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Amy Cohen
Executive Director
Amy holds a B.S. in arts management from Ithaca College, an MA in “circus as a tool for social change, education, and creative expression” from NYU, and was a Fulbright Scholar to the UK researching contemporary circus culture in London. She is a circus instigator and educator who believes that circus can change the world.

Sam Boyles
Accounts Manager
Within his first few weeks at Ithaca College, Sam found community and inspiration in the circus club (ICircus), and proceeded to stay with them for the rest of his college career. He first found AYCO at the 2010 Educators Conference and has been attending and teaching at regional and national festivals ever since. On the side he juggles, reads about psychoanalysis and solves Rubik’s cubes.

Claire Dehm
Safety Program Coordinator/Social Circus Initiative Coordinator
Claire is a circus educator and advocate who attended her first AYCO event at the 2010 Educators Conference. She holds B.S. in Marketing Communications and a minor in Recreation from Ithaca College where she was involved with the circus club, ICircus. Claire believes that there is place for everyone in circus.

Tara Jacob, Operations Manager
Tara first fell in love with the fun, creativity, and community she found in the circus as a teenager at The Circus Space in London, and went on to found the Circus Folk Unite! collective at Hampshire College. She then completed the 2012-2013 Professional Track program at the New England Center for the Circus Arts. Now she is an instructor at SHOW Circus Studio in Easthampton, MA!

Lisa Godin, ACE Magazine Editor
Lisa first discovered the circus world when she joined the Great Y Circus as a youth. As an adult, she has continued to perform and train alongside her own kids for over 20 years. For the past decade, she has also been the President of the Community Circus Arts Corporation, a public, non-profit created to support the continuing legacy of the Great Y Circus. Lisa is excited to use her degree in Professional Writing to help support circus educators and to celebrate the circus arts as a mechanism for social change and youth development.

Board of Directors

Updated August 31, 2017

Jesse AlFord
Jesse began his circus life with The Great Y Circus in Redlands, CA when he was only six years old. Many years later, he now lives in Louisville, KY where he is Head Coach for My Nose Turns Red Youth Circus, and also works as a Freelance Lighting Designer.

Carlo Pelligrini
Trusteeship Committee Chair
Carlo’s circus career spans 40 years as ringmaster, clown, producer, director and choreographer. In 2002 he co-founded Amazing Grace CIRCUS! as a social/community circus for teens. Today, “Mr. Amazing” and his Teen Troupe teach over 3,000 children a year how to Soar to Success through Circus Arts. He is Creative Director for Westchester Circus Arts Center in Tarrytown, NY, and a keynote speaker for corporate meetings with his innovative program The Juggling MATRIX.

Jen Agans, Ph.D.
Jen Agans, Ph.D., is a research scientist at Cornell University, where she works to build synergy between youth development research and practice. She grew up in youth circus, training with Jackie and Rick Davis beginning in middle school, touring with Circus Smirkus in 2004, and coaching at the Silver Lining Circus Camp from 2005 to 2009 before serving as camp director from 2010 to 2014. Jen has been a member of AYCO since 2001, only missed one AYCO festival (2007), and has been bringing her research and evaluation perspective to AYCO/ACE conferences since 2010.

Adam Woolley
Safety Program Committee Chair
Adam is a hand balancing and rope coach who has trained and taught all over the US over the past 9 years. He graduated from the first Pro-Track class at the New England Center for Circus Arts in 2007, and continued his training in Chicago and San Francisco before moving to NYC in 2010 and starting a career as a full time coach. He has coached aerials and hand balancing for Circus Warehouse, NECCA, and his own private studio, Circus Edge. He is currently the Head Coach at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, Safety Program manager for ACE, and the Managing Director and co-founder of Circus Now, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the evolution of circus arts in the United States.

Shana Kennedy
Shana is the Founding Director of the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and the Executive Director of Circadium. She trained as an aerialist and a juggler at Circomedia, in England, and performed for many years in both capacities. She began teaching aerial skills in her home and backyard in 2001. In 2006 Air Play was founded as a performance and teaching company; it evolved in 2008 to the full-fledged PSCA facility. From 2010-2014, Shana accompanied her husband, Greg, on tour with Cirque du Soleil’s Totem, and brought back a wealth of information and ideas from circus schools around the world.  She is deeply committed to the growing presence of circus artistry and education in the U.S., and to furthering the sector as a whole.

In Memoriam

Rick Davis
A founding member of AYCO, Rick’s 30 year career has taken him to Ringling Brothers Circus, Broadway, DisneyWorld, The White House, and tours of 15 countries. He is the author of 3 books, and conducts circus school residencies for Circus Smirkus. He is also the founder and director of, the largest directory of school assembly performers.


Kevin O’Keefe
“AYCO started out as a small dream in my heart. I knew what I did as the director of Circus Minimus and CircusYoga worked in my communities but longed for connections to others and to see the national landscape of circus. An initial query branched out to those I knew, we became a small community of teachers and artists for a few years. The first festival in 1999 was designed by my wife Erin Maile O’Keefe. We it floated on our credit card at Sailor Circus in Sarasota FL. Our organization placed itself firmly on the cultural map with our 2nd festival at Circus Juventas in Minnesota. Since then we have grown by leaps and bounds by finding strength in diversity and community. Even our dreams are not our own in the circus. We must share everything.”