Yensing Sihapanya

Yensing Sihapanya
Executive Director

Yensing is a native San Franciscan with extensive experience in and passion for family support, social justice, and community organizing. Prior to joining Family Connections Centers in 2012, she directed a residential shelter and programs for homeless families, oversaw programs providing educational services to incarcerated youths, and was the Deputy Director of an organization promoting the rights and well-being of LGBTQ families. Yensing is active on community and service agencies Boards and Committees including the San Francisco Family Resource Center Alliance, SFMTA Citizen Advisory Committee, and more.

“I work with an amazing team to oversee the strategic vision, programs, finances, fundraising, operations, partnerships, and the general running of the agency. I’m also really good at holding babies in our Tummy Time playgroup and decorating cookies at our community holiday party. My favorite part of my role is that I get to work with smart, dedicated, kind staff, Board, partners, and families. There is such shared tangible passion and work to ensure Family Connections offers high-quality, welcoming centers and programs that are responsive to the communities’ needs and accessible regardless of income, status, etc. I also enjoy working to develop a progressive, sustainable, strength-based model and environment for the staff, agency, and field.

“When I’m not walking around the centers or at my computer, I’m probably hiking and pitching a tent in the mountains and forests. I’m also a frequent visitor at San Francisco’s many delicious neighborhood restaurants.”

“I love so many children’s books! I can sometimes be found in our lobbies reading children’s books during my lunch. I have a special place in my heart for the George and Martha series by James Marshall. These funny short stories (read one or ten in a seating) show that good friendships are so fun, sometimes hard and filled with silly misunderstandings, require communication and care for each other, and above all, are absolutely wonderful and make life better.”

Kevin Amann
Operations Director

Kevin grew up and attended college in Western New York. He fell in love with San Francisco during a family trip in his early teens. When he graduated college, he knew where he had to be. Kevin started his Bay Area work life in the restaurant business as a cook at the Cliff House restaurant but really longed for a job with more meaning. Eventually he landed in the field of In-Home Supportive Services, where he served that community for several years. In 2010, Kevin joined Family Connections, managing the agency’s multiple facilities, IT and admin systems. Kevin, having two small children at home, knew the challenges that San Francisco families faced and enjoy the work Family Connections does for children and families.

“In my role as Operations Director, I oversee maintaining and renovating the facilities, IT, administrative practices, health and safety practices, and other duties. I love being a member of the leadership team and the progressive culture that we have. Family Connections is an agency that is always moving forward, pushing to be better, and I really like playing a key role in propelling that engine.

“Outside work, I am a musician and songwriter. I spend basically every hour outside of work with either my family or writing music or playing live with my band. I have written or co-written several albums and have played in most of the venues around the bay area and toured the west coast extensively.”

“My favorite children’s book is Becoming Me by Martin Boroson. I remember reading it to my daughter one evening and it really struck me. It’s very spiritual.”

Paul Olsen
Development Director

Paul holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Ecology from UC Irvine and has more than 2 decades of experience in non-profit management and development. Paul also has a great deal of non-profit Board experience, having served on the Boards of Under One Roof, Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and San Francisco Housing Action Coalition. Prior to joining Family Connections, Paul was director of Experience Corps Bay Area, supporting volunteers working to increase reading proficiency of young children. His passion for social justice, family support and early childhood education is a great fit for Family Connections.

“My role is to raise awareness of the organization and what it does, ensure we have the resources to continue serving the community, and to build and sustain relationships of all kinds as Family Connections strengthens families and communities.

“Family Connections Centers does a tremendous job working with children and families interactively. We not only support the children, but we also provide knowledge and resources to parents and caregivers so that they have the tools they need to better support their children. Added to that is the incredible staff at Family Connections. It’s more of a family than a team, with everyone working together to ensure we do everything we can to fulfill our mission.

“Outside of work, I love to travel. It can be as simple as a drive to rural Marin to check out cheeses, or a cruise that touches on multiple ports in multiple countries, allowing us to get just a small idea of how other people live. Regardless of the destination, we have found that we have more in common with people than we have differences, and we need to better understand and respect those differences so we can build on the similarities.”

