Executive Leadership

Candice Anderson Candice Anderson has been the Executive Director of Cool Culture since 2007, and has devoted her career to improving educational opportunity and life outcomes for children and families in New York City's most disadvantaged communities. Prior to joining Cool Culture, Candice served as Director of Child Care and Head Start Collaboration at the NYC Administration for Children’s Services; and as Senior Policy Associate for Child Care, Education and Youth Development at Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York, New York City’s premier child advocacy organization where she conducted research and advocated on behalf of vulnerable children and families. Candice received the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Extraordinary Women award while at Cool Culture, has an MS in Urban Planning from the New School for Social Research, received her B.A. from Oberlin College and in 2010 became a graduate of the Executive Level Program at Columbia Business School’s Institute for Not-for-Profit Management. In October of 2015, Candice was appointed by NYC Mayor, Bill de Blasio, as a new member to the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission. 

Board Members

  • Joy Bailey Bryant, Lord Cultural Resources
  • Will DuBose, Will DuBose Design
  • Lois Gelernt, Manhattan Country School
  • Samantha Gilbert, Ford Foundation
  • Xochitl Gonzalez, AaB Creates 
  • Kevin Lee, Tresurer, Moody’s
  • Karen C. Liu, Community Leader 
  • Windy Lopez-Aflitto, American Express
  • Carol M. Matorin, Attorney 
  • Edwina Meyers, NYC Administration for Children’s Services (Ret.) 
  • Jan Percival, Accenture Digital 
  • Lawrence Provette, Professional Association of Directors of Early Childhood Education of NYC 
  • Lori Rotskoff, Cultural Historian
  • Bevy Smith, Dinner with Bevy
  • Jonathan VanAntwerpen, Henry Luce Foundation 
  • Ahmed Yearwood, Y INTERACT



Kanika Srinivasan is the Director of Operations and Strategy at Cool Culture. She has a diverse professional background in local and international community development, program implementation, partnership management, and operations. Kanika comes to us from Citizen Schools where she served as the Director of External Engagement and led her department to create sustainable partnerships, mobilize volunteers, ensure stakeholder satisfaction, and deliver high-quality programming for students. Prior to Citizen Schools, she served as an Indicorp Fellow in Western India concentrating on agricultural development and public health in tribal communities. She also worked at the Council on Foreign Relations in the Corporate Program, as well as in the Executive Office as the Special Assistant to the President. Kanika graduated from Bucknell University with a double major in International Relations and Spanish.



AJahi Nicole Adams is the Director of Development and Communications at Cool Culture. AJahi has cultivated a career out of her passion for creating alliances between art and social causes. She was fortunate begin her professional career sharpening her business acumen with organizations like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS on insider Broadway productions and off-Broadway shows. This shaped her work with luminaries and rising stars like Steve Colman, Kamilah Forbes, Sarah Jones, Reba McIntyre and Otis Sallid and allowed AJahi to support other artists equally passionate about using one’s talent and skill-set to improve the human condition.

 AJahi has used the diversity of her knowledge to make impacts on poverty, food access policies, community building and civil rights as the Development Officer at Millennium Promise, Director of Development and Marketing at Wholesome Wave and Director of Major Gifts at The Center. Her work has impacted organizations such as the Earth Institute and United Nations.

Cecilia Tran is the Grants Manager at Cool Culture. Prior to this role, she served as an advocate for foster youth and homeless youth, first as legislative aide to California State Assembly member Tom Ammiano and then as the Associate Policy Director for the John Burton Foundation. During her time at the John Burton Foundation, she managed the grants for the California Foster Youth Pregnancy Prevention Initivative, a successful statewide effort to expand reproductive health care access and information for foster youth. In her spare time, she dabbles sin floristry and produces written and radio pieces on immigrant and refugee experiences. She holds a B.A. from the University of California, Berkley in International Development Studies and Public Policy. 

Deirdre Hector is the Individual Giving Manager at Cool Culture. She brings a love for the arts, culture and nonprofits through a career in development and fundraising.  She has accumulated almost a decade’s worth of combined experience in special events, database management, volunteer management and annual giving. Prior to joining the team at Cool Culture, she served as the Community Engagement & Special Events Manager at Inwood House, a youth-development agency focused on pregnant, parenting, and at-risk teens in foster care and those who are Runaway/Homeless Youth. Originally from St. Kitts but calls Brooklyn, NY home, Deirdre holds a B.A. in Sociology from Georgia State University and a M.A. in International Affairs from The New School.

