Trenton Circus Squad values a diverse workplace and strongly encourages women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ individuals, people with disabilities, members of ethnic minorities, foreign-born residents, and veterans to apply. Trenton Circus Squad is an equal opportunity employer. Applicants will not be discriminated against because of race, color, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, religion, national origin, citizenship status, disability, ancestry, marital status, veteran status, medical condition or any protected category prohibited by local, state or federal law.
Program Manager & Lead Coach
Karen Ladd strives to level the playing field when it comes to youth sports. As a young gymnast training at her local Boys & Girls Club, her heart broke each time she saw her less privileged peers peaking through the window, barred from participating, all because they couldn’t afford to play. She built her coaching skills, earned a degree in elementary education, and after a brief stint as a café owner, she found the world of circus.
She coached acro and aerials at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and the Circadium School of Contemporary Circus, but she knew TCS was the perfect fit when she attended one of their workshops with the Boys & Girls Club. She aims to foster a training environment that is accepting, inclusive, and trauma - informed, and hopes to inspire her students to take the big leap into the life of a circus artist.
Thomas von Oehsen
Thomas von Oehsen ran away to join the circus twice, the first time when he was accepted to the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Clown College, and the second time when he founded the Trenton Circus Squad. For over twenty years, Thomas has been encouraging youth all over the state of New Jersey to jump aboard the proverbial bandwagon—in fact an expression coined by P.T. Barnum!—to experience the joy and inclusivity of circus arts and the fulfillment and selflessness of civic engagement. Prior to starting Trenton Circus Squad, Thomas was the Director of Admission at Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart for fifteen years.
As a founding administrator in a start-up independent school, Thomas had to juggle and wear many hats while supporting the faculty, families and program. It was while working at PASH when Thomas first combined circus arts with civic engagement in a Network Summer Service Project. Based on the enthusiasm of the participants, Thomas began dreaming of starting a year-round Social Circus Program. After meeting Zoe Brookes, the two co-founded Trenton Circus Squad, and the dream became a reality.
Lori Troilo first came to TCS as the parent of a Squad member and quickly signed on as a volunteer, helping to plan and execute the very first ‘Step Right Up’ benefit event. Soon after, she was hired on and has worked both in and out of the factory, facilitating fundraising, human resources, event planning, data management, and more.
Coach & Keeper of the Vibe
Kordell is one of the original Trenton Circus Squad members. Kordell was 15 years old when Mr. VO knocked on his door and asked him to join the Squad. He became a junior coach when he graduated from high school and was hired as a full-time coach to accommodate the demand for our outreach program in Trenton. Kordell is currently pursuing his degree. He represents the impact of staying with our program and working hard to achieve goals. Congratulations, Kordell! Trenton Circus Squad will "spot" you as you continue to take those big leaps!
Life Skills Coach
Andre Thomas began working at Isles in 2001 as the Operations Manager for the Isles’ Youth Institute, where he taught life skills and mentored at-risk youth. In 2009, he transitioned to Isles’ Center for Energy and Environmental Training and is currently the Training Manager.
Andre coaches and mentors several of his former students at the Isles Youth Institute. Andre and his father, Calvin Thomas, are consultants for Renewing the Mind LLC, which facilitates a leadership program, Healthy Relationships Healthy
Choices, for boys attending the 9th Grade Academy in Trenton. Andre was a long-time member of the national program DADS for Education and the SKAR (Support Kids at Risk) program. He is a highly skilled advocate for at-risk youth and has an insatiable appetite for helping them overcome challenges.
Adriana Abizadeh loves to see youth light up and smile. That’s exactly what happens when Trenton Circus Squad members are taking their first steps on stilts, juggling scarves, or accomplishing complex maneuvers on the aerial lyras. They are pushing themselves to reach new heights–literally and figuratively. As a nonprofit executive, Adriana is currently leading the Kensington Corridor Trust in Philadelphia; a neighborhood trust that is utilizing real estate asset control to strengthen the neighborhood’s collective voice and power. She also runs a consulting firm supporting grassroots nonprofits in the greater Mercer County with capacity building initiatives.
Anne Hoppenot is an educator at heart. Any kind of education is her passion. She discovered the amazing work of Trenton Circus Squad when she organized a program connecting TCS members, her own students and high schoolers from Trenton Stem civic school! This experience was a testimony of how TCS can help kids learn precious knowledge and life skills through circus activities! On top of being a teacher for 20 years, Anne started nonprofits such as the French American school of Princeton, PFC soccer club and KONEKTE Princeton Haiti. The latter is an organization that partners with schools and their community in Haiti to develop and fund educational programs empowering children and building the next generation of skilled Haitian Men and Women. Anne believes TCS’ incredible work is empowering children to be the change in American society.
Trenton Circus Squad captivated Ayanna McKay from the moment she first walked into the factory to drop off her daughter for a workshop. "All around me were young people doing amazing things–juggling, riding unicycles, practicing aerial acrobatics, and more! It felt like a magical place and I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved in some way." Soon after, Ayanna became a regular volunteer helping with communications and community outreach, and she just recently joined the Board. In addition to serving on the Trenton Circus Squad Board of Trustees, Ayanna is involved with community outreach, development, volunteer building, and diversity initiatives for other nonprofit organizations and educational institutions. She is a board member of the Cornell Black Lawyers Alumni Network and The Watershed Institute, and is an advocate for equity in college access.
