Meet Our People
Please use the dropdown menu to filter for Agenda for Children staff members in administration/operations, childcare, NOEEN and policy/advocacy.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Cherrie joined Agenda’s team in 2014 after living in Washington, DC and Memphis, TN for seventeen years. Cherrie has over thirty years of accounting, budgeting, and financial management experience in government, corporate and non-profit environments. Cherrie has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Xavier University.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Rachelle has worked in early childhood education for seven years. She has served in several states and a variety of positions. Her most recent experience includes serving as the Eligibility, Recruitment, Selection, Enrollment, and Attendance (ERSEA) Coordinator for a Head Start program. She has also served as a Lead Teacher on two naval bases serving children from six weeks to four years. Currently, Rachelle is obtaining her Bachelors in Health Education and Promotion at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Caitlin was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee and joined the Agenda team in 2020. Upon moving to New Orleans, Caitlin joined the AmeriCorps program Serve Louisiana, serving at NetWork Volunteers, a volunteer management nonprofit. They then joined NetWork as the Director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement, developing and managing volunteer programs, relationships, and service-learning curriculums. Caitlin is particularly passionate about thoughtful relationship building, utilizing restorative and trauma-informed practices, and cultivating equitable institutions. They are a graduate of Pace University (NYC) with dual degrees in Political Science and Philosophy & Religious Studies.
Brandy has over seven years of experience in early childhood education. Before joining the Agenda for Children family, she was a lead teacher at Beary Cherry Tree of Jefferson for children ages 0-4. She is from Kenner, Louisiana born and raised and still lives there today with her husband and two children. Brandy earned her bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in Psychology with a focus in Child Development.
A long-time resident of Thibodaux, Louisiana, Dianna has been part of Agenda’s team since 1990. She has over forty years of experience in early childhood education. She spent twenty years directing and operating her own child care center and has more than two decades of experience as a trainer and technical assistance advisor for early childhood programs. She serves on the board of United Way of St. Charles and has served on the Child Care Health Care Consultant board since 2000. She is actively involved with the early childhood community networks in New Orleans and Houma, supporting interaction improvements in early learning centers Dianna holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Youth and Family Services from Nichols State University.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre-K), CLASS Affiliate Trainer (Pre K), Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Child Care Health Consultant, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II, Well-Ahead’s Early Childhood Outdoor Learning Environment Trainer, Physical Activity Learning (PALS), and CDA PD Specialist
A native of Slidell, Nicole “Nikki” Cousizan joined Agenda in October 2019. Nikki has more than fifteen years of experience in nonprofit finance and more than ten years of experience in executive leadership. Prior to Agenda, she was the Chief Financial Officer of a Federally Qualified Health Center in Houston, TX where she was responsible for the financial management of an organization that offered a wide range of healthcare and social services for indigent, under-served and disenfranchised individuals in the greater Houston Area. In 2015 Nikki was selected as a Top 50 Black Health, Medical & Wellness Professional in Houston, TX. Nikki is also actively involved and committed to community service and empowerment. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Nikki has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Prairie View A&M, a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and, a B.S. in Finance from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Nikki has also attended the UCLA Anderson School of Management and Johnson & Johnson Health Care Executive Program and Leadership Iberia.
Danielle M. DavisShe/Her
Danielle M. Davis
Danielle M. Davis joined the Agenda team in 2021. Originally from Houma, LA, she currently resides in Gray, LA. Danielle has over 18 years of experience in early childhood education. Prior to joining the team at Agenda, she served as a Center Director at St. Lucy Child Development Center for 9 years and as a lead teacher at the Head Start Program in Terrebonne Parish for 7 years. Danielle has an associate of arts degree from Delgado Community College and recent graduate of the Louisiana Early Leaders Academy (LELA). She serves as a Professional Development Specialist with The Council for Professional Development.
Certifications: CLASS Reliable Observer- Toddler & Pre-K, InterRater Reliable for TS Gold, Louisiana Pathways Trainer, American Red Cross CPR/FIRST AID/AED instructor, Technical Competency in First Responder and Administrator Certification from Louisiana Pathways
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Teresa joined Agenda’s team in 2005. Teresa has expertise in accessing and using data on child well-being in Louisiana, including data on economic security, education, early education, juvenile justice, health and child welfare. She is a Louisiana ACE educator and serves on the Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board and the PRAMS Advisory Committee. Teresa has a bachelor’s degree in Political Studies from Bard College.
