Board of Directors
Ridvan Foxhall | Founder & Executive DirectorGuided by the belief in the oneness of humanity, Ridvan Foxhall is committed to promoting in young people the conviction that they can be the voice of positive change in the world. To this end, for over two decades, she has committed her time, energy and resources to developing creative and educational programs for children with an emphasis on developing their moral capabilities alongside their intellectual and artistic talent.
In 2006, inspired by the Children’s Theatre Company (CTC) a non-profit organization based in NYC dedicated to “building character on stage,” She founded a Peekskill chapter of CTC. In 2013, New Era Creative Space came into being, in response to the growing need for educational programs that were both creative and provided children the opportunity to develop leadership skills. Ridvan’s vision for NECS to become a hub for creative initiatives, community engagement and to inspire the next generation of mindful and innovative thinkers.
Ridvan Foxhall holds a Masters degree in occupational therapy and is a certified parenting educator. Originally from Nigeria, she currently resides in Peekskill with her husband and two children. She enjoys reading, dancing, playing tennis and hiking.
Leslie Fields Cruz | Board Member & Secretary
Leslie Fields Cruz is the Executive Director of the Black Public Media (BPM), and produces the PBS series AfroPOP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange.
Searching for an opportunity to share her love of theater with her children, Leslie Fields-Cruz joined the staff of Peekskill’s Children’s theatre company in 2009 with her own kids in tow. Since then, every fall season Leslie eagerly looks forward to creating the magic that is theater with the CTC community. Leslie served as the Artistic Director of City Lights Youth Theater in NYC from 1998-2000, and spent several years prior to that as an actor performing on stages in New York and Los Angeles.
When she is not playmaking at CTC, Leslie spends her time funding and distributing documentary films that explore the cultures of African Americans and people of the African Diaspora. Leslie lives in Cortlandt Manor with her musician husband Gerry Cruz, and their three daughters, Maya, Sumara, and Cierra.
Karen Foxhall-Schneider | Board President & Treasurer
Karen Foxhall-Schneider is a Certified Management Accountant and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from SUNY New Paltz and an MBA in Finance and Information Systems from Pace University. She has been employed by GE Capital for more than 10 years and currently works on SEC Reporting for GE. Her professional experience includes accounting for Manufacturing, Sales & Distribution, Industrial and Financial Services. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.
Carmita Abrigo | Board Member
Carmita Abrigo joins our board because of her passion for the arts, creativity and providing youth the opportunities to explore all of the arts. Carmita understands that through the arts all children and adults can visualize what they are truly capable of and that is why she is committed to organizations like NECS.
Carmita started volunteering in grade school, and then working for the Pacific Arts Center as an arts program manager full time through college and won the Sterling Munro Public Service award her senior year as she worked with professional artists and the local community providing arts programming to all sectors of the community but focused in on the low-income at-risk communities in Seattle, WA. She continues her volunteer work through the Girl Scouts of America as a delegate and completed her MBA in 2006. She has over 8 years of non-profit management experience and brings over 20 years of territory management experience to NECS. She continues to work in the Pharmaceutical industry as a Senior Sales Representative and a Regional Sales Manager focusing in Dermatology and Facial Aesthetics. Carmita Abrigo’s primary focus for NECS is writing grants and fundraising.
Sharla St. Rose Vice President | Voluntary Benefits
Sharla St. Rose is responsible for leading NFP’s voluntary benefits practice in the Northeast. In her role she helps clients develop voluntary benefits programs that complement their total rewards strategy. She works closely with companies and their account teams to develop enrollment and communication strategies that will lead to increased employee engagement. Sharla joined NFP in 2009 where she launched the voluntary benefits practice. Prior to working in voluntary benefits, Sharla worked as a Health and Welfare consultant and project manager, focusing on large clients with complex benefits programs. In 2014, Sharla was selected as the Voluntary Benefits Adviser of the year by Employee Benefits Adviser Magazine. Sharla holds a Masters of Education from Brooklyn College and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at Florida International University’s Chapman School of Business focusing on insurance related research.
Sam North | Educator | Trustee, Peekskill City School District Board of Education
As a social studies teacher at Ossining High School in Ossining, NY for the past 18 years, Sam has taught Regents, college level, and advanced placement U.S. History. Recently, Sam developed and implemented college level SUNY U.S. History and college level SUNY Social Science and Humanities Research Seminar. Both courses are now offered at Ossining High School through SUNY Albany and students are taking them for college credit. Professionally, Sam is most proud of his ongoing collaboration with a colleague from the English department in the creation of several college level elective courses including SUNY Racism, Classism, Sexism; SUNY The Black Experience Through Literature and History; SUNY Latin American and Caribbean Studies; and SUNY Crossing Borders.
Sam is continuing to work with Smithsonian Museum of American History Director Emeritus Brent Glass on curriculum design and educational materials in the area of criminal justice and incarceration. Mr. Glass is leading a team that is building the Sing Sing Prison Museum. Sam brought together a team of educators from both Ossining and Peekskill to develop curriculum materials designed to engage students in a critical examination of our criminal justice and incarceration systems. Sam was recently chosen to serve on the Sing Sing Prison Museum Board.
Sam is also a Trustee on the Peekskill City School District Board of Education in Peekskill, NY. Serving as a board of education member in a diverse small city school district gives Sam another level of understanding regarding issues of equity in education including issues of race-based disproportionality to the inequitable state funding.
Equity in education is a passion of Sam’s and as such he has been involved in the implementation of programs targeting the achievement gap in educational outcomes and is currently serving on the Ossining Superintendent’s district wide Equity Task Force. Sam is also an active member of the Peekskill NAACP.
Christine Kelly-Edelman | Managing Director
A shared passion for social justice, arts, and the environment led Christine Kelly-Edelman to join NECS in 2020. She brings experience in management, operations, financial record keeping, marketing, and policy and procedures development gained through three decades of working and volunteering for nonprofit and commercial organizations. Christine holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre with minors in Education and Communications from Bucknell University, and a Master of Science in Holistic Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport.
Inspired to “Think Globally, Act Locally,” Christine has volunteered with local nonprofit organizations working to affect social and environmental change, including FPCY Food Pantry, Friends of the Library, Yorktown PTAs, Alliance for Safe Kids, and Something Good in the World.
Christine lives in Yorktown with her husband, two teenagers, and their rescued Catahoula. She enjoys the ocean, learning new things, plant-based cooking, experiencing and creating theater, and listening to music, audiobooks, and stories.
Jared Foxhall | Research and Development
Jared Foxhall is a resident of Peekskill, NY and a current sophomore at Bowdoin College in Maine where he studies government and history. He has a long history volunteering for NECS from social media marketing to mentorship. A global citizen, Jared has spent time living in China where he worked as a summer analyst for venture capital firm, SOSV, investing in tech-startups. He brings his passion for research, fundraising, and business development to NECS as a part-time grant writer and development strategist.