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Saturday, September 21, 2019   6:58 AM    |   80°F

About Us

Maria Blanco –  Early Childhood Director

Maria Blanco

Maria Blanco is the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives at HDC. She has worked in the field of early childhood and special education for over 20 years. Maria serves on the Louisiana Early Care and Education Advisory Council and the New Orleans Early Education Network Advisory Committee. Her work focuses improved quality and access to early childhood education for all children, especially those at risk, and strengthening the family.


Kisha Petty – Center Director



Ritu Dua – Lead PreK Teacher


Ms.  Dua earned a Bachelor’s degree in Arts, a Bachelor’s degree in Education, and Master’s degree in Literature. She also has a Child Development Associate credential and is registered as a Master Teacher with Louisiana Pathways. Prior to joining HDC as a Child Development Specialist, Ritu worked at Newcomb Children Center and the University of New Orleans Children’s Center. She is passionate about fostering each child’s curiosity and individual personality.

Ritu enjoys traveling around the world with her husband of 26 years and keeping up with her son who works at UMC. She has lived in 16 different states and is proud to call New Orleans home since 2007. She is an advocate for Indian families in New Orleans and actively involved in her community.


Keenya Finley – Assistant Toddler Teacher


Ms. Finley is a Child Development Specialist at LSUHSC Early Learning Center. She earned an Associate of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education from Delgado Community College and is registered as a Teacher – Level 3 with Louisiana Pathways. Keenya has worked in early childhood classrooms for over 14 years and strives to maximize each child’s potential, motivating them to reach their developmental milestones. She is fluent in sign language and enjoys spending quality time with family and friends. She is the proud mother of a daughter in high school.


Samantha Gillett – Assistant Infant Teacher


Ms. Gillett graduated from Delgado Community College with an Associate of Science in Teaching Grades 1-5, and is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at the University of New Orleans. She has worked in early care and education for five years and recently moved back to New Orleans from Little Rock, Arkansas.  Samantha is a proud mother to a son in elementary school. She enjoys spending time with her son, family, and friends.


Susie Jones – Lead Infant Teacher


Ms. Jones earned a Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and Family Studies from Southern University at New Orleans. She believes that “it takes a village to raise a child” and that the future is in our children hands. Susie has worked as an early childhood educator for 17 years and desires to nurture the unique capabilities within each child. She is the proud mother of two sons. Susie enjoys walking and spending time with family and friends.


Germaine Collins – Lead Toddler Teacher


Ms. Collins has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and Family Studies from the University of Southern at New Orleans. She has dedicated the last 20 year’s enriching children through teaching. Ms. Collins  is also the proud mother of two daughters. Germaine enjoys shopping, eating out, and spending time with family in her spare time.

Jo Ann LoRusso – Enrichment Specialist


Dr. LoRusso earned a Doctorate degree in Early Intervention/Special Education, with a focus in early literacy, and a Masters degree in Cognitive Psychology with a focus in memory and learning disabilities. She teaches courses in early childhood development and special education at Delgado Community College and is an early childhood consultant.  Jo Ann has two adult daughters, one who has a learning disability and two granddaughters, one who has Asperger’s.


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