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.”

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.”

Paul Olsen
Strategic Partnerships Officer

Paul is a fourth-generation San Franciscan with a lifelong connection to the Bay Area. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Ecology from UC Irvine and has more than 2 decades of experience in nonprofit management and development. In addition to his work with Family Connections, he supports Horizons Foundation’s Development Committee. His passion for social justice, family support, and early childhood education led him to his work with Family Connections Centers.

Prior to joining FCC, he was the Director of Experience Corps Bay Area, supporting adult volunteers working to increase the reading proficiency of young children across San Francisco, Oakland, and San Mateo County. Additionally, he spent many years serving as the Executive Director and CEO of Under One Roof, six years and a term as Chair with the Board of San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, ten years and a term as President with the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association’s Board of Directors, and chaired the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition’s Board of Directors.

“I joined Family Connections in 2016 and have always supported the Development Team, which affords me the opportunity to work with all our programs as well as our external partners. My role is to raise awareness of the organization and its work, ensure we have the resources to continue serving the community, and build and sustain relationships so that Family Connections can strengthen families and communities. I have spent many years serving the Bay Area community in various roles, and I am so impressed with Family Connections and its staff, which does a terrific job of meeting families where they are, involving them in the design and execution of our programs, and in working together to achieve a truly meaningful, positive impact.

“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.”

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 through marketing and design, written and visual communications, and outreach to neighbors and funders. I work to grow our partnerships and strengthen our community relationships in order to increase the visibility of and funding for our programs and services. I love supporting the 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 and ensuring our programs evolve and adapt to best support our families.

“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’ series, Yuyi Morales’ books, and The Stinky Cheese Man.”

Tony Nguyen
Tong Nguyen
Administrative Manager

Tong was born in Vietnam and came to the U.S. in 1987, growing up around the East Bay in Oakland, Albany, Berkeley, Hayward, and San Leandro. Tong graduated from CSU East Bay with a BA in Communications and spent his early career with the City of Emeryville Community Services Department, working in their Before & 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 the Bayview/Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco, providing early childhood development, school-age programs, summer programs, and family support services. He has over 20 years of experience in hotel management, human resources, accounting, youth development, and recreational programs within community and school-based settings.

“I joined Family Connections in August 2021 as the Administrative Manager, working out of both the Portola and the Excelsior Centers. My role includes overseeing the organization’s human resources, operations, and admission. I enjoy providing additional support for our Vietnamese families and participants, helping to meet their needs, and am honored to be a part of a team that supports the staff that works directly with families. 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, and I support the well-being and safety of all visitors through my role with the Health & Safety Committee.

“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 Ingleside neighborhood for the first 5 years of her life before moving to the Portola District, where she still resides. Lupe has worked in a variety of settings over her career, including roles with the General Hospital Library, AAA (CSAA), as a hairstylist, in family welfare, and her two decades with Family Connections. She has extensive experience supporting the early childhood and administrative departments.

“I first connected with Family Connections as a parent in 1996, participating in their programs for families with my daughter [Kristina Alvarez, now a teacher with FCC]. In 2000, I began my career with FCC, first working in the child drop-in programs, Tuesday Tutorial Nights, and as the Chinese Saturday School Supervisor. I currently serve as the Administrative Coordinator, where 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 Family Connections’ 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, and 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.”

Ashley Lyn Osorio
Communications Coordinator

Ashley was born and raised in Daly City, California. She is a Queer first-generation Filipina American. Ashley currently attends San Francisco State University, majoring in International Relations. She is interested in refugee crises and climate justice, with regional interests in Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Diversity, inclusion, and equity are very important to her, especially in education. Ashley’s most recent role was with Boba Guys as their Community Affairs Coordinator and was one of the original members of their DEI Committee, helping to coordinate their philanthropy efforts and DEI initiatives. At University of the Pacific, she was the Editor-in-Chief of their student-run newspaper, The Pacifican, and served as the National Communications Coordinator for their Residence Hall Association, a student group dedicated to serving on-campus residents. There, she received the highest level of recognition for student leadership at the campus and regional levels.

“As the Communications Coordinator, I get to share our exciting and important services, programs, and events. From designing flyers to posting on Instagram, I am your go-to person to spread the word! I am eager to celebrate the stories of the communities that we have the privilege to serve every day.

“When I’m not at work, I love reading, practicing archery, and checking out the latest exhibits at the Asian Art Museum and Legion of Honor!”

“This is a difficult question since the library was my favorite place growing up! I loved the Madeline series by Ludwig Bemelmans because I was always the smallest girl in my class. She taught me to not be scared and to stand up for myself. Another book I loved reading was Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz. It was my earliest introduction to short storytelling, and it inspired me to write when I was a kid.”

