Double Discovery Center


Educating Children of Promise since 1965


DDC Staff


  • Kecia Hayes

    Executive Director

    For more than 15 years, kecia has been working in a variety of organizational settings in urban education. Prior to joining The Double Discovery Center, she was the founding Director of Teachers College, Columbia University’s university-assisted, community school initiative in Harlem that partnered with five NYC public schools.  She was an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at Montclair State University where she taught courses in leading school reform & improvement, community & school relations, research methods, and group dynamics.  kecia also was a Leadership Development Facilitator/Senior Program Officer at New Visions for Public Schools where she provided intensive school improvement support for administrators and school teams at seven NYC public schools. She worked for the New York State Education Department to help with implementation of their Race to the Top initiative.  kecia was a founding board member of Harlem Academy.  Her professional work and research primarily focuses on urban school leadership, particularly collaborative approaches to innovative urban school turnaround and transformation in communities of color.  She earned a B.A. from Hamilton College, M.A. and Ed.M. from Teachers College, Columbia University, and Ph.D. in Urban Education from the CUNY Graduate Center where she was a MAGNET Scholar.  Her dissertation documented the educational experiences of young men at Rikers Island and examined the impact of a Sternberg’s multiple intelligence literacy program on the young men.              

  • Denisse Garcia

    Administrative/Financial Assistant

    Denisse currently resides in Washington Heights. She is of Dominican and Salvadoran decent. In her spare time, she enjoys painting and spending time with family and friends.  Denisse recently graduated from The City College of New York where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics. Previously, she worked at the Colin Powell School and was one of three people to oversee an entire finance division

  • Annick Sullivan

    Development Officer

    Annick has a significant background in fundraising for educational institutions, from Columbia University Medical Center to the French-American School of New York. She attended high school in France and is familiar with both the public and private educational systems in the United States.  She has a B.A. in Science Journalism from Baruch College and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Columbia University.  Annick chose the development field because she wanted to make a positive impact on society and her values strongly match DDC’s mission. She believes in providing children access to quality education, regardless of income, so that every child can fulfill his/her potential and in turn, contribute positively to the economic growth and the democratic process of this country.

  • Fernanda Gamez

    Finance & Analytics Manager

    Born in Los Angeles, CA, Fernanda is the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants! She is a single Mom, daughter, sister, fiancée, aunt, great-aunt and friend.  Fifteen years ago, she relocated to NYC and has lived in Harlem ever since. Fernanda is a first-generation college student, having returned to school as an adult and earned her Bachelor’s degree from The City College of New York, followed by her Master in Public Administration from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She has had the privilege of having worked in diverse industries, which include fashion, research, medical, non-profit, finance, accounting, human resources and academia. As a single parent, she dedicates her free time to her beloved son and balances her spare time by giving back to her community.   She volunteers at Soup Kitchen, Food Pantry, Detention Center and is intricately active in many social justice issues, especially advocating for immigrant rights. Fernanda is a strong believer that every single student deserves a high caliber education and the opportunity to attend the University of their dreams.  Her philosophy is, “you are never too young or too old to go back to school - if I achieved it, so can you!”

Healthy Minds and Bodies

  • Kristan Rosenthal

    Assistant Director

    Kristan is a public health social worker with over five years of experience working with teens and their families. Previously, Kristan worked with the BeWell Health and Wellness Program at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health to provide health, wellness, and mental health support to teens in the NYPL's BridgeUP Program, provided health education and reproductive health counseling to teens at Curtis High School in Staten Island with the Children's Aid Society, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Botswana. She holds a BA in Public Health Studies from Johns Hopkins University, and an MPH and MSW from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a doctoral candidate in social welfare at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. Kristan lives in the Bronx and enjoys cooking, hiking, kayaking, and pottery.

  • Troy Harris

    Columbia University School of Social Work Intern

    Troy is a first year graduate student at Columbia University's School of Social Work. She graduated from Northeastern University with a dual major in Criminology & Psychology and minor in Theatre. As an undergraduate, she focused on mass incarceration, and developmental psychology. Troy previously worked at Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital in their outpatient behavioral health and addiction treatment center. She also volunteered as a crisis counselor for three years, and as a research assistant at Harvard University’s Sidanius Laboratory. She currently volunteers as a consultant for an attorney at Uncommon Law. In her free time Troy loves to listen to music, dance, and practice circus arts.