A native of the Philippines, Analiezel lived in Asia until her family relocated to Louisiana during her senior year of high school. Analiezel’s early aspirations to become an educator developed into a strong desire to help disadvantaged children by providing compensatory education or academic development to ensure their success. She has over twenty years of experience in Elementary and Early Childhood Education. She is a former St. Tammany public school and Head Start teacher, an assessor for Louisiana’s Quality Rating System, and a Head Start Pre-K Specialist. Analiezel holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of New Orleans and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre-K), Certified MMCI Pre-K Instructor, Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level III, CDA PD Specialist
Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Jessica joined the Agenda team in 2017. She has over sixteen years of experience teaching Early Childhood Education in Texas, Alabama, and New Orleans and twelve years of experience working in Early Head Start as a lead teacher and education supervisor. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Delgado Community College and a bachelor’s degree in Child Development and Family Studies from Southern University at New Orleans.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), Inter-Rater Reliable for TS GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II
Originally from the New Orleans area, Kenya began with Agenda for Children in 2006 as the bookkeeper and receptionist – later repositioning as the Program Administrative Assistant in the New Orleans region. Kenya is an integral part of the Training Department team in her current role as Coordinator of Professional Development as well as providing support for coaching and Resources & Referral. She is proud to be part of the Agenda team because it allows her to support the growth and development of Louisiana’s children in the early stages of their lives through the quality of care children and families receive. Kenya maintains a Child Development Associate credential to continue to engage in the efforts for quality care and education within the early childhood sector.
A native of St. James Parish, Brandi has resided in Thibodaux since 2008. She has over nine years of early childhood experience as a lead teacher and child care center director. Prior to joining the Agenda team in 2012, she served as the Director at the Moses Child Care Center and previously worked as a lead teacher at St. James Head Start. Brandi holds an associate’s degree in Child Development and Preschool Management from Nicholls State University, and volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Lafourche Parish. Brandi also has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a minor in Social Science from Nicholls State.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), CLASS Affiliate Trainer (Infant, Pre K) , Certified MMCI Pre-K Instructor, Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II
A native of Long Island, New York, Elizabeth “Luz” Kief has more than 30 years of experience in the field of Early Care and Education. She has direct teaching experience in full inclusion preschool and self-contained early childhood special education classrooms. While working in a regional CCR&R in southwest Florida, Luz held positions as a Resource and Referral Specialist, Infant/Toddler Specialist, Program Coordinator, and Assistant Education Director where she was responsible for supervision of directly operated early care and education sites and the development, provision, and facilitation of both community and regional training and technical assistance activities. Elizabeth has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Bridgewater State College and has taken graduate level coursework in early childhood special education and general special education.
Certifications include: Certified CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre K), Affiliate CLASS Trainer (Toddler, Pre K), Inter-rater Reliable in GOLD, Teaching Strategies APT trainer for GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II
Born and raised in Inglewood, California, Denea has over a decade of experience teaching infants, toddlers and preschoolers in California, Nevada, and New Orleans. In her previous position, she was promoted from an infant and toddler teacher to Education Coordinator, which allowed her to serve as a peer coach for the infant and toddler staff at a Type III early learning center. She also participated in the MyTeachingPartner (MTP) program, through which she provided teachers intensive coaching on teacher-child interactions using an evidence-based methodology aligned with the CLASS tool. Denea holds an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Santa Monica College.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre-K), MTP Coach, Certified Infant/Toddler MMCI Instructor, Family Engagement Credentialed Administrator, Inter-Rater Reliable by Teaching Strategies GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level I
Originally from New Orleans, Tasha has supported Agenda’s team for over 16 years. She coordinates payroll, invoice payments, supplies, and office logistics. Tasha is an active volunteer the Family & Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, Pyramid Parent Training Center, and Central City Renaissance Alliance.