“My favorite books when I was a kid were the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley. I really liked the combination of adventure, learning, and how the characters (human and animal) supported each other. And, at that age, I was also pulled in by the faraway places and the mythical idea of horses.”

Tam To
Finance Director

Tam’s career working in accounting and finance has spanned four decades. After graduating from the California State University, she held a diverse range of positions, beginning her career at a commercial Insurance company. From there, she moved on to work for the government, Federal Deposit Insurance Agency (FDIC in banking), and Investment banking, before transitioning into nonprofit work in 2006. For the past fifteen years, she’s been supporting community nonprofits in San Francisco and government agencies, and has been with Family Connections Centers since 2017.

“My current role with FCC is Finance Director. Although my role is focused on numbers, payrolls, and budgets, my favorite time at this organization is spent meeting and greeting all the kids that come to our centers for Pre-K classes or afterschool programs (Homework Club). In addition to English, I speak and write Vietnamese fluently. There are so many wonderful memories that I have with the kids at FCC. They’re so near and dear to me. I love that the staff at FCC is so dedicated to the mission and works to support kids, families, and the community.

“My favorite way to spend my time outside of work is baking and cooking. They’re very therapeutic activities for me and, at the same time, I can share my baked goods and my specialty foods with family and friends.”

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is my forever and all-time favorite children’s book. I learned a lot from that book about the ways children see things as they are, without fuss or worries. As adults, we often get caught up in our daily living, stressed out and worrying too much about things that may or may not happen. We need to learn to see things as they are, taking a moment to enjoy the smell of coffee or the fragrance of flowers, and allowing nature to take its course.”

Hannah Hanssens-Reed

Hannah Hanssens-Reed
Communications & Grants Manager

Hannah grew up in Philadelphia and is passionate about providing children and adults with tools and resources to support their growth. She spent the early years of her career in Spain, teaching high school English and evening language classes for adults. Following her time in Spain, she worked for nonprofits teaching English and arts in South America and Australia, before returning to school for her Master of Education. In her years in nonprofits and schools, she has worked to expand access to high-quality language and arts education, building new programs and initiatives in partnership with public schools, residential facilities, and community-based organizations. She currently serves as the Treasurer of the Portola Neighborhood Association and loves building relationships across the many neighborhoods of San Francisco. Over her career, she has worked for organizations dedicated to creating inclusive learning spaces and supporting the academic and social-emotional growth of learners.

“My role with Family Connections is to celebrate the incredible work that happens in our centers and to help new families connect with the resources that we provide. I work to increase the visibility of and funding for our programs through community events, grants and fundraising, and written and visual communications. I work closely with the full Family Connections team to highlight upcoming events and workshops and share the stories from inside our classrooms and support groups. My favorite part of this position is working with our crew of teachers, family support coordinators, and administrative staff that are dedicated to meeting the needs of our community. I love working with a group of people that are passionate about ensuring our programs evolve and adapt to best support our families, which can be seen through the impact that Family Connections has on the people that walk through our doors (and participate virtually).

“Outside of work, I love activities that allow me to get messy with clay, paint, dough, or dirt. I often spend my weekends venturing on hiking and backpacking trips or sitting in the park with a sketchbook. I have an overwhelming number of house plants and enjoy learning about the native species of Northern California. And you can often find me sampling another San Francisco croissant or sourdough, trying to catch a sunset from the endless hills in SF, or sitting at a pottery wheel.”

“As a kid, my favorite children’s book was The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater. I loved the bright paint splashes and the alligator home, but it was the story that highlights the importance of expressing your own wild personality that captivated me. As an adult, I still love reading children’s books, especially those with whimsical watercolor or paper cutout illustrations. Some of my favorites are Mo Willems’ and Yuyi Morales’ books.”

Tony Nguyen
Tong Nguyen
Administrative Manager

Tong was born in Vietnam and came to the U.S. in 1987. He spent his entire life in the Bay Area and graduated from CSU East Bay with a BA in Communications. He spent his early career with the City of Emeryville Community Services Department, working in their Before and After-School Program. By the time he finished his work with the city, he was in charge of the Office Administration and the Aquatic Department as their Aquatic Coordinator. He continued his community outreach with a nonprofit in San Francisco providing early childhood development, school-age programs, summer programs, and family support services. He has over 20 years of experience in child development, youth development, and recreational programs within community and school-based settings.