"I’ve spent my career working with unions and their membership because I care about economic justice. Before I started working for investment firms in 2005, I worked for labor unions, including the AFL-CIO in Washington, DC and progressive & diverse unions like the SEIU, the UFCW and the Hotel & Restaurant Workers Union."
Michael C. Shapiro
Michael Shapiro is an Associate and member of the Accident & Personal Injury
Group at Stark & Stark. A cum laude graduate of Fordham University School of Law, Michael is a recipient of numerous awards for his contributions to public service, including best overall competitor in a National Moot Court Competition. He previously volunteered his time representing New York City high school students in
administrative proceedings and tutoring Bronx youth and adults
Chanelle Williams Lester, J.D.
Chanelle Lester is an experienced MBA Director for the College of New Jersey with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. She is skilled in Career Development, Enrollment Management, Student Development, Admissions, and Career Counseling. Chanelle is a strong community and social services professional, graduating from Rutgers University - Douglass College and Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law.
Juanita Johnson Brooks, PH.D.
Director of Clinical Services
Dr. Juanita Johnson Brooks has been the Director of Counseling Services at PEI Kids since 1995. She is a licensed social worker and has continued to develop the services offered to clients of the Crisis Intervention for Child Victims of Sexual Abuse program throughout her tenure. Dr. Brooks developed and continues to supervise therapeutic support groups for adolescent girls, non-offending parents, and caregivers. In addition, she developed a program to treat abuse-reactive children under 12 who act out in sexually-inappropriate ways.
She earned her BSW from the University of Detroit and her MSW and PhD from Rutgers University. She is certified in the Advanced Studies of Child Maltreatment with a specialization in Child Sexual Abuse. In 2007, she was honored as the “Professional of the Year” by the Mercer County Commission on Abused, Neglected and Missing Children. Over the years, Dr. Brooks has trained a variety of professionals, including Sexual Assault Support Services Advocates and Domestic Response team members at WomanSpace, the nursing staff of Capital Health, and volunteers for CASA Mercer (Court Appointed Special Advocates). She is a member of the Mercer County Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) and has made a guest appearance on Lynn Doyle’s It’s Your Call, as well as many other media outlets sharing her expertise in child sexual abuse and trauma.
Kelly Ganges, a social worker by profession, is a native of the greater Trenton area. He believes in community engagement and cooperative efforts. In his spare time, he loves comedy of all types-slap stick, stand up, improvisation, and situation comedy. Ganges was attracted to the Trenton Circus Squad because of his affinity for comedy and laughter. The Squad members are talented comics-as well as possessing other circus skills. He enjoys their comedic skits and routines. With a demanding and pressure filled job like serving as the Chief of Staff in Mercer County Government, Mr. Ganges needs a reliable form of catharsis at the end of the day. His involvement with the youth and the Board of the Trenton Circus Squad provides a much needed reprieve from work. Who can resist smiling and laughing when you see someone get hit with a pie in the face?
Kimberly de los Santo
Kimberly de los Santos believes in organizations’ ability and responsibility to contribute to the greater good, and she is grateful to be learning from the social circus model of inclusive education. She joined the board just before the pandemic and has been so uplifted by how Trenton Circus Squad members have creatively and movingly used their performances to reflect upon racial and social inequities. In Kimberly’s work at Princeton University, she supports college students learning about themselves, communities and the world through relationship-based service and civic engagement.
Michele believes passionately in the power the arts have to build community, create joy and support youth wellbeing and personal growth. When she sees TCS youth mastering new skills, teaching and coaching each other, and collaborating to develop
breathtaking performances, she sees that power in action. Michele is the President & CEO of Young Audiences New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania. Every day she does all that she can to ensure that our region’s students have artists and arts experiences as an essential part of their education. Michele is committed to anti-oppressive, anti-racist, and inclusive practices.
Eric Geoffrey ran away from home to join the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus straight out of high school in 1988 and has never looked back. He continues performing full-time with his wife Allison and the renowned Give & Take Jugglers and is also an accomplished tightwire walker. Eric wears many circus hats on the days when he's not performing. Managing the talent agency within The Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, running weeklong circus residency programs in regional elementary schools, and is the go-to circus rigger for regional circus performers. Eric has long been an advocate recognizing the circus as the perfect vehicle for building community and personal empowerment. He is thrilled to serve the Trenton Circus Squad as it grows into one of the most vibrant social circus communities in North America.
Ermine Smith is a retired Director Team Leader of Finance from Pfizer, Inc. She has over 30 years of experience with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Pfizer, where she held positions of increasing responsibility, from internal audit to budgeting, forecasting, financial planning, and analysis, as well as data and compliance management. Ermine had an expatriate assignment in Brazil for two years as Finance Director while at GSK, functioning in a hyperinflationary environment. She is currently volunteering as the Workshop Speaker Coordinator for Princeton Community Works and is extremely excited to be a part of the Trenton Circus Squad community.