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.

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.

College and Career Success

  • Sarah Bowen

    Assistant Director, Talent Search

    Sarah is an educator, college access advocate, and art enthusiast born and raised by Jamaican parents in Milwaukee, WI. Before entering the classroom 8 years ago, she attended Marquette University where she received a dual-major Bachelors of Science degree in secondary education, writing-intensive English, and a minor in sociology. After graduating and teaching for one year in Milwaukee, she moved to Houston, TX via Teach for America where she planted her heart for two years as a 10th grade ELA teacher and two more years as a college counselor. In 2019, she decided to take her talents to the east coast where she resides in the heart of Harlem. For three years, she was a Lead Youth Development Specialist and College Access Manager. When Sarah is not working on behalf of young people, she is watching a tv show. Her favorite kinds are the ones that make her cry, and that’s why her favorite show is This Is Us. However, Lupin, Manifest, New Amsterdam, The Mandalorian, and many others are also in the mix. Sarah loves to try new food and experiences and gives everything at least three opportunities before calling it quits (i.e. yellow mustard). Sarah’s happy place is the art museum or anywhere with lots of foliage. 

  • Faatima Johnson

    Counselor, Talent Search

    Faatima is a school counselor who has been working with New York City students for more than eight years, guiding them to realize their fullest potential. Her mantra for working with young people can be summed up by her favorite author Toni Morrison "if you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else." As a native Bronxite, she initially started this path at Lehman College where she got a bachelor's degree in English Education. She began teaching English, Yoga, and The Youth's Bookclub in New York City's Department of Education. She quickly realized that as a first-generation college graduate herself, she was most interested in preparing and emboldening young people for post-secondary prospects. She became College Access and Advisory Coach and showed post-secondary pathways to a student demographic that felt disengaged and discouraged at their previous high schools. She then returned to the South Bronx as Senior College Advisor and Youth Development Specialist while completing her Masters in Counseling and Guidance at New York University. In her quiet hours, she creates music playlists, paints by numbers, or tries out food recipes from YouTube.

  • Nathaniel Robinson

    Counselor, Talent Search

    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

  • Leticia Vasquez

    Assistant Director, Upward Bound

    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 Dawn Ellis

    Counselor, Upward Bound

    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

    Counselor, Upward Bound

    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.

  • Yarisell Hernandez

    Alumni and Career Counselor

    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. 

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 student 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.

  • Ronni Dana Isenberg

    Columbia University School of Social Work Intern

    Ronni received her BSW and B.A. in Policy Studies from Syracuse University. Ronni plans to pursue her MSW at Columbia School of Social Work this year and her M.S. in Nonprofit Management the following year so she can lead her own organization and change the world. Ronni has experience with direct clinical practice work with children in foster care, foster parents and birth parents, case management, and children with developmental and physical disabilities. In her free time, Ronni enjoys exploring NYC, baking and spending time with family and friends.

  • Elizabeth Whatley Ozer

    Columbia University School of Social Work Intern

    Whatley recently graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in Foreign Affairs. This year, Whatley will be attending the Columbia School of Social Work to receive her MSW in 2022 and will eventually pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology to become a licensed psychologist.

    Whatley has experience working directly with children of all ages. She has also served as a mentor and counselor to many students throughout her time at UVA. Whatley wears many hats: she is a ballet dancer, yogi, waitress, runner, and avid reader.

  • Erica Danielle Wilson

    Columbia University School of Social Work Intern

    Erica received her Bachelor of Arts and Science in Sociology from Boston University and she is pursuing her MSW at Columbia School of Social Work this fall. She wants to be a counselor and one day set up her own youth center. Erica plans to incorporate nutritional health into her mental health counseling as she believes the two are very much connected.

    Erica spent a year in the AmeriCorps Service in Austin, TX as a Shelter Advocate/Case Manager for victims of domestic violence. She has several years of experience working with children, foster parents, and adult survivors of abuse. Erica enjoys traveling, spending time with her friends, and learning about holistic health.