Cheryelle Cruickshank

Chief Executive Officer

As a recognized leader in the field of mental health, Cheryelle Cruickshank was appointed Human First’s Chief Executive Officer by UCP’s NYC Board of Directors in 2016. With more than 25 years of experience in nonprofit executive management and mental health services, Ms. Cruickshank provides strategic direction with a strong focus on growth and development for Human First’s individuals and staff.

Her passion for the field stems from her experiences working at a center for individuals with developmental disabilities during her college years. She later led a distinguished 20-year career with Services for the Underserved, where she trained, developed, and managed 250+ healthcare service professionals. She also developed nearly 30 programs for developmentally disabled individuals, including Adult Day Services, Medicaid Service Coordination, Residential Services, After-School Programs and Family Reimbursement. In 2008, she was named Associate Executive Director at Unique People Services, providing oversight for 22 programs staffed with 230 employees supporting individuals with special needs.

While leading Human First, Ms. Cruickshank’s years of experience with advocacy, budget management and cost-effective strategies, as well as close rapports with government officials, helps to ensure the agency operates successfully. 

In addition to leading Human First, Ms. Cruickshank sits on the boards of the NYS Association of Community Residential Agencies, the InterAgency Council and the NY Association of Emerging Multicultural Agencies.  She also served as the President of the Bronx Developmental Disabilities Council and has participated in local government planning for the Bronx for nearly five years. Recognized as a Woman of Excellence by Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide, Ms. Cruickshank has   become a strong voice for the special needs community, demonstrating strong passion and professionalism.

Ms. Cruickshank holds a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Sociology from SUNY Albany and a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Capella University. She also attended the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University Institute (with a concentration in Nonprofit Management for Middle Managers in Community Development Organizations), and in 2011, graduated with distinction from a yearlong leadership program sponsored by the National Urban Fellows. 


Frank Pennuci

Associate Executive of Quality Improvement

Frank Pennucci is a Quality Improvement Professional with more than 40 years of experience in the field of developmental disabilities. He brings valuable insight and expertise to Human First, including strong knowledge of incident and risk management, investigations and regulatory matters.

Mr. Pennuci began his career in public service as a Community Placement Specialist with the Office of Persons With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) in 1976. From 1982 until 2001, he served in a number of senior administrative positions in OPWDD’s Division of Quality Assurance before becoming Regional Director, where he was responsible for the management of certification, inspection and monitoring.

In 2001, Mr. Pennucci was named Director of Quality Assurance for the Long Island Developmental Disabilities Office, overseeing Capital/Program Development, Information Services, Incident Management, Confidential Investigations and more. He also served as Deputy Director in 2004, helping to manage 73 OPWDD programs serving 1,200 individuals.  

In 2010, Mr. Pennucci joined Human First as the agency’s Associate Executive for Quality Assurance, where he has been instrumental in program expansion and the continuation of high quality services. He also serves as Human First’s Corporate Compliance Officer and Privacy Officer, sits on several New York State OPWDD committees, and has presented at international conferences on Developmental Disabilities.


Dr. Nicole Appello, PhD

Associate Executive of Programs

Dr. Nicole Appello brings 16 years of mental health experience to Human First. As the agency’s Director of Clinical Services, Dr. Appello pioneered the department, hiring and leading an exceptional team of behavioral specialists and nurses. In 2014, she launched a successful internship program, which continues to thrive at the agency.

As Human First’s newly appointed Associate Director of Programs, Dr. Appello manages clinical, residential and day service programs while ensuring the agency’s core values (Quality, Integrity and Respect) are embraced by all staff. She also serves as a member of the Human Rights Committee and Incident Review Committee.

Dr. Appello holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and criminology, a Master of Science in psychology and a Doctorate in clinical psychology. She is also a member of MENSA, and in her spare time, volunteers in soup kitchens and as a youth basketball coach.


Elizabeth Stehle

Director of Administration & Communication

Elizabeth Stehle joined Human First in June 2015, bringing over 10 years’ of experience in the government and private sectors. She began her extensive career with the New York City Campaign Finance Board’s Candidate Services Unit as a candidate liaison ensuring compliance    with campaign finance regulations. Ms. Stehle was later named deputy director of the unit, where she supervised operations and trainings, and worked with Information Technology (IT) to test and develop compliance applications. She was subsequently promoted to Project Manager for the agency’s Campaign Finance Administration and spearheaded the execution of IT projects to improve the efficacy of auditing processes.

In 2014, Ms. Stehle joined the government relations firm, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno & Giblin, where she monitored internal compliance with lobbying laws, and advised nonprofit clients on advocacy matters and relationship building with elected officials. One year later, Ms. Stehle joined Human First as Community Relations Manager, overseeing community outreach and event planning, including networking receptions and visits by city officials, such as Public Advocate Letitia James and Council Members Julissa Ferraras and Andrew Cohen.

As Human First’s Associate Executive for Administration & Communication, Ms. Stehle is responsible for a number of operational aspects, including properties, fleet management, IT and communication, and employee training. She holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Fordham University.

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Human First 2017

Main Office

80 Maiden Ln, 8th Fl
New York, NY 10038
T: 516.823.9500
F: 212.943.4985
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1 Michael Ave
Farmingdale, NY 11735
T: 631.321.1101
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