Craig has been working with urban youth for the past 12 years. Craig also has increasingly dedicated himself to a healthy lifestyle including running, hiking, and camping. Craig thus believes strongly in the experiential learning goals of Project U.S.E., which uses physicality to change mentality. In 2006, Craig founded NJ LEEP in Newark, NJ, where he worked as the Executive Director until 2014. The out-of-school time college bound program NJ LEEP, under Craig’s leadership, grew each year and sent 95% of program graduates to college. In 2014, Craig stepped down as the Executive Director of NJ LEEP to move to Pennsylvania to address family challenges. Craig was excited to return to Newark in 2016 to become the Executive Director of Project U.S.E. Craig holds a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College, a Master’s Degree from Harvard, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School.
Donna Hoffman | Finance Director
Donna Hoffman joined Project U.S.E. in spring of 1994 as Bookkeeper and Executive Secretary to Phil Costello. After enjoying 8 years working side by side with Phil, Sarah and staff, she left when due with her second child and to dedicate more time with her family. With an educational background in accounting and business, Donna was working part-time bookkeeping before happily returning to Project U.S.E. in July 2006 as Finance Director. She has three children and is very involved in their schools and activities, volunteering over the years with school boards, PTA programs, and Treasurer roles.
Tracy Semar| Wildcat Mountain Wilderness Center Director
Tracy Semar joined the Project U.S.E. family in the spring of 2011 as a Field Instructor. A life-long tree-hugger, Tracy grew up in New York and eventually attended Queens College where she received her BA in Psychology and Studio Arts. After graduation, she set out to fulfill her dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Upon her return, she was disillusioned with everyday life and missed the connection she had with the outdoors. By a stroke of good fortune, Tracy discovered work in the Outdoor Education field and she has never looked back. Through her work, she has been able to connect her love of nature with her passion for education. She is always on the look-out for her next adventure.
Bog Goger | Professional Development Consultant
Bob Goger has long been associated with Project U.S.E., first as a volunteer and board member; then more recently coming aboard to help us expand our adult training programs. After working as a teacher and social worker in Puerto Rico and New York City, Bob returned to his native New Jersey to assume training and management positions in the State Departments of Health and Education. Among the original group of counselors to receive certification as a Substance Awareness Coordinator, he helped develop the first wave of student assistance programs in local districts throughout the state. More recently he has served as a SAC and Student Services Coordinator for the Montclair Schools.
Bob is a graduate of Fordham University (BA & MA); a biker (‘unmotored’); and a harried part-time beekeeper. He also spends some time each week at the Y as a certified fitness instructor and ropes course facilitator.
Carl Schmidt | Special Projects Director
Carl Schmidt was introduced to experiential education while taking classes through Washington State University in the late 1980’s. By 1995 he decided to give the industry a go and signed on with a challenge course construction company in New Jersey. Three years later Carl was asked by an industry friend to be part of a growing business opportunity in Long Island, New York and accepted. The next five years were spent developing a successful challenge course company with his good friend and founder. They went on to earn a Level III accreditation with the Association of Challenge Course Technology. With their goals achieved and his commitments over on Long Island, Carl settled back into New Jersey to become the Director of Special Projects at Project U.S.E. in 2003.
Carl attended Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania before starting his military career with the United State Air Force in 1985. He’s been in the industry for twelve years delivering full challenge course services throughout the east coast, in the mid-west and overseas.
Brendan Meehan | Boatbuilding Program & Pedal Farmers Director
Brendan Meehan joined Project U.S.E. in 2015. He began his career in education in 2007 when he joined AmeriCorps where he found his calling for creating innovative teaching programs for youth while also giving back to the greater Paterson area. This experience led Brendan to employment in a School Based Youth Service Program where he was able to continue to create programs that allowed for youth to build leadership skills, teamwork, and their creativity while also being able to engage with them on a personal level and foster academic growth. The opportunity to join Project U.S.E. as a Boat Building Instructor and Experiential Educator seemed like the perfect next step. When he is not leading the Boat Building program, Brendan can be found riding his bike around Newark with the Pedal Farmers.
