NJSACC Afterschool Ambassadors are a select group of leaders in New Jersey’s Afterschool communities who volunteer to serve as spokespeople, conveners and resources for the field. Afterschool Ambassadors will develop public awareness of afterschool issues, build a strong network for afterschool program professionals, and establish professional development opportunities throughout the state.
Contact the Afterschool Ambassador in your county to get information about training, meetings or just connect to share ideas, resources and information. For questions or concerns about NJSACC’s Afterschool Ambassadors, contact us via email here.
To become an Afterschool Ambassador, click here.
Joanna Leigh Hali graduated from Rowan University with a BA in English and a BA in Theatre, Minor in Dance in 2007. After earning her MFA in Theatre at Columbia University in 2009, Joanna began teaching Shakespeare at The Bankstreet School for Children in Manhattan. It was at Bankstreet that she found and fostered her love of teaching, prompting her to begin a Alternate-Route teaching certification program. Joanna has been teaching in the Palisades Park School District since 2012. She currently holds a number of positions within the district including 21st Century Program Coordinator, Events Coordinator, Theatre of English and Theatre, and Dramatic Arts Society Advisor.
Joanna has worked in the district’s 21st Century Community Learner Center since it’s creation in 2014. Serving first as the Site Coordinator, and now as the Program Coordinator, she has seen the impact that after school programs can have on her students first hand. Although her program is not as large as many others, it is dearly loved and offers many unique experiences for her students. She likes to use the Shakespeare quote: “though she be but little, she is fierce” to describe the impact her staff has. Palisades Park is a small district with big needs.When she isn’t in class, running the after school program, or in rehearsal, Joanna spends her time at home with her husband, Scott, and two young sons: Hudson (2), and Edison (6 months). She recently started her second Master’s degree in Educational Leadership at Montclair State University (expected graduation: Aug. 2019).
Hillary Jones studied Spanish Education at Messiah College and graduated in 2011 with teaching certificates in K-12 Spanish and 9-12 English. After graduation she taught high school Spanish and English, In 2014, Hillary began working for The Salvation Army at the Kroc Center in Camden, NJ and had the opportunity to design the after school programs and camps that now run at the center.
Darnell is the Director of Children’s Programs with The Jointure a nonprofit organization located in Somerset County since October 2014. Darnell oversees (5) Before and After School Programs located in Bridgewater-Raritan and Branchburg and oversees the preschool programs at the Creative Campus at Old York. The Creative Campus has (3) preschool classrooms and a Kinderwrap Program. The Creative Campus opened in 2015 and the enrollment began with 5 students and since has increased to 80 students.
Darnell studied Psychology at Monmouth University and resides in Long Branch. Prior to joining the Jointure, Darnell worked for the Community YMCA since 2002. He began his career working as a Part Time Y-Kids Before and After School Site Supervisor until 2008. In 2008, he was promoted to School Age Coordinator and assisted in overseeing 25 Before and After School Programs. In July 2014, he was promoted to Family Support Director as the liaison for the Preschool Expansion Program between The Community YMCA and Red Bank School District.
I am Aja Smith a 34 year old mother of two. I have spent a total of 21 years giving my life to youth. In my earlier years I would volunteer with youth of all kinds in any way. As a young lady I spent most of my time teaching anyone who would listen; teddy bears, my siblings, anyone lol. I knew early on I would serve as a teacher. For a sum total of 10 years I taught in Camden City in the area of preschool and lower elementary. In teaching, I realized I spent most of my time in the halls with all of the children helping them in various realms and assisting parents in any way I could. So, I sought out to make a difference in a bigger way. With that, I returned to school to obtain my Masters in the field of Human Services with a concentration in family and communities to better serve children and families. In separating from teaching I made a vow to my students that I would help more than just the kids in my class or in the halls of the schools where I taught. I now have that opportunity!
As a Coordinator of Curriculum and Programs for Just Kids I serve over 1,000 children daily in 26 schools with 21 programs. I now get to touch the lives of these children within the area of curriculum setting as well as assisting our providers with technical support in any realm within our programs. For me, I love what I do daily because get to shape the minds of so many children through other avenues and most importantly; I kept my word to my students. I now get to touch the lives of so many children in a even bigger way.