Lead Instructor, (Alumna)
Lead Dance Instructor
Instructor/MSW Intern (Alumna)
Adventure Learning Facilitator
College Access Facilitator
Assistant Dance Instructor
Tasheema recently graduated with her Master’s of Social Work (MSW) at Lehman College. She also holds a B.A. in English from Binghamton University (SUNY) with a concentration in Creative Writing. As of July 2021, Tasheema took over leadership of The Program for Girls and Young Women and we can’t wait to see all the great work she will continue to accomplish with our young ladies. She was the co-facilitator of multiple programs including Project V.I.P., Girl Talk (leadership development), all of our sexual and reproductive health programming, and the summer Peer Educators program. Since joining our staff in 2005, Tasheema has completed extensive training in youth development, including arts education, gender-equity, youth engagement, financial literacy, college preparedness, self-defense, and sexual health education. A native of the Bronx, Tasheema spent three summers during college as a lead facilitator of New Settlement’s intensive Bronx Helper’s Super Summer. Her extensive experience working with girls and boys, teen women and men also includes serving as the site director of the Boys and Girls Club of Binghamton, NY, as a program facilitator in the Broome County YMCA, and as an intern in a public elementary school in Binghamton. Since 2008, Tasheema has served as the program’s liaison with an ever-evolving coalition of Bronx organizations collaborating to support young women’s sexual and reproductive health, She lovingly is referred to as ‘Mom’ by many of our program veterans, for her nurturing, humorous, no-nonsense style of leadership.
From age 11-18, Kayla participated in the Program for Girls & Young Women in just about every program component, including Project V.I.P. for which she also served as teen staff several times; our GOAL program, and Next Level Dance. Kayla served on our Young Women’s Committee – a youth steering committee planning events participating in additional leadership training — from age 14 to 21, continuing to be involved after HS graduation and into college. Kayla graduated from Brandeis HS and got her Associates from Bronx Community College, then completed her Bachelor’s degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Kayla recently graduated with her Master’s in social work (MSW) at New York University (NYU). While in college, Kayla was hired as adult staff for our summer Academy for two years, before accepting a position with BronxCare Hospital Center as a Health Education Counselor, working directly with students within their Successfully Transitioning Youth to Adulthood initiative. Kayla now splits her time between a full-time position as BCHC’s Program Manager, Department of Pediatrics, and teaching classes for our program, including health, self-defense, college prep, mental health and adventure learning.
Mikala Sakai, also known as “Mickey”, is a native New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx. With a visionary gift of movement, Mickey weaves a story through not only the beat, but through her interpretation of lyrics and the stories they tell. She has always had a passion for teaching and enjoys helping to shape and inspire young dancers that have an interest and passion for dance and the culture. Whether it’s fun, a stress reliever or a professional career choice, she truly believes any kind of progress is a process and that is their story to tell!
As a young girl, Limayra participated in the Program for Girls & Young Women. After two years in the program, Limayra became a Teaching Assistant for Project V.I.P., as well as a member of the Young Women’s Committee, in which youth leaders assist with program design, outreach, and event planning. Limayra holds a Bachelors in Psychology from Lehman College and is pursuing a Master’s in Social Work at Hunter’s Silberman School of School Work. Being born and raised in the South Bronx by Black immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, Limayra truly believes that positive impact and healing starts in communities. Limayra has a passion for mental health and is currently a counselor in a transfer high school in the Bronx. She is deeply passionate about mentoring young girls and non-binary youth and has hopes of starting a mentorship program that centers on mental health and healing.
Monica, a Bronx native and an avid nature lover, returns to the programs at NSA as the lead facilitator of Girls Encourage, where she applies her numerous years of outdoor education experience. Monica holds a B.A. in English Literature and a Master of Social Work from Lehman College. Monica is also currently pursuing her Master of Early Childhood Education. Monica’s facilitating experiences stem from over 20 years working in outdoor education programs in Connecticut and New York. Her passion and empathic abilities are mirrored from her full time job as an elementary school teacher and social worker. Monica’s mix of humor, positive energy, and tough love motivates the program’s participants to set attainable goals and step outside of their comfort zones.
Born and raised in the South Bronx, Rakeesha often performed dances, songs and put on plays with friends for annual fundraisers, showcases and other competitions. She would use her artistic talents as a form of self-expression. It was then that Rakeesha knew that whatever she did in life had to have a creative element to it. She received her B.S in Communication Arts with a concentration in Advertising, Marketing, Television and Radio from St. John’s University. From 2004-2012, Rakeesha worked with the Program for Girls and Young Women, first part-time as a facilitator for the Project VIP (drama), later also facilitating several classes including Music (Singing), health classes, and GROWN, a creative expression class that allowed girls and young women share their voice through creative writing. In search for something more, after being challenged by a student for college assistance, Rakeesha decided to move into the College Access and Success field. Over her six years in College Access and Success, Rakeesha focused on assisting those with a High School Equivalency Diploma, Transfer High School Diploma and those with a system involvement (ie. Foster Care, Juvenile Justice or Homelessness) in getting into college. She has done several workshops and sat in on panels to lend her expertise. In 2017 Rakeesha got her Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. She plans to keep growing into higher levels leadership roles and to eventually start her own nonprofit in the Arts and Education. In the meantime, we are thrilled to have her back on staff leading College Access!
Serena Maximilien is a Haitian artist with a diverse dance background who recently
graduated with a B.F.A. in Dance from Temple University. She started training at Arthco Danse
under Jeanguy Saintus Riché and Gerard Florestal for over ten years. Serena also trained with
Académie de Dance RMT under Regine Mont-Rosier Jolicoeur and Nathalie Dalzon. After High
school, she moved to New York City and took a gap year to focus on her craft by enrolling in the
International Student Dance Program At Broadway Dance Center. In 2019, Serena graduated
with her Associate’s degree in Performing Arts from Westchester Community College. During
her time at Temple University, Serena has received awards like the Out of the Box Award (2021)
and the Rose Vernick BFA Choreography Award (2022). As a performer and choreographer,
Serena actively explores what it is like to live in the U.S. as a black immigrant within the realm
of African and African Diasporic dances. As an assistant instructor, Serena practice critical
pedagogy which celebrates and honors everyone’s differences in a classroom. She is determined to
build a safe and brave space where dancers and movers can grow and learn in all aspects of their
Sandra M. Cruz (she/her/hers) – is a Bronx native artist and co-facilitator for viBe Theater Experience and Peer Development Educator for Girl’s Program. Cruz strives to cultivate a sense of belonging by constructing innovative pedagogies to understand the evolving demographic. She holds her MA in Higher Education Administration from Stony Brook University and a BA in Speech Communication with a concentration in Business of Music at SUNY Potsdam. Cruz is invested in supporting cultural and community organizations of color to empower student voices and guide them to critically ponder on arduous thoughts and conversations about the real world. During her free time, she enjoys writing poetry and making art for her small business. As Cruz continues to learn how to embrace her own individuality, her hope is to be able to provide the same for her students as they explore their own uniqueness to navigate the world around them.