“My official role at FCC is Administrative Manager, and I work out of both the Portola and the Excelsior Centers. I am excited to be an additional help in communicating with our Vietnamese families and participants to meet their needs. I am also honored to be a part of a team that helps support staff who work directly with families and programs. My goal is to allocate more time for staff to focus on the quality of their programs by providing additional administrative support to the staff.

“I enjoy spending my time outdoors when I am not at FCC. Some of my favorite outdoor activities include fishing, crabbing, camping, and biking. Another hobby I really enjoy doing is videography. I enjoy the whole creative aspect of filming, editing, and putting a storyline together.”

“One of my favorite books to read in elementary school was The Berenstain Bears‘ collection. I learned a lot of great lessons in those books, and they were always fun to read as a kid.”

Lupe Alvarez

Lupe Alvarez
Administrative Coordinator

Lupe was born and raised in San Francisco and lived in the Mission district for the first 5 years of her life before moving to the Portola District. She has been working with Family Connections Centers since 2000 and has extensive experience supporting the early childhood and administrative departments.

“As the Administrative Coordinator, I provide administrative and financial support for our programs and manage the admissions documentation. I am bilingual in Spanish and English, which helps me to support our Spanish-speaking families. I work to welcome families, provide current information and news regarding our programs, and help refer families to our different programs. I love having the ability to assist families with our numerous programs and being able to witness families grow. Seeing the smiles on their faces brings me joy. I also love working with an amazing team of staff.

“Outside of work, I love to spend my free time with my family and especially enjoy traveling and discovering new places to eat. My favorite activities are listening to music and taking photographs.”

“My favorite children’s books are the ones written by Dr. Seuss and the stories published by Disney.”

Stephanie Lee
Stephanie Lee

Stephanie was born in Taiwan and has spent many years working with Family Connections Centers. She is fluent in both English and Mandarin, has been part of the Portola community for many years.

“I am the custodian at the Portola center, working closely with staff and programs to maintain our spaces so they are safe and ready for the kids and families each day. All of my children have participated in the programs that Family Connections provides, and it’s amazing to be able to work where my kids have all learned! I love meeting other members of the neighborhood through this role, and there’s always endless support in this heartwarming community.

“Outside of work, I love hiking, exercising, and gardening. I also love to take my dog on walks with my family and explore new places. I also love going back home to visit Taiwan with the rest of my family.”

“My favorite children’s book is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss because of the fun rhymes.”

Breanna Montero
Program Assistant

Breanna was born and raised in Modesto, California, and relocated to San Francisco for her BA in Communication Studies with a minor in Women & Gender Studies at San Francisco State University. Her previous experience includes working for a higher education-based nonprofit to ensure marginalized students were equipped with the proper tools to succeed in their academic journey. She has spent time volunteering for the NAACP and is an activist for immigrant and gender-based rights. Breanna is pursuing her Master’s in Education with a concentration in Equity & Social Justice, with the ultimate goal of helping families and individuals across the Bay Area attain quality education, resources, and care.

“As the Program Assistant, I provide administrative support to FCC’s staff and programs. I serve as a friendly face and a supportive community member to anyone who seeks assistance. My favorite part of my role is being in communication with the different departments of the organization because everyone is extremely warm and welcoming.

“Outside of work, I love to make earrings, play with clay and acrylic paint, and hike with my pup, Vincent. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends outdoors, doing things like camping, BBQing, and sunset watching.”

“My favorite children’s book is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein because I read it regularly with my mom and thought the message was really sweet. In elementary school, my favorite authors were Judy Blume and Barbara Park because I loved Double Fudge and the Junie B. Jones series.”