Brendan is a graduate from Hobart College in 2005 where he majored in History and International Relations.
Jen Reich, a life-long tree hugger, studied Environmental Science at Cook College, Rutgers University. My first job was as a Recycling Educator for the Borough of Brooklyn in NYC. I also worked in the Urban Tree House of the Children’s Museum of Manhattan introducing kids who had rarely left the city to environmental challenges. I then left Brooklyn for the Rockies of Colorado to live in a cabin with no running water or electricity. Upon returning to NJ I needed to find a job that encompassed my love of nature and working with kids. In June of 1999 I had the privilege to begin working with Phil Costello and Project USE. For 6 years I worked as the Resource Coordinator then Director of Operations and occasionally and as needed the Wildcat Director. I can honestly say they were the best and most productive years of my life.
In 2006 I spent a year interning on Evening Rain Farm in Hawaii; a permaculture and sustainable living experiment. We worked on several natural building projects and grew or raised most of our food. In 2008 I became a Director of the Foodshed Alliance; where we coordinated a local seasonal farmer’s market, farm to table dinners and most importantly advocated for farmers in the region. In 2010 I began 5 years of work as an administrator for the YMCA. This summer I was proud to come full circle and rejoin the Project USE family, bringing me back to my roots and what I consider the most important work in the world.
Trisa Edmonson | Employment and Training Program Director
Trisa Edmonson first began working with young people as a volunteer with high school students while in college. She quickly learned that she was meant to build and design programming for underserved youth. A teacher by trade, Trisa has taught for and managed schools and programs serving the most vulnerable youth including those who are incarcerated and on probation and parole.
Trisa will continue this work as the Director of Employment and Training Programs where she will work with Project U.S.E. staff to provide educational and employment opportunities to out of school youth in Jersey City.
Zaniyyah AshBey | Employment and Training Program Program Coordinator
Zaniyyah AshBey joined the Project U.S.E. family in the winter of 2016 as the Program Coordinator of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program. Zaniyyah grew up in Newark, New Jersey and attended Trinity College where she received her BA in Education. She spent time undergrad in middle school classrooms aiding in curriculum development and classroom curriculum application. Zaniyyah first learned about Project U.S.E. as a student at North Star Academy. Her interest in experiential education originated with her first student experience with Project U.S.E.. Now she is happy to be working with the program that exposed her to using life and the world as her classroom.
Jeff Key has worked with various non-profits in education in Newark over the past 10 years, including Citizen Schools and NJ LEEP. While at Citizen Schools, he helped to coordinate high-quality after-school programming for students at Ivy Hill Elementary School and manage a mock trial program for middle school students in partnership with the Women’s Initiative of McCarter & English, LLP. At NJ LEEP, he was involved in managing law-related education programming for students from Newark, Trenton, and Camden as well as serving as Director of Operations for two years. He is excited to join Project U.S.E. working on operations to expose more students to experiential learning to develop leadership skills and positive character.
He is also involved in supporting the nonprofit sector through his work with the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN). He is a founding board member of the New Jersey chapter of YNPN (YNPN-NJ) and continues to work with the YNPN National Staff team to encourage network engagement, advocacy, and improved professional development for young nonprofit professionals across the country. Jeff is a graduate of Princeton University and Seton Hall University School of Law.
Our staff is the best in the business. A dedicated group of educators, they pride themselves on creating unique learning opportunities for young people and adults.
Our instructors come to us from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The combination of their energy and enthusiasm, their commitment to safety, and their zest for designing and providing outstanding adventures ensure that our programs are the best available.
If you are interested in joining our staff, please visit our employment opportunities page.
Assistant Coordinator | Pedal Farmers Program
Field Coordinator | Wildcat Program
Lead Field Instructor | Wildcat Program
Field Instructor | Wildcat Program
Field Instructor | Wildcat Program