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 in Early Childhood Education from San Francisco State University and began her career teaching programs for toddlers before working in preschools across the city. Jenny joined Family Connections in 2021 and 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 prepare them for their developmental growth. Jenny speaks both English and Cantonese and holds a Site Supervisor permit.

“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.”

Kristina Alvarez
Lead Teacher

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.”

Elsa Wan

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 an Early Childhood Education teacher, supporting our First Steps and Pop N’ Play programs. I am fortunate to be able to teach in a nurturing and loving environment. I enjoy the programs 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!”

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 participated in Family Connections’ programs as a child, before supporting our early childhood education and summer programs as a volunteer and then staff member. She graduated from San Francisco State with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development and a concentration in Youth Work and Out of School Time. Jessica is fluent in both Spanish and English.

“I began working with Family Connections in the K-5 programs as a teacher in our afterschool and summer programs, Homework Club and Summer Academic Enrichment. Additionally, I supported our early childhood program, First Steps. Currently, I am the Preschool Teacher at the Excelsior center, supporting our Pre-K kids in their learning and growth. My favorite part of teaching is learning and adapting to kids’ different ages. 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
Family Support Director

Eleazar grew up in the Bay Area, attending high school in Richmond, and spent school breaks in the Excelsior neighborhood of San Francisco, where his relatives reside. He received his BA in Chican@ Studies and Anthropology from UC Davis and his Master of Arts in Chican@ Studies from San Jose State University. 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 through his prior roles with Marin Child Care Council, YMCA of the East Bay, and Bay Area Community Resources. Eleazar is fluent in both English and Spanish and trained in the Protective Factors Framework.

“I joined Family Connections in 2020, at the start of the pandemic. In 2022, I transitioned to a larger leadership role as the Family Support Director, overseeing the wide range of programs that our Family Support team offers. I am the primary contact for our Excelsior center, working to expand the programs offered to families in the neighborhood. I currently manage, implement, and supervise these services, including our workshops, support groups, community events, outreach, parent volunteers, family advocacy, and case management. I also serve on FCC’s Outreach and Health & Safety Committees, developing strategies to reach new families and sustain a safe and welcoming environment for our programs. 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
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. Her work with Family Connections has included positions on both the Education and Family Support Teams, including roles in our Early Childhood Education classes and the Pre-K Teacher at Portola. Ally brings a wealth of knowledge, informed by her extensive history with the organization. She continues to connect families to resources and guide programs and events that support the families we serve.

“In my current role with Family Connections, 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 of 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.”

Kathia Castro
Family Support Program 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.”

Yadira Ortega
Family Support Coordinator

Yadira was born and raised in Guatemala. She attended City College of San Francisco, where she received both her Associate in Science and her certification in Child Development. Yadira has worked with children and families in a variety of settings, including teaching roles, supporting children’s development, as a doula, and as an advocate and support person for parents/caregivers. She is bilingual in Spanish and English and holds certifications as a Doula, Parenting Coach, and Montessori Assistant Teacher. Yadira has lived in San Francisco for more than 20 years and volunteers with organizations that help families and connect them with city resources. Her volunteer roles afford her the opportunity to expand her network within the region and give back to the community.

“Since 2006, I have supported the early childhood education and family support programs with Family Connections. I have been fortunate to hold a range of positions with FCC, including teaching in the K-5 programs, First Steps, Pop N’ Play, Next Steps, and Pre-K, as well as supporting families as the Latinx Support Group Lead, Parenting Teacher, and Family Support Coordinator.  I love working directly with families because I can see the progress they make together 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.”

Gary Yu
Family Support Coordinator

Gary was born in Guangdong Province in China. In 2012, he moved to San Francisco and attended high school in the city. Gary attended UC Davis, graduating with a degree in Economics and a minor in Education. Following his college career, he spent two years working at Francisco Middle School as a paraeducator in special education. Before joining Family Connections, he worked as a Program Coordinator with Reading Partners, where he managed a reading center and provided reading intervention services to elementary-aged students. In addition to English, Gary speaks both Cantonese and Mandarin.

“As a Family Support Coordinator, I love to empower families with the knowledge they need to help their children thrive. I enjoy working with families on a one-on-one basis and getting to learn about their stories. My favorite workshops are those that focus on bilingual literacy development.

“During my free time, I enjoy reading, running, and taking online classes for fun, such as psychology, computer science, child development, and literature.”

“As a kid, I loved reading the Doraemon manga series. My favorite children’s novel is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott because it taught me many life lessons, such as spending all your time playing without any work isn’t fun. In one chapter, the sisters didn’t have to work and spent the day playing, but they eventually got bored. I like all the characters especially, Jo, as she is independent and pursues her dream of being a writer despite being discouraged by many publishers.”