A lifelong resident of southeast Louisiana and native of St. Bernard Parish, Tonia Loria joined Agenda for Children in June of 2022. Tonia has more than 27 years experience as an educator. She has worked directly with young children as a classroom teacher in child care and preschool settings, most recently in a blended pre-kindergarten class serving children in St. Tammany parish. She served as a professor and program manager of Teaching and Care and Development of Young Children at Nunez Community College in Chalmette, Louisiana, and was part of the faculty and administrative team that led the college in its recovery from the devastation of hurricane Katrina. Tonia also served as an academic leader at the college as both Dean and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. Tonia has been an active participant in ongoing education and workforce development initiatives in Louisiana throughout her career. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and masters degree in Education from the University of New Orleans. Tonia holds a Louisiana Teaching certificate in Nursery School and Kindergarten and is inter-rater reliable in TS Gold.
Emma Maddox began her relationship with Agenda for Children as the contracted project manager for the Outdoor Learning Enhancement Opportunity, a federally funded initiative which served nearly 250 centers in Regions 1, 3, and 4 from 2021-2022. In June 2022, she officially joined the Agenda for Children team as Assistant Director, Continuing Education and Professional Development. Over the last decade, Emma, a native New Orleanian, has spent time as a mentor teacher and specialist in public, private, and independent schools across the area. She also has experience with curriculum and content design, as well as education consulting. Emma holds an M.Ed in Educational Leadership from LSU Shreveport, a B.A. in Social Sciences from Tulane University, and a Certificate in School Leadership for Social-Emotional Learning and Character Development from Saint Elizabeth University. She is also a certified PALS Trainer, Go NAPSACC Consultant, CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, & Pre-K), Louisiana Pathways Trainer II, and holds a Level II Louisiana teaching certificate for grades Pre-K to 5.
Emily moved from Bel Air, MD to New Orleans, LA in 2015 after a long cross-country road trip. Since living in NOLA she has dedicated her time to working in a variety of educational settings, including with Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR) as a program administrator, TrueSchool Studio as an administrative assistant, and Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) as an enrollment specialist. Emily has a B.A. in Psychology from Salisbury University and also graduated from Tulane School of Social Work with her MSW. During the program, Emily interned with the New Orleans Child Advocacy Center/Audrey Hepburn CARE Center and also the Ochsner Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health.
Originally from Boston, Kiara joined Agenda for Children in 2021. She has more than 2 years of experience working on behalf of children and families. Kiara previously worked for the Bard Early College New Orleans as the Student Activities Coordinator, where she facilitated many events (such as Matriculation, the Fall Showcase, Bard Gatherings and Commencement), clubs, organizations as well as provided resources for the community. She also had the pleasure of serving on the school’s Student Services Team and Professional Development Committee.
Kiara is also an active community member here in New Orleans and has served the local community through SBP via AmeriCorps by doing disaster recovery work. Kiara holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Loyola University New Orleans.
Ashley A. PlaisanceShe/Her
Ashley A. Plaisance
Born and raised in Patterson, Louisiana, Ashley joined the Agenda team in 2015 as the Program Assistant/Technical Assistant. Ashley has experience as an early childhood teacher, as well as extensive experience working as an administrative assistant. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in child and family studies from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Jen Roberts is a seasoned non-profit executive with more than 20 years of experience building access to high-quality opportunities for children, youth, and families.
She is the CEO of Agenda for Children, an advocacy organization founded in 1984 to improve the well-being of Louisiana’s children. She previously served as the organization’s Founding Executive Director of NOEEN, a public/private partnership created by local early childhood practitioners, New Orleans Public Schools, and the LA Department of Education to increase access to quality early childhood education in Orleans Parish. In 2019, she created the Early Childhood Opportunity (ECHO) Fund, a multi-million dollar grantmaking program for childcare centers across Southeast Louisiana, and co-founded the New Orleans Early Education Research Alliance with Tulane University faculty. These achievements, coupled with her prior experience managing programs at Louisiana’s largest private foundation and creating innovative programs in the nonprofit, K12 education, corporate, and higher education sectors, have made her a trusted strategic advisor to organizational leaders worldwide.
She currently serves as a member of statewide advisory boards for the Louisiana Department of Education and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, several non-profit boards in the Greater New Orleans region, and was named a 2019 Aspen Institute Economic Opportunities Fellow. A native of the Gulf Coast, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Bryn Mawr College and a Master’s degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University. She has called New Orleans home since 2002.
