For the last 13.5 years, First Children Services has recognized staff who have consistently gone above and beyond in support of the children and families we serve and the organization’s overall mission and core values. What started as recognizing a single team member at First Children School in Fanwood, NJ with the President’s Award has morphed into becoming the Jay Cohen Award and rewarding a staff member from each of our three operating entities. 

Jay Cohen with student at graduationThe Jay Cohen Award is named after Jay Cohen, Transitions Program Administrator. Jay started as a teacher within our Transitions Program in Cherry Hill, NJ eventually rising to become the program’s administrator. Jay exuded everything it means to be part of the First Children family. He was extremely passionate about his work and the students, while at the same time being uncompromising about the quality of services they received at FCS.

Jay was also a wonderful colleague, developing deep connections with his co-workers and showing a level of emotional intelligence and compassion to support those who needed extra guidance or a helping hand. He truly changed the lives of all those lucky enough to be a part of his circle.

Sadly, Jay passed away suddenly in October 2020. While he is missed dearly by everyone who was fortunate to know him, his legacy is not forgotten. The incredible team within Transitions continues to build on his promise to deliver wonderful and impactful services to students and families, during what oftentimes is a crucial point in their lives. The year that Jay passed, First Children decided to honor Jay and his legacy by renaming the President’s Award to the Jay Cohen Award.

Those that win this Award truly live the core values and mission of the organization and work to better the lives of the children served every day. Beyond that, and like Jay, they are supportive colleagues who work to better not only themselves but their team members and others, as well.

CEO, Matthew Hess is honored to announce the following individuals as winners of the 2022 Jay Cohen Award. 

From the First Children School, in Fanwood is Dr. Ellen D’Amato. Ellen has been with the organization since the beginning 13 years ago. Beyond being incredibly passionate and outcomes-driven, Ellen is incredibly smart and brings so much talent and expertise to the team. She exudes the values of First Children each and every day while elevating the performance of all of those around her. Congratulations Ellen!     

Nicole Bollenbach, BCBA, is this year’s Jay Cohen Award winner from First Children Learning Services. Nicole has proven herself not only to be a talented clinician but also someone who creatively approaches problems with a solution-driven mindset. Beyond her role as an Assistant Director, Nicole is a role model to her peers who embodies the mission of First Children. We are lucky to have her as part of our team. Congratulations, Nicole!  

This year’s Jay Cohen Award winner from Regional Enrichment and Learning Center (REAL) is Krystal Kenna.  Krystal is a Behavioral Program Specialist, delivering community-based therapeutic support throughout New Jersey. From her start working with First Children, Krystal has shown a willingness to go above and beyond while exuding a passion for her work. We are extremely lucky to have her as part of our team delivering excellent services to children. Congratulations, Krystal!