ACNJ Staff

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Phone: 555-555-4544

Policy, Advocacy & Data

Shadaya Bennett
Shadaya Bennett is a young professional from New Jersey who has garnered acclaim and respect or her work in the State Legislature. She gained foundational experience in public policy research at the Research Alliance for New York City Schools at NYU before pursuing a career in politics in her home state. Her work in the political arena began in the 29th Legislative District. Shadaya is the former Chief of Staff to Assemblywoman Shanique Speight. In that position, she was instrumental in the development and expansion of the Assemblywoman’s legislative portfolio. She worked on a vast range of legislative initiatives, including policies that impact maternal health, the criminal justice system, victims of crime, human trafficking prevention, and employment access for individuals with disabilities. Following her tenure in the Assembly, Shadaya became Director of Policy in the office of Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Ruiz within the New Jersey Senate where she managed legislative and state budget matters. She was instrumental in the progression of policies aimed at enhancing childcare delivery and accessibility including the recently enacted “Thriving by Three” grant program. Working alongside the Majority Leader, Shadaya engaged stakeholders to assess and negotiate effective policy and funding provisions which directly impact state residents. Shadaya eventually took her legislative experience into the healthcare sector, assuming the Director of Government Relations for the New Jersey Hospital Association. In this capacity, she elevated the interests of New Jersey hospitals to stakeholders in Trenton. Shadaya is a first-generation college graduate who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Temple University where she was a scholarship earning athlete. She also has a graduate degree in Public Administration from Kean University. She is a 2022 graduate of the Leadership Newark Public Policy Fellowship Program. She was recently recognized on New Jersey’s 2023 Women’s Power List and has been listed as one of InsiderNJ’s “Millennials to Watch.’
Senior Legislative Analyst
Nina Peckman
Nina Peckman works for ACNJ’s KidLaw Resource Center as a staff attorney, specializing in all aspects of education law and, as a member of the special education practitioners workgroup and the education law committee of the New Jersey Bar Association, takes part in education policy agendas. Fluent in Spanish and English, she primarily assists parents by explaining the law and helping them advocate for their children in school, including by reviewing and explaining school record and writing letters to school staff. Nina negotiates with school board attorneys, attends school meetings and State mediation with parents. Nina writes legal guides and fact sheets and provides workshops/trainings regarding education law to parents and professionals, including school staff, psychologists, social workers, healthcare providers, community-based organizations, Case Management Organization staff, child welfare workers, law guardians and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Prior to joining ACNJ in 2006, Nina worked for the Community Health Law Project, providing legal representation to adults diagnosed with mental disabilities. Prior to that, she was general counsel to Engender Health, a non-profit organization whose mission was to improve woman and children’s health services in developing countries. Nina earned her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 1985 and her B.A. from Rutgers College.
Staff Attorney
Ask me about: Education rights for K-12 / What is KidLaw?
Alena Siddiqui
As Data Analyst, Alena is responsible for collecting, analyzing and organizing state, county, and city level data relating to the well-being of New Jersey’s children for ACNJ’s Kids Count publications. She earned a Master of Public Informatics degree with a concentration in environmental and health-use planning from Rutgers University. While in graduate school, Alena worked as an administrative assistant for the Office of Student and Academic Services at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She obtained her B.A in Information Technology and Informatics from Rutgers University.
Data Analyst
Ask me about: Kids Count/data on children

Early Childhood

Winifred Smith-Jenkins
In 2023, ACNJ welcomed Winifred Smith-Jenkins as the Director of Early Learning Policy and Advocacy. With an impressive professional background spanning over two decades in managing three successful family-owned child care programs in northern New Jersey, Winifred brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role at ACNJ. Her expertise in child care and early learning, along with her extensive management experience, where she was responsible for leading approximately 100 employees, building relationships, managing commercial acquisition, construction, project management, flood mitigation, disaster preparedness, and community service initiatives, will prove invaluable in guiding ACNJ's policy work and overall operations.

Prior to her appointment as Director, Winifred was actively engaged in ACNJ's advocacy efforts, offering testimony, presenting on webinars, and meeting with public officials to effect change on a statewide level. Currently, as the leader of the early learning policy team, she works closely with key stakeholders to advance ACNJ's mission of ensuring affordable, quality early learning is accessible to all families in need. Winifred's proven track record of community involvement is extensive, having served on several committees, including the South Orange Maplewood School District Preschool Reopening Committee, the East Orange Preschool Advisory Council, and the former East Orange Mayoral Economic Development and Education Transition Team. She has also volunteered as a Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad member and served as a State of New Jersey Licensed Foster Parent and Certified Emergency Medical Technician.