Kelsey Nakashige
Communications Associate

Kelsey was raised in Marin and Hawaii. She studied public health and religious studies in graduate school with special interests in program implementation and indigenous traditions. Kelsey spent a significant amount of her career working for organizations dedicated to narrowing health disparities and increasing access to services in her communities. She moved back to the Bay Area to pursue her doctorate in clinical psychology.

“As the Communications Associate, I work closely with the Communications team and full staff to help highlight upcoming events, spread awareness, and share milestone moments. My favorite part of this position is working for an organization so dedicated to serving the community and ensuring that services remain accessible. I am constantly in awe of the work Family Connections does and the amazing staff who make it all happen.

“In my free time, I enjoy kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, surfing, and going on adventures with my dog. At home, I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, and practicing my newest hobbies of ceramics and embroidery.”

“When I was young, my favorite children’s book was The Secret Fairy Handbook by Penny Dann. It was an interactive book that was a treasure trove of imagination as I spent hours pretending to get ready for the Fairy Queen’s Ball.”

Early Care & Education

Tina Tam
Education Director

Tina is a San Francisco native, born and raised and now raising her own children in this beautiful city. She grew up attending the San Francisco schools and working primarily in the city, similar to most of the children and families that she works with. She is fluent in Cantonese and English, providing additional support to Cantonese-speaking families that participate in our programs.

“My role as Education Director ties in my educational background in Counseling Psychology and my past careers as a teacher and counselor to immigrant communities. I have been in my role with Family Connections for over a decade and continue to enjoy helping families connect with the resources they need to support their child’s educational path. I have the pleasure of working closely with teachers to create innovative and dynamic programs and curriculum in early childhood and K-5 programs. I love that there is something new happening here every day. It brings me so much joy to see the children, caregivers, and teachers all working together, learning, and having a great time.

“When not working, I enjoy exploring new places with my own children, taking long walks on the beach, and trying new restaurants with friends.”

Kiss, Kiss, Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen is my favorite children’s book. The book is silly, fun, and uplifting. The ending is a surprise that puts a smile on your face and is likely to make you kiss your little one. It’s a great reminder that it’s always better to turn a frown or pout around to a smile.”

Jenny Chen
Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator

Jenny is a native San Franciscan and has lived in the Portola neighborhood for her entire life. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from San Francisco State University and began her career teaching programs for toddlers. Jenny is passionate about early childhood education and its importance in children’s lives. She believes that early childhood education sets the foundation for their learning and helps to prepare them for their developmental growth. Jenny speaks some Cantonese.

“My role as the ECE Program Coordinator is focused on supporting Family Connections’ First Steps, Pop N’ Play, and Pre-K programs. This includes ensuring the teachers and children have the right materials/supplies, assisting in the classrooms, and collaborating with teachers in curriculum planning. My favorite part of this role is knowing that the work I do can make a big impact for both the children and the community. I also enjoy that I can still help in the classroom and interact with the children from time to time.

“Outside of work, I like to go hiking, shopping, and traveling, and love to try out new restaurants or trendy food with my sisters.”

“My favorite children’s book is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. It is a silly book that keeps you excited to see what the next requests will be and what adventures will unfold, just by simply offering a cookie to a mouse.”

Samantha Vaing
Lead Teacher

Samantha was born in San Francisco but has lived in six different Bay Area cities and loved every bit of each city. She has two Cambodian immigrant parents, two younger brothers, and a 9-year-old pit-poodle named Nala. She has been a teacher with Family Connections Centers since 2018 has worked in multiple programs, including First Steps, Next Steps, and our K-5 programs.

“I am currently the Lead Teacher for our K-5 Programs. I’ve learned many things through my experience being in an afterschool program in my childhood and working with youth. The two most significant things I’ve learned are the importance of building a family with members of your community and developing fun and inviting spaces for children. I’ve made it my goal to implement these values within my career. I love that the students return to our program for consecutive years because we can see their growth throughout that time, and it allows us as teachers to genuinely create a bond with the children.

“Outside of work, I like to spend time with my friends and family. My family is very close, and we love getting together for barbecues and take an annual summer camping trip. We also like to explore different cuisines and enjoy all outdoor adventures! My friends are like my family. I’ve known most of my friends for over a decade and we love game nights and traveling together.”

