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.
Tom von Oehsen, Executive Director
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.
Karen Ladd, 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.
Regina Mundy, Director of Operations
Regina Mundy is originally from North Carolina and has a background in operations. She completed her degree in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wake Forest University where she was the Lead Manager for the Women’s Basketball Team. She worked summers as a Preschool teacher and has a passion for working with kids and providing access to opportunities and experiences. Regina worked in corporate operations for the last five years and joined our team to combine her skills, education, and passion as our Director of Operations.
Lori Troilo, Administrative Assistant
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.
Kordell Garland, Coach
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!
In 2023, Kordell was elected Youth Coordinator on the Freedom Skate Park Board of Directors.
Andre Thomas, Life Skills Coach
Andre Thomas is the Life Skills Coach at the Trenton Circus Squad. His mission is to help others realize their potential and guide them towards the path of success. He offers invaluable guidance and coaching to squad members, junior coaches, and interns, ensuring they make good choices and create bright futures for themselves.
Andre’s journey began in 2001 when he joined Isles as the operations manager for the Isles’ Youth Institute. With a deep understanding of the challenges faced by at-risk youth, he dedicated his time to teaching life skills, mentoring, and coaching these young individuals. Today, Andre continues to make a difference as the senior training manager at Isles, imparting his knowledge of lead-safe renovation and energy efficiency to contractors working to improve the communities they serve.
Together with his father, Calvin Thomas, Andre co-manages the youth leadership program, Healthy Relationship Healthy Choices, in partnership with The Father Center of NJ.
Board of Trustees
Adriana Abizadeh, Board Chair
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.
Kelly Ganges, Vice Chair
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?
Michael Shapiro, Treasurer
Michele Russo, Secretary
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.
Kieanna Childs Alexander
Kieanna Childs Alexander is a native of Trenton New Jersey and a passionate champion for youth.
She has served as Youth Council Advisor for the Trenton Branch of the NAACP, a mentor for students attending Trenton Central High School within the Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) Mentoring Program, a basketball coach for the Hamilton YMCA Special Kids Organized Recreation, and has served on the National Executive Committee of NCNW as an At-Large Member, where she served on the Social Justice Committee and Co-Chair of the Resolutions Committee for the national organization.
Dr. Borland is a sociology professor at TCNJ with a focus on social movements. She is committed to community-based research and has worked with teams of undergraduate students to assess data from the Trenton Circus Squad, in particular the enormous growth squad members make in developing their self-awareness, confidence, and interpersonal skills.
The incredible results of this review inspired her to join the board. Dr. Borland is enthusiastic about continuing to foster youth social emotional learning, which are vital skills in all areas of life.
She also loves seeing the Squad teach new skills to younger kids from the Trenton community in workshops that include everything from clowning and juggling to unicycling. Their excitement is contagious!
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.
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.
Chanelle Williams Lester
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.
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.
Mussa Sanoe is a finance professional with over 15 years of experience in financial management.. He provides guidance on general accounting, financial services, modeling analyses, and regulatory compliance.
Mussa maintains strong advocacy for community engagement, enhancing the capabilities of youth to build confidence and self-worth.
He believes it’s important that local organizations take an active role in developing the next generation, which is what drew him to TCS. He’s excited to further support, promote, and work with the amazing students, board members, and greater community in furthering the mission of the Trenton Circus Squad.
Kimberly de los Santos
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.
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.
“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.”
William Watson has focused his career on helping others overcome the artificial boundaries and insecurities that can stand in the way of reaching their full potential. Seeing young people from the community push aside these barriers and perform challenging circus maneuvers reflects the values and goals that have inspired him throughout his career.
He has served as Deputy Mayor / Chief of Staff to Trenton’s first African American mayor, led a public policy agency named in honor of his father, and served on a multitude of boards over the past five decades. He is currently the president of a minority business enterprise (MBE) that provides professional services and management to the utility industry. He’s eager to help TCS expand its reach into more communities in the new year.