student diversity to a living wage for dining hall and maintenance workers. When the Palo Alto Police Chief made public statements endorsing racial profiling, Mondaire organized his fellow students. Their efforts helped lead to the police chief’s resignation and reforms within the department.
After college, Mondaire served in the Obama Administration. In the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, Mondaire worked on judicial nominations for the White House, including that of future Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. The slow pace of judicial confirmations, in those early years, showed him what can happen when Democrats in Congress allow Republicans to block progress instead of fighting tooth-and-nail for the American people. At DOJ, Mondaire also co-authored a report to Attorney General Eric Holder on reducing the recidivism of people leaving federal prisons and helping them rejoin society.
In order to win justice for vulnerable communities through litigation and public policy, Mondaire decided to become an attorney. While a student at Harvard Law School, Mondaire represented defendants who could not afford counsel in criminal proceedings. He saw up close how this country perpetuates a system of mass incarceration by over-arresting, over-charging, and over-prosecuting poor people and people of color. Following graduation, he worked at a law firm and was honored by the Legal Aid Society for his hundreds of hours of pro bono legal work. Namely, he investigated claims of discrimination under federal and local laws, and helped victims of mortgage modification fraud get compensated for what happened to them during the Financial Crisis. Mondaire worked at the law firm long enough to pay off most of his student loan debt, which liberated him to pursue public service full-time in his next job. Most recently, Mondaire was an attorney in Westchester County’s Law Department. There, he litigated Westchester County’s biggest cases and served as a legal advisor to the County Executive, the Board of Legislators, and the Human Rights Commission. His role included drafting and advising on legislation. Mondaire is the co-founder of the non-profit Rising Leaders, Inc., which teaches leadership skills to underserved middle-school students in three cities. In 2018, the organization received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Additionally, Mondaire serves on the board of Yonkers Partners in Education.