“When I was younger, I loved reading books in series, especially The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne, The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin, and the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. I liked the adventures the books took me through, and I enjoyed the excitement and mysteries.”

Elsa Wan
Lead Teacher

Elsa has lived in San Francisco for over 10 years and began working at Family Connections Centers in 2018. She has worked in the First Steps and Homework Club programs. She speaks Cantonese and supports FCC with the translation of program materials.

“I am currently the Lead teacher in First Steps, and I am fortunate to be able to teach in a nurturing and loving environment. I enjoy the program because children can learn through new challenges and build confidence while playing. I love to play with the children and see their development and growth over time.

“In my free time, I enjoy hanging out with my family, listening to music, and going shopping. My family loves taking trips to different amusement parks. One of our favorite places to go is Disneyland. We also love trying different foods.”

“One of my favorite book series is Pete the Cat because it has some fun songs!”

Kristina Alvarez

Kristina was born and raised in San Francisco. As a child, she attended multiple Family Connections programs, beginning with First Steps and continuing through Homework Club. While in middle and high school, she returned to Family Connections to support the programs as a volunteer. After graduating in 2019 from City College with an Associate of Science, she returned to FCC as a teacher in the educational programs.

“I am currently a teacher in the Homework Club and Pop N’ Play programs. As a previous participant in our summer and school-year programs, I love how I can bring that perspective into the program as a lead teacher. I enjoy creating a space and environment for children to express themselves through a wide range of outlets, such as dancing and art.

“Outside of work, I enjoy hiking, spending time with family, going on car rides, and cooking.”

“I liked to read the Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park as a child because we had similar goofy personalities.”

Irene Chhay

Irene was born in San Francisco, grew up in the Portola district of the city, and has been a part of Family Connections Centers since childhood. She is deeply familiar with Family Connections’ programs and attended E.R. Taylor Elementary, where many of our Homework Club participants are enrolled. Her mother, a Cambodian immigrant, was looking for support for herself and her children and was recommended our organization. Irene attended Family Connections’ First Steps program as a toddler, while her brother was enrolled in our Pre-K. While in middle and high school, she continued to return to Family Connections as a volunteer at special events like Halloween, Lunar New Year, and Christmas celebrations. Irene recently graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Child and Adolescent Development.

“As an Associate Teacher, I am part of many Family Connections’ programs, including Pre-K at both Portola and Excelsior, Homework Club for K-5, and family support programs. I spend the majority of my time teaching in Pre-K, which is one of the most fun age groups to work with because many of the children are experiencing things for the first time. I love being able to listen to my students’ stories and laugh with them! My favorite part of this role is working with a range of age groups. I also love being a part of and giving back to a community that I grew up in.

“Outside of work, I love to spend my time trying out different recipes for baking or making drinks (coffee, boba, tea). I also love going out to different beaches, national parks, and flower fields with my mom and playing video games with my brother.”

“My favorite children’s book is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff. As a child, I loved reading this book because of its adorable illustrations and the funny results of giving a mouse a cookie!”

Julyann Fu

Julyann was born and raised in Taiwan and moved to San Francisco in 1976. She received her associate degree in Early Childhood Education and has training working with children with special needs. In 1997, she began my career as a teacher, working both as a Chinese Instructor at a private school and in Family Connections Centers’ early childhood program. She has supported a range of FCC’s early childhood and K-5 programs over her time with the organization. She speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, and English.

“I am currently one of the teachers in our K-5 Programs, working with students in Summer Academic Enrichment and Homework Club. I enjoy singing and meditating with the children and assisting them with their homework, which helps to build their confidence and self-esteem. I am happiest when students who age out of our program return to say hello, and I can see their growth over many years. I am always surprised that they remember me from so long ago!

“Outside of work, I enjoy cooking and meditating. My favorite things to cook are vegetarian lasagna and Chinese dumplings. Fun Fact: I’ve been a vegetarian for 20 years.”

“Two of my favorite children’s books are No David! and Pete the Cat.”