Winifred is a member of several professional and national organizations, including the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health, Delta Sigma Theta, and Jack and Jill of America. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Master of Science in Health Administration, and is currently pursuing a Doctoral degree in Higher Education. Her vast experience, deep commitment to child advocacy, and dedication to community involvement make her an invaluable addition to ACNJ's team of early learning policy experts.
Director of Early Learning Policy and Advocacy
Diane Dellanno
Diane Dellanno, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a policy analyst and member of the early childhood team at ACNJ. Her primary role has been to develop an infant/toddler advocacy campaign to improve early learning policies, programs and funding for infants and toddlers in New Jersey. Diane has authored several issue briefs on topics related to infants and toddlers including: Out Of Reach, a look at the cost of quality child care in New Jersey and No Room For Babies, that examined the availability of infant-toddler child care in New Jersey; and Expensive, Frustrating and Scary: Parent Reveal the Realities of Finding Child Care for Babies in NJ. Diane has over 30 years’ experience in developing and implementing parenting education programs to assist parents in understanding how their children develop, foster positive parent-child relationships, support healthy child development and engage families in their child’s learning to ensure educational success. Prior to joining ACNJ in 2012, Diane served as a director of Early Childhood and Education Programs for Prevent Child Abuse – NJ. Diane received her B.A. from Montclair State University and her M.S.W. from Rutgers-The State University.
Policy Analyst
Hannah Korn-Heilner
Hannah Korn-Heilner is the Outreach Coordinator at ACNJ, assisting the Early Learning Team by collecting stories from parents and providers, and helping to train advocates. She obtained her Master of Social Work with a concentration in Management and Policy from Rutgers University. Prior to graduate school, she worked at the New Jersey Community Development Corporation in Paterson, serving as the Assistant Director of a 21st Century Community Learning Center afterschool program at John F. Kennedy High School. She also completed a year of AmeriCorps service with the same organization. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from Ithaca College.
Policy Associate
Ask me about: infant mental health/social-emotional development


Yolanda Aguilera
Administrative Assistant
Antoinette (Toni) Abdelmalek
Antoinette Abdelmalek is an administrative assistant for ACNJ, assisting staff in various administrative duties. She is a native of Lebanon and is fluent in English, French and Arabic. Prior to joining ACNJ in 1982, she worked for the City of Newark in its Compensation, Rating and Inspection Bureau and for Societe Orientale de Publicite in Lebanon. She attended St. Vincent de Paul School, and is a graduate of the Franciscan Sisters in Egypt.
Administrative Assistant
Beatriz Alcaraz
Beatriz Alcaraz is an administrative assistant for ACNJ and is a key part of the organization, assisting staff in a myriad of duties. She joined ACNJ in 2000. Beatriz is bilingual in English and Spanish. She is a graduate of Perth Amboy High School.
Administrative Assistant
Michael K. Sheehan, CPA, CGMA
Mike is responsible for the accounting and financial functions of ACNJ. He comes from over 25 years in commercial, not-for-profit and consulting experience. At ACNJ, he is facilitating the mission and promoting the sustainability of the organization through internal, Board, and third-party reporting and strong accounting & financial management practices. Mike holds a B.S. in Econ. from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania majoring in accounting and an M.B.A. from the N.Y.U. Stern School majoring in Finance and International Business.
Chief Financial Officer
Prudence Walters

Prudence Walters is the Director of Operations and has been with the organization since 2018. She is a first-generation college graduate in her family with a B.A. in Business Administration from Brooklyn College. With over a decade of experience in HR Management and Business Strategies, her primary role is to work closely with senior management in developing long-term operational strategies that help meet company objectives by overseeing the day-to-day operations of the office, ensuring that it runs efficiently so all members of the team have what they need to succeed.  In addition, Prudence also works closely with ACNJ board members to maintain connections between the Board of Directors, committees, and staff.

Prior to joining ACNJ, Prudence has worked with companies such as Planned Parenthood, Brooklyn Philharmonic, and Scholastic, Inc. Being a mother herself, she hopes to bring a personal touch to the agency's mission of child advocacy.
Director of Operations