  • Jerilyne Amonte

    Columbia University School of Social Work Intern

    Raised in the Boogie-Down Bronx, Jerilyne is a first year MSSW/MPH student at Columbia University’s School of Social Work and Mailman School of Public Health. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, where she obtained a BA in Health Services, a certificate in Community Health Assessment and minored in social work. Jerilyne’s commitment to addressing and ameliorating health disparities in communities of color has allowed her to engage in work with communities across NYC and Pittsburgh. Most recently she has worked as a Program Specialist at the Food Bank for New York City and Program Associate at Steel Smiling. Jerilyne currently serves as her district’s Advocacy Ambassador for the New York City Metro chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, where she works with NAMI NYC staff to advocate for progressive and comprehensive mental health legislation. In her free time, Jerilyne enjoys following stay-at-home orders, attending concerts (virtually, for now), and FaceTiming her best friends whenever possible. 

Talent Search - College and Career Success

  • Marlin Santana

    Assistant Director

    Marlin, an Afro-Latina Bronx Native, takes pride in her work with first-generation students in their pursuit towards college. As a first generation graduate herself, she feels fortunate to be in a position where she can guide young people in their journey towards higher education and help them discover their passions and purpose. She graduated from Buffalo State College with a B.A. in History and received her College Advising Certification from Teachers College, Columbia University.

  • Yarisell Hernandez


    Yarisell is a New York City raised, Dominican native, residing in Harlem, NYC. She spent the last two years as a school counselor in SoHo, helping at risk 9th – 12th grade students obtain a high school diploma and post-secondary success. Yarisell attended City College and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a minor in Theatre.  She has a Master of Arts in Counseling with a Bilingual School Counseling extension from Manhattan College. 

  • Nathaniel Robinson


    Nate has dedicated his life to helping inner city youth reach their potential and persist through college.  His passion for college access and success stems from his own experiences growing up in New York City.  Nate is committed to the growth and long-term success of DDC and its students

Academic Enrichment

  • Aisha Haynes

    Pedagogical Specialist

    With over a decade of teaching experience, Aisha is dedicated to creating an equitable & meaningful educational system for all students. She has paired her background as a secondary school teacher in Brooklyn, with her current professional research in educational policy and leadership as a doctoral candidate at New York University. Aisha earned her master's degree in Teaching at Fordham University and obtained her bachelor’s degree in English Literature at Villanova University. Her dissertation research explores the experiences of New York City principals in a market economy at the intersection of the rapid gentrification of many New York City neighborhoods. Aisha is Brooklyn born and bred and a proud product of the New York City public school system, who is committed to improving the quality of the educational experience for black and brown students.

Upward Bound - College and Career Success

  • Leticia Vasquez

    Assistant Director

    In the pursuit of her life's calling, Leticia has discovered that she is passionate and committed to expanding opportunities in college access, persistence, and success, especially for students who identify as first-generation, low-income, and/or of historically marginalized, under-served, and underrepresented communities. As first-generation, Mexican-American Queens girl, Leticia believes it is her mission to give back to the community that has given her so much by guiding youth to tap into their highest self through the lens of College Access. When she's not working with youth, she loves to explore the crevices of New York City, listen to The Beatles, and learn about the social implications that exist in our geographies, a subject that sparked her interest while attending Hunter College. She holds a Bachelors of Art in Geography with a double minor in Environmental Science and Sociology from Hunter College. 


  • Taylor Ellis


    Taylor is a New York native born & bred in the Co-Op City section of the Bronx. She attended Louis D. Brandeis high school where she was partnered with DDC during her freshman year. She attended DDC for three years and graduated from the program, and high school, in 2014. With the support of DDC, Taylor continued her studies at the SUNY Plattsburgh where she majored in English with a double minor in Africana studies & anthropology. It was during her years in college that she decided that she wanted to be of service to students. Taylor has participated in many student focused service projects including a service learning in Dakar, Senegal where she taught English. Taylor recently obtained her M.S. Ed. in Education from CUNY Lehman College. She is dedicated to providing college access, educational advancement, and mentoring to urban youth. In addition, she is a Scorpio, a daughter, a traveler, a sister, god mother, and a hopeful inspiration to all. Taylor also loves quotes and here is her favorite: Education is the passport to the future. For tomorrow belongs to those who plan for it today - Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz)

  • Jessica Yip


    Jessica is a proud environmentalist, animal lover, and travel & food enthusiast. She graduated from the University at Buffalo with a B.A in Sociology and Economics. During her junior year, Jessica realized that she wanted to pursue a profession where she could help others so she decided to become a counselor. She went on to get her M.S.Ed in school counseling at Queens College and has been working with youth ever since.