Teresa Palomares-Gray

Teresa graduated from City College of San Francisco with an A.A. degree and an Award of Achievement in Child Development. She currently holds a Child Development Site Supervisor Permit and is working towards her bachelor’s degree in Child & Adolescent Development. Teresa has been teaching for many years, beginning in a Head Start Program in San Francisco.

“I joined Family Connections in October 2011 and love being able to work closely with children. As the preschool teacher, I get to help them adjust to their first classroom experiences away from their families and support their connection to learning. And it’s great to watch them explore new ideas, and share their successes and growth with families.

“In my free time, I love spending time with my husband and daughter.”

“My favorite books to read were the Little House on the Prairie series, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I grew up on a farm, so the stories and setting were familiar to me. I loved to feel like I could relate to the characters’ experiences.”

Jessica Zatarain

Jessica Zatarain

Jessica graduated from San Francisco State with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development with a concentration in Youth Work and Out of School Time. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.

“My role with Family Connections is with our K-5 programs as a teacher in our afterschool and summer programs, Homework Club and Summer Academic Enrichment, as well as a teacher in our early childhood program, First Steps. My favorite role for both programs is to learn and adapt to different ages with kids. I love to connect with the students and love watching them grow!

“Outside of work, I love to go on hikes and stay active. I recently got into boxing, and it’s been a great way to relieve stress.”

“My favorite children’s book is Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White because I always wanted to have a pet pig.”

Parent/Caregiver Support

Eleazar Martinez
Senior Program Manager

Eleazar has over 10 years of experience working in the early childhood and education field with nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining Family Connections, he was the Community School Director at Coronado Elementary in Richmond, working in partnership with the school district and school site to coordinate services for underserved, low-income students and families. Additionally, he has extensive experience in case management and supporting parent leadership development.

“My role at Family Connection is managing, implementing, and supervising the family support programs. These include workshops, support groups, community events, outreach, parent volunteers, family advocacy, and case management. My favorite part of my role is being able to support our staff, the families we serve, and the diversity and richness of both centers.

“Outside of work, I enjoy working out, going on a hike, or spending time with friends and family.”

“My favorite children’s book growing up was Frog and Toad because I loved the different adventures they always went on together. ”

Ally Duong
Assistant Family Support Manager

Ally was born and raised in Vietnam and lived there until she was 14 years old, when she moved to the U.S. She speaks Vietnamese and Cantonese at home, and those two languages represent who she is. Ally attended City College of San Francisco and majored in Child Development. Since she was a child, she has always wanted to be a teacher, and that job helped to open many doors in her life and lead her to the path she’s on now.

“As the Assistant Family Support Manager, I help provide support to all our families and the community by facilitating workshops, support groups, and case management services, working one-on-one with individuals and connecting them to resources. As a trilingual speaker in Vietnamese, Cantonese, and English, I support our Chinese and Vietnamese-speaking families. I like to work with parents and children and see how they grow together.

“Outside of work, I like to cook and do gardening, and enjoy spending quality time with my family.”

“My favorite children’s book is If Animals Kissed Good Night. The book shows how a small, good night kiss can bond people and animals together and the importance of expressing feelings using actions.”

Samantha Del Castillo
Lead Case Manager

Samantha is a first-generation immigrant from Latin America. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has previously worked as a residential counselor in a rehabilitation facility for women and children.

“My current position at Family Connections is the Spanish-speaking Family Support Coordinator at our Portola center. My favorite part of this role is interacting with our wonderful and diverse community. I enjoy running support groups and conducting one-on-one sessions with families. As a bilingual speaker, I can support our Spanish-speaking families and ensure they feel heard, understood, and are left with a sense of community. I get to work closely with different communities and connect people with one another. I enjoy helping others and becoming a part of their journey to success. It is my goal to create meaningful change and provide the best support and care to all our families.

“My favorite activities outside of work are hiking, reading, and spending time with family and friends.”

“My favorite children’s book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. because it was the first book in English I learned how to read when I immigrated to the U.S. at age 5.”

Cheryl Au
Family Support Coordinator

After graduating from university and completing multiple internships at nonprofit organizations, Cheryl was determined to join the social service industry, serving children, families, and new immigrants so they can thrive in America.