Adjoa Nyarko is the Development Assistant at Cool Culture. She originally joined the organization through Public Allies New York following her teaching career as a New York City Teaching Fellow. As a native New Yorker and Queens resident, Adjoa has an unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life of the under-served and by her work, she strives to give a voice to the voiceless. At her alma mater, Howard University, Adjoa studied English and Political Science with a minor in Secondary Education. Her experiences at Howard and on Capitol Hill have sharpened her skills in community work, research, and effective program implementation. Adjoa also has always had a deep love for the arts and has found here at Cool Culture the perfect balance of passion and purpose.

Education and Programming

Jen Byrd is the Intensive Community Collaborations Director at Cool Culture. She is responsible for oversight, planning, implementation, and evaluation of Cool Culture's intensive community collaborations between early childhood centers and cultural institution partners. She plays a strategic leadership role in achieving outcomes for family engagement, parent leadership, and educational outcomes for children, while identifying best practices for replication and expansion. She comes to the organization with 18 years of combined experience in education, leadership development and non-profit management. She holds a BA in Sociology and a MALS in Social Science from Wesleyan University, and a M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Concordia University. She is a former Kindergarten teacher, nutrition educator, and charter school administrator, who remains deeply committed to social justice and equity in education, a passion since her formative years in the Prep for Prep program. She is a Brooklyn native, speaks Spanish fluently, loves the arts, her young son, and New York Giants football.

Diana Hung is a Program Assistant at Cool Culture. She was previously a Program Fellow through Civic Corps. Diana holds a B.A. in Psychology from Hunter College. Diana is a native Brooklynite and has had a lifelong interest in the arts. Through her work at Cool Culture, Diana hopes to make the arts both accessible and equitable for underserved New York City families.


Sandra Nanita is a Senior Program Coordinator at Cool Culture. Previously, she worked with NJ SEEDS, an organization that builds leaders from inner city youth while closing the achievement gap. Sandra is experienced in working with children and young adults in various programs focused on building youth leadership. Sandra graduated from Rutgers University, where she earned a BS in Business Management and Latin American Studies. Also an artist, Sandra has showcased her artwork in exhibits throughout New Jersey.

Victoria Senn is the Education Assistant at Cool Culture. She originally joined the organization as an Americorps member and is excited to continue her work with our partner elementary schools this year. Born and raised in New York, Victoria has a background in early childhood and social justice issues. Her mission in life is not only to survive but to thrive and is vitalized by her work with Cool Culture families. Victoria holds a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish from Stony Brook University. 

Stefania Trelles is the Senior Education Coordinator at Cool Culture; she first came to the organization through Public Allies New York, an Americorps affiliate. Stefania has participated in community development programs, as well as traveled and volunteered with Amizade-Global Service Learning in Navajo-Nation. She was priviously a teacher assistant in an early learning center, and now she hopes to do more for children through her work in the non-profit sector. She has a B.A. in Sociology from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Melissa Zhang is the Education Coordinator for the Chinatown Family Explorers Club at Cool Culture, where she works closely with early childhood centers and cultural institution partners to develop family programs for the Chinese-speaking community. Born in China and raised in Texas, Melissa is bilingual and has a background in studio art, art therapy, and museum education. She formerly served as a senior account executive at a boutique food & hospitality public relations agency before pursuing her passion for the arts. Melissa holds a BA in Psychology from New York University. 



Marisol Cruz is the Communications Manager at Cool Culture. She is a communications professional with over a decade of experience in public relations and with a specialty in media relations. Past experiences include working in the entertainment industry, with companies such as Nancy Seltzer & Associates, where she cultivated the images of established and emerging personalities in film, television and theater. Her diversified background also includes developing and implementing PR campaigns for fashion, consumer and beauty accounts and companies. Marisol has extensive experience with outreach in the Hispanic, African American and general markets and press. After years of working independently and at agencies on consumer accounts and personalities, she is ecstatic to use her skills for a greater good, to help NYC's most underserved families.



