press information

Bradd M. Jackson, Director of Operations

(609) 433-9725

Key Facts:

  • Founded in 2014 by Zoe Brookes and Tom von Oehsen.

  • Trenton Circus Squad empowers low-income and at-risk teens and younger children to make a difference, in their own lives and those of others. We use circus arts as a vehicle to bring diverse youth together to cooperate, challenge themselves and serve their community through performing and teaching.

  • Trenton Circus Squad members are youth aged 12+ who commit to learning, working with their peers and giving back to their community through performing and teaching.

  • Programs for youth aged 6+ are available year round. There is no charge to join the Trenton Circus Squad.

  • Location: 675 S Clinton Ave, Trenton, NJ 08611

Press releases

January 20 2017



TRENTON, NJ:  Watch out for unicyclists and acrobats on the streets this summer! This August, Trenton will play host to about 400 young circus performers and their coaches for the biennial American Youth Circus Festival.

The American Youth Circus Festival is produced by the American Youth Circus Organization and will be hosted in 2017 by Trenton Circus Squad. Students aged 8-21 will visit from all over the country for four days of workshops, performances and celebration, from August 16-20 2017.  Many of the top circus coaches in the USA will be present, to supervise, encourage and inspire.

Trenton Circus Squad Executive Director, Zoe Brookes, says “We are proud to host the first national youth circus festival in the tri-state area. It’s a testament to Trenton’s location, quality caterers and affordability that AYCO chose us as hosts. I know that our members will set a fine example for others.  I hope our hosting means that more youth from social-justice oriented programs like ours will be inspired, and able to attend the festival.

The 2015 AYCO Festival took place in Portland, Maine.  Twelve students from Trenton travelled there as ambassadors to perform and learn from others.

Trenton area youth stand to benefit especially from this festival:

  • Trenton Circus Squad is seeking donations to allow all Squad Members to attend the festival free of charge.

  • Local youth and families will be invited to attend evening performances.

  • Trenton Circus Squad members will host a celebration party on Saturday evening August 19th

  • Trenton locals may purchase reduced price tickets to the festival, including a special one-day option on August 19th, for locals only.  Contact for details

  • Free introductory circus workshops will be held August 17th-19th from 2:15 to 3:45pm.  Children aged 6+ may drop in for these.

Trenton Circus Squad recognized for helping at-risk youth

March 14 2016

Trenton Circus Squad has been recognized by the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) for its work helping at-risk teens in the Trenton area.  In an announcement on Feb 19, AYCO listed the Trenton-based nonprofit as one of 17 ‘Social Circus’ programs that boost outcomes for youth at risk.

In a year-long project, funded by Cirque du Soleil, AYCO highlighted common best practices and intended outcomes among 17 network members from 16 states. Trenton Circus Squad is one of only two organizations in the tri-state area to qualify as a recognized Social Circus program.

Trenton Circus Squad empowers low-income and at-risk teens and younger children to make a difference, in their own lives and those of others. The program uses circus arts as a vehicle to bring diverse youth together to cooperate, challenge themselves and serve their community through performing and teaching.

Circus arts are a proven, effective tool for fostering self-reliance among even the most hard-to-reach teens. Teen-focused circus arts programming promotes physical health and wellness, fosters a sense of belonging, encourages citizenship and socioeconomic integration and builds resilience.

Trenton Circus Squad Executive Director, Zoe Brookes, says “We are proud to be recognized for our dedication to helping youth discover their own power. Teens that work with us change their views about what they can achieve, they learn how to persevere when things are tough, and they learn how to help others.”

Kordell Garland, 16, (pictured) has set his sights on a college place at NYU, following his experience with Trenton Circus Squad. Kordell joined us in 2014, referred by Chris Marchetti, a youth worker at Homefront, a community organization in Trenton. Kordell was reluctant at first, but now often fronts Trenton Circus Squad shows. He has an unusual talent for comic timing and often teachers others breakdancing.  Last August, Kordell travelled as an ambassador to the American Youth Circus Festival in Maine. His proudest moment was when his comic skit brought the house down. This experience gave Kordell the confidence to audition for a selective program for high schoolers at NYU.  He won a place and now attends acting classes in the city every Saturday. Marchetti says “Kordell has found his niche, his pack, his sense of belonging.  More and more, as he masters more skills and dares to push the envelope, he believes in himself and his future.” 

Founded in 2014 by Thomas von Oehsen and Zoe Brookes, Trenton Circus Squad offers free-of-charge programming to youth aged 6-22 throughout the year.  The organization relies on donations and grants to keep the program accessible to all. For more information, visit


Trenton Circus Squad is Awarded James E and Diane W Burke Foundation Gift

 Major boost for teaching community service through circus in Trenton

 Trenton, NJ, June 22 2015

Trenton Circus Squad has received a $100,000 award from the James E and Diane W Burke Foundation, Inc. Trenton Circus Squad brings together young people from diverse backgrounds to create a community circus. Trenton Circus Squad will operate at the Wire Works building at the Roebling Center in Trenton from July 6.  Trenton Circus Squad has raised 90% of its launch target of $240,000

 Youth aged 11-16 from Trenton and surrounding towns learn challenging skills such as acrobatics, slapstick and unicycling. Squad members work together to put on performances for their community and share their skills with younger children.  James Burke, President of the Burke Foundation, says “We are thrilled that we can give to an organization that not only teaches kids life skills but also how to use them to do service in their community.”

 Trenton Circus Squad collaborates with youth serving organizations such as Homefront, Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, Urban Promise and others to spread the joy of circus across the city. This summer more than 800 children will join a circus workshop and many more will watch a performance.

 Founder and Ringling Brothers trained clown Thomas von Oehsen says “Magic happens when you show a young person how to make others smile and laugh.  They get hooked.”

 Co-founder Zoe Brookes, Trenton Circus Squad Executive Director, says “The Foundation’s gift brings us to 90% of our launch fund goal of $240,000. In this last week of our campaign, we plan to raise our final $24,000 from community supporters.

 Both von Oehsen and Brookes have run circus programs in the Princeton area: Clown Academy of the Sacred Heart and Stone Soup Circus respectively. “Families who have benefited from these programs are coming through with financial support for us to bring this work to Trenton” says Brookes.

 There is no charge to join the Trenton Circus Squad.  Youth in the area may join a two-week service project over the summer and earn community service credit as well as learn skills they never thought possible. The program will operate year round, with youth signing up for 12 week service projects.

 Supporters can donate online at