“As a Family Support Coordinator with Family Connections, I plan, design, and execute activities for families, especially our Chinese participants. I also advocate for families to access basic needs, providing emotional support, and being a liaison to conduct referrals and outreach. Throughout the day, I perform in-house translation to bridge the gap and tackle language barriers.

“Outside of work, I love drawing and painting and created a platform for posting food illustrations. It is a moment of peace when I can stay focused and engaged.”

“My favorite children’s book is The North Wind and the Sun. It is simple yet inspirational, highlighting how patience, persistence, and empathy often help us to reach goals, which are also applicable to my role and personality!”

Kathia Castro
Family Support Coordinator

Kathia was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and grew up in Washington State. She began her studies attending community college in Napa before transferring to UC Berkeley, where she received her BA in Cognitive Science. Her career has spanned a variety of work settings, including cafés, a chocolate shop, and human resources. As a volunteer, she’s supported organizations that provide programs for families in the community. Kathia is fluent in Spanish, passionate about linguistics and communications, and an advocate for child abuse prevention, community health, and social justice.

“In my role as Family Support Coordinator, I plan and run programs for parents/caregivers, including our support groups, workshops, and activities for participants to connect with other families in the community. I work with parents/caregivers and their children to support them on their path towards empowerment and success.

“In my free time, I enjoy baking, reading, and making collages and I am currently teaching myself to sew and embroider. I love learning about reptiles, mushrooms, tropical plants, and the outdoors from my friends.”

“My favorite children’s book is A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman because it was gifted to me by my preschool teacher. The continuation of Corduroy the bear’s adventures and beautiful illustrations make this book so memorable.”

Derek Mui
Family Support Coordinator

After growing up in South San Francisco, Derek moved down to San Diego for his undergraduate education at UC San Diego. He graduated with a B.A. in Human Developmental Sciences and a minor in Psychology. After completing his degree, he moved back to the Bay Area and started working with Family Connections.

“As the Family Support Coordinator, I provide support to families in the community by facilitating workshops and support groups, connecting them to resources, and planning community events. As a bilingual speaker, I am able to support our Chinese-speaking families. I also work alongside my Family Support Team to provide quality support for all members of our community. I enjoy being able to connect them while learning and growing with my team.

“Outside of work, I love to spend quality time with friends and family, exploring nature and trying new foods.”

“My favorite children’s book is Love You Forever by Robert Munch and Sheila McGraw because my mother used to read it to me all the time when I was young.”

Yadira Ortega
Family Support Coordinator

Yadira’s background is in child development and she has worked as a teacher, in family support settings, and as a doula.

“Since 2006, I have supported the early childhood education and family support programs with Family Connections. I love working directly with families because I can see the progress they make as a family and the growth in their ability to advocate for their children. I really enjoy putting workshops together because they are based on the feedback from families and I know they will provide the education they need to thrive.

“Outside of work, I love to go hiking and any activity that includes connecting with nature. My family and I love spending time together, playing board games, watching soccer games, and having barbecues in the backyard.”

“My favorite book is Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. because I know the colors and I can read it in different languages. I feel connected to the story and see how engaged the children and families are when I read this book.”

Javier Paredes
Family Support Coordinator

Javier was born and raised in the Bay Area. As the oldest of seven children with a large family, he has always been surrounded by kids. Because of this, he loves working with youth and has focused his career on supporting children’s well-being.

In his first role, he worked as a behavior therapist for families, before transitioning to a role as a 1st grade teacher, where he worked for three years. Through his time as a teacher, he was able to see the ways that a child’s behavior stems from their home setting. This realization led to his interest in supporting both children and their families, which is how he discovered Family Connections Centers.

“Working as the Family Support Coordinator, I love having the opportunity to help families to heal. It’s important to me that people are able to find their individual voices and learn how to use them, which will be part of my work at FCC.

“Outside of work, I love hanging out with my family. Being part of a huge family makes every hangout fun. I also love to dance and make music.”

“My favorite book is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka. It taught me that there are two sides to every story and it’s better to listen to both sides and hear each point of view. It’s also a very funny book.”