Ana Noriega is a Program Consultant for Cool Culture's Literacy Through Culture program. She is an accomplished educator and administrator with more than 20 years of experience in managing and improving programs and projects in various educational and cultural settings. Ana has been head teacher in a Day Care center, an after school director, assistant principal at an elementary school and also developed and implemented workshops for teaching artists, teachers, child care providers, youth workers and parents. She has successfully lead different educational, artistic and cultural organizations in New York and PerĂº and is an active member of the artistic Latin community. Ana studied Education at Universidad Nacional de San Marcos in PerĂº, has a BA in Liberal Arts from the New School for Social Research, and a Masters in Business Administration from Metropolitan College of New York. She is bilingual English and Spanish, and participates in theater, poetry readings and plays music.

Melissa Ptacek has been involved in the field of education for 25 years. She has been an elementary school teacher, university professor, school administrator and staff developer. In an earlier career, Melissa worked as a textile designer in the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy. She has taught in the NYC public school system, as well as teaching several college courses and art classes to all age levels. She has designed and carried out workshops on a variety of topics for both parents and educators. Most recently, Melissa has worked as a private educational consultant specializing in curriculum development with both private and public schools and independent organizations in urban and suburban settings. In her work with cultural institutions, she strives to foster inquiry learning for young children and their families.

Cathleen Wiggins is Director of the Leadership in Technology and the Arts Program at Bank Street College of Education, which is a collaborative Master’s degree program with Parsons New School of Design and Sarah Lawrence College. Cathleen is also a member of the Museum Education faculty at Bank Street. A former public early childhood and elementary school teacher and theater artist, she brings her life long love of the arts and education to her many professional endeavors. She is passionate about museum education, the transformative power of the arts in education, and to minimizing the success and opportunity gap for our nation’s children.

Chang Chia “James” Liu is an Evaluation Consultant at Cool Culture. He was born and grew up in Taiwan, and completed his double Masters degrees in Psychology and Art History at the City University of New York. He is currently a PhD candidate at Purdue University studying Educational Psychology with a focus on learning motivation and evaluation. James is also an artist, specializing in oil paintings and digital illustrations. 

Kristin Scarola is a museum educator and consultant who provides experiences for museum visitors that are accessible, engaging, and informative. Kristin specializes in early childhood and family programming, while working with a range of audiences including school groups, access, and educators. Currently Kristin is teaching at the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum and the Borough of Manhattan Community College, along with various independent projects. Previously, she was a Senior Educator at the Brooklyn Museum where she created The Sensory Tour an inclusive program for adults with visual impairments and Meet the Museum a gallery, studio, and free play program for toddlers. Her practice as an educator is informed by her work as an interdisciplinary artist and ethnographer. Kristin’s M.A. entitled “Critical Studies and Creative Ethnography” was obtained from New York University.


Alexandra Tang is the Communications Intern at Cool Culture through the CUNY Service Corps program. A junior in Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, she studies computer science and has been a museum-goer since childhood. Alexandra is eager to work with Cool Culture to build a strong voice of social justice and cultural inclusion, especially in the arts. Born and raised in Queens, Alexandra enjoys avocados, listening to Adele, and pondering alternate universes.

Devanie Singh is the Development Intern at Cool Culture through the CUNY Service Corps program. She is currently a senior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice with a major in Public Administration and minor in Human Services. Finding a passion for helping those in need, she plans to pursue a career within the philanthropy/development realm. Devanie's vegan lifestyle has taught her to spread love, compassion, and light on a daily basis to all sentiment beings. Raised in both New York City and Atlanta, she has a universal love for the arts, music, and fashion.

Meredith White-Goode is the Communications Fellow at Cool Culture through the Public Allies AmeriCorps program. A recent graduate of Wheaton College, Meredith studied Women and Gender Studies and is dedicated to finding ways to implement real social change. Meredith has always had a strong interest in the arts and museum education and is thrilled to begin her journey at Cool Culture and combine her interests in social justice, the arts, and creating inclusion.  A native of Brooklyn, Meredith loves overly complex films, Prospect Park, and theorizing about extraterrestrial life.