Jackie is a New Orleans native, but has lived in several different states and abroad during her military travels. She has over 20 years of experience in early childhood with Head Start, military child development centers, and private child care providers. Her many roles have included a New Parent Support Specialist for the Naval Support Activity in New Orleans and the Training & Curriculum Specialist for a military child development center. Jackie has a degree in Early Childhood Education from Irvine Valley College, CA, a bachelor’s degree in Sociology/Psychology from Loyola University in New Orleans, as well as a master’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from Walden University.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), CLASS Infant and Toddler Trainer, Certified Infant/Toddler MMCI Instructor, Inter-Rater Reliable for TS GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level III
A native of Zachary, Louisiana, Courtney Rogers joined Agenda in January of 2022 as the Director of the Judy Watts Center for Policy and Advocacy. Most recently, Courtney served as a legislative assistant to Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton who serves on the Appropriations and Budget Committees of the United States House of Representatives. As a legislative assistant, she led a diverse domestic legislative portfolio, including issues surrounding the federal budget, education, and the country’s workforce. In 2019, she was selected as a Women’s Congressional Policy Institute Fellow where she dedicated herself to improving policy outcomes for women and children while working in the congressional offices of Senator Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence. Courtney is also a former school-based social worker and has experience working within the criminal justice system. Courtney holds a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Alabama, and a bachelor’s degree in Family Studies from Southeastern Louisiana University.
A native of New Orleans, Ashley Smallwood has over 16 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field as a lead teacher and child care center director. Ashley has been a dedicated advocate for children, families and the community for over 15 years. She has an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Delgado Community College and currently working on a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Southern University at New Orleans. Ashley joined Agenda’s team in 2021.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant and Toddler), Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer, National Administrator Credential, Ancillary Certificate, Louisiana Early Leaders Academy Certificate, Preschool CDA
Nirenza Taylor is from New Orleans. For the 12 years prior to joining Agenda for Children, Nirenza was a Director and Pre-K teacher at Spring Ridge Academy. Nirenza has dedicated her career to early child education and been in the field for 20 years. She holds an Associate’s degree in Care and Development of Young Children from Delgado Community College and is currently enrolled at Southern University, New Orleans, where she is studying Child Development and Family Studies.
Ariel Test joined the Agenda team in February of 2022 as the organization’s first Chief of Staff. She has been a public defender and advocate for the rights of children and families in Louisiana for over a decade. She most recently served as the Managing Director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. Ariel is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law and the University of California, Los Angeles. Ariel is the proud parent of delightful and energetic kindergartener.
Originally from New Orleans, Dr. Angelique Thomas joined Agenda’s team in 2021. She has more than 13 years’ experience working on behalf of children and families. Dr. Thomas previously worked for NOLA Public Schools, where she helped coordinate early childhood enrollment and student access for Orleans Parish. She is also an active member of St. James Major Guild. Dr. Thomas holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, a master’s in Educational Leadership and a Doctorate in Education from Clark Atlanta University.
Mark A. ThomasHe/His
Mark A. Thomas
Originally from Leesville, Louisiana, Mark A. Thomas joined Agenda’s team in 2022. Mark has over 28 years’ experience in the Social Services world. Mark A. Thomas previously worked for LSU Human Development Center as the Program Manager of the Early Head Start Program where he was responsible for the administration of the Early Head Start program, including program design and management, oversight of record-keeping and monitoring systems, day to day operations and development of community partnerships. Mark is an active member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Incorporated where he a Life Member. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Upper Iowa University and a master’s degree in Social Work from Southern University at New Orleans.
A native of Louisiana, Joette was born and raised in Destrehan, Louisiana. She has over 20 years in early childhood education. After Hurricane Katrina, Joette and her family moved to Texas where she was a Pre-K Lead Teacher in Conroe, Texas for 10 years. In 2015 she moved back to her hometown and became a Certified Reliable Observer and served as a CLASS Observer in St. Tammany, Livingston, Tangipahoa and Orleans Parishes. She has also worked as an Enrichment Teacher at a homeschool center in Mandeville. Joette serves at her church as a Sunday School Teacher and is also a volunteer for St. Joseph’s Hospice. She also enjoys calligraphy, art and writing children’s books, one that she has shared with her previous school in Texas.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler and Pre-K), Inter-Rater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer I, GO NAPSACC Consultant
Originally from Houma, Louisiana, Derrick joined Agenda’s team in 2021. Over the past decade, Derrick has taught two, three, and four year olds, third grade, and adult learners in addition to serving as an early childhood center director. Derrick serves on the steering committee of the New Orleans Early Education Network, on the board of directors for the Louisiana Early Childhood Association, on the advisory council for the Louisiana Association for the Education of Young Children, and on the Louisiana Early Learning and Development Standards Review Committee. Derrick is adjunct faculty for the Care and Development of Young Children programs at Baton Rouge Community College and Fletcher Technical Community College and is an affiliate member of the Early Childhood Education Institute at LSU. Derrick holds a B.A. in English and international development from Tulane, an M.Ed. in elementary education from Notre Dame, a certificate in early childhood education from UCLA, and a certificate in early education leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, and Pre-K), Louisiana Pathways Trainer III, National Administrator’s Credential
Tiffany is a native of New Orleans and has over 13 years of early childhood experience. Prior to joining the team at Agenda, she worked as a preschool teacher and was promoted to be a Early Childhood Coach. Tiffany holds an associates degree in Art in Early Childhood Education from Delgado Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Southern University at New Orleans.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant, Toddler, Pre K), Interrater Reliable for TS GOLD, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level II
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Melissa originally joined Agenda’s team in 2014 as an Intern. She has come full circle and rejoined Agenda’s team in 2021. She has more than 10 years experience working on behalf of children and families. Melissa previously worked for Boys Town Early Head Start partnership as an Education and Disabilities Coordinator where she provided professional development, coaching, CLASS observations, and support for families with children with disabilities. She also previously worked in the state’s Early Intervention system, Early Steps, as a Family Service Coordinator, where she guided parents through the Early Steps process of receiving therapy to help their child develop in their communication, cognitive, physical, adaptive, and social skills. Melissa has also worked in several Infant, Toddler, and PreK classrooms on military bases and in the New Orleans area. Mellissa is an active member of Young Catholic Professionals and serves as Director of Operations on the Leadership team. Melissa holds a Master’s degree in Human Resource Education & Workforce Development from Louisiana State University. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Child & Family Studies from Louisiana State University.
Certifications include: Certified Reliable CLASS Observer (Infant and Toddler). Interrater Reliable in GOLD by Teaching Strategies, Louisiana Pathways Trainer Level III
Anna E. WilliamsonShe/Her
Anna E. Williamson
Anna brings to the Agenda team fifteen years of experience working in education and education reform. Most recently, Anna was a school administrator and Assessment Coordinator at a large early childhood program in Houston, Texas. Anna previously lived in Washington, DC and was the Associate Director, Stewardship and Engagement at The CityBridge Foundation, a private family foundation that marshaled intellectual, financial, and social capital to help build a high performing public education system in the District of Columbia. In this role, she educated and engaged business leaders, philanthropists and community members in the District of Columbia’s education reform efforts. Prior to The Foundation, Anna was Director, Community Development at the national nonprofit First Book, liaising between schools and nonprofits and First Book’s corporate and government partners. Anna completed her M.A. in Early Childhood Special Education and Human Development at The George Washington University in 2013, and currently serves on Mayor Cantrell’s Re-Opening New Orleans COVID-19 Community Services Working Group, and is a Pritzker Fellow representing Agenda for Children’s work in early childhood education research, policy and practice.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Kiara joined Agenda in 2021. Kiara has seven years of accounting and administrative experience in education and health care. Prior to joining the Agenda team, she worked as a Financial Specialist at a Federally Qualified Health Center and previously worked as a Staff Accountant at an organization that provided financial support to charter schools across Louisiana and an Accounting Clerk at Jefferson Parish Public Schools. Kiara is very passionate about the wellbeing of Louisiana’s children and families and is excited to join the organization. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in Accounting and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and is an active member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and the Institute of Internal Auditors.
Certifications include: Certified Fraud Examiner
Tara is thrilled to call New Orleans home and be part of Louisiana’s efforts to bring quality early education to all its residents. She has ten years of experience working with children and family services and is an active volunteer with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. Tara has facilitated and managed education, child protection, and disaster management programs for families in Louisiana, New York City, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. She holds a Master’s of Science in Policy and Non Profit Management from The New School University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Drew University. Tara has called New Orleans home since 2013 and is excited to raise her son here.