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FEI Team

FEI's success is a result of the commitment of many dedicated people.

FEI Leadership Team
Betsy Nikolchev Betsy Nikolchev
Executive Director
Betsy Nikolchev is the founder of the Family Engagement Institute (FEI) at Foothill College. Betsy has over 25 years of experience in the field of education, family leadership and innovative program design. She brings a depth of experience to FEI from her work in early childhood as a teacher, director, adult and parent educator, program coordinator, college faculty, and administrator, and executive director. She has been involved in the development of numerous quality education programs and initiatives throughout Santa Clara County to build school, college and workforce readiness skills for immigrant families of low income, specifically Latino families - programs such as Even Start Family Literacy, FIRST 5, Race To The Top, Stretch To Kindergarten, Foothill College non-credit college bridge programs and for-credit college Accelerated Academies. Betsy's experience spans program design and management, curriculum development, train-the-trainer sustainability models that grow leadership and capacity for families, staff and educators. She received a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and a California Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from Pacific Oaks College where she will soon complete her M.A. in Human Development with a focus on family engagement.

Carmen M. Ponce Carmen M. Ponce
As the Director of Stretch to Kindergarten and Early Learning Programs, Carmen brings years of experience in early Childhood and Parent Education to FEI, that includes over 16 years as Preschool Teacher, Associate Director, and Program Co-Director at the Mountain View Whisman School District, a Head Start Partner Program. Carmen's work has focused on Latino family support, leadership and advocacy.

Originally from Peru, Carmen worked for ten years as a kindergarten teacher. After moving to California, she was a Lead Teacher at the Children Center of Stanford Community and a Parent Educator in the Even Start Program, designing and implementing a family literacy curriculum for Dual Language Learner children and their families, whose home language was Spanish. Carmen's bilingual and bicultural background helps connect underserved families in the community with culturally responsive opportunities, resources and services that support the success of children and families. This cultural competency carries over in her role as mentor and coach for educators as a college administrator at Foothill College. Carmen holds a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and a Program Director Permit. She is dedicated to the work she does and is committed to closing the school, college and workforce readiness gap for children and families in the community.

Carlos Villarreal Carlos Villarreal
Family Engagement Specialist
Carlos Villarreal began with the Family Engagement Institute in 2011 as Adjunct Faculty, Foothill College, facilitating FEI parenting workshops in the community. He brings a depth of experience working with youth and families as a program specialist in the City of San Jose, Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services and as a facilitator at Santa Clara Juvenile Probation with a focus on Victim Awareness and Violence Prevention. Carlos was the first person in his family to attend college and earned a B.A. from California State University, East Bay (Hayward). Carlos has dedicated himself over the past 13 years to providing educational programs to underserved families. Carlos has created and implemented these programs in Santa Clara County (San Jose, Morgan Hill, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto) and San Mateo County (East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Mateo, Half Moon Bay, San Bruno and South San Francisco).


FEI Adjunct Faculty

Nancy Ducos
With over fifteen years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Nancy brings a unique expertise of community development and literacy education to FEI. Nancy was the Senior Program Manager of the First Teachers program at Bring Me a Book before joining FEI as Family Literacy faculty specialist . She created and developed Programa Comunitario de Alfabetizacion in Marin County, an award winning community-based literacy program that helps Spanish speakers achieve literacy in their native language. She received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Marin County Human Rights Commission and the Koshland Civic Unity Award. Nancy holds a Master's Degree in Mass Communication from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Education from Santa Clara University.

Marie Brown
Marie brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in the fields of health, nutrition, and physical activity to Foothill College. Her interest in promoting wellness led to her BS degree in Health Education and Physical Education and her California teaching credentials. She advocates schools working with parents to bring education and health to the whole family, and parents and students taking the initiative to spread improved well-being throughout their communities.

Prior to joining the Family Engagement Institute, Marie taught for several years in urban public schools where she taught parent classes, addressing health, nutrition and physical activity. She considers time spent in the kitchen with parents and students to be the highlight of her profession, and she has enjoyed coordinating efforts to improve the health and well-being of her students and their families at multiple school sites.

Martha Escalera
Martha brings over 10 years of experience in higher education. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish, and a Master's Degree in Organization Development from the University of San Francisco. Over the last 10 years, Martha has worked at The National Hispanic University, engaging parents, families, children, and young adults who want to pursue a college education. Much of her work has been working with federally funded TRiO grants, which provide resources and support to low-income, disabled, and/or first generation college students. In addition, her prior experience includes working with youth at the Santa Clara County Juvenile Probation Department, as well as teaching Introduction to College courses to students. She grew up in a low-income family and was one of the first in her family to graduate from college. She is very proud of her Mexican traditions, such as celebrating Day of the Dead (Dia De Los Muertos), a day when you remember your ancestors. Her involvement in education and the community inspires her to continue supporting educational equity programs. She stays engaged as a governing board member for Cal-Soap, a WESTOP (Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel) board member, a member of the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, and a volunteer for local organizations that promote health awareness and resources around breast cancer, cancer, diabetes, birth complications, non-violence, and others.

Enrique Flores
Enrique Flores has devoted over ten years to mentoring at-risk youth in the San Jose neighborhoods where he grew up, helping them to realize their academic potential through scholarships to top high schools and to find a better way to live. He founded East Side Heroes in 2003. He is also the Director of the County of Santa Clara's Corazon Project, founded by Santa Clara County Supervisor, Dave Cortese. East Side Heroes and the Corazon Project are committed to improving the quality of life for young people and their families through educational scholarships, innovative student-led community improvement projects, and personal life-long mentorship designed to produce the next generation of problem-solving leaders.

Raised on the east side of San Jose by Mexican immigrant parents, he attended Santa Clara University, earning a Bachelors degree in sociology and a Masters in counseling. He has returned to the neighborhood where he grew up, to pay forward what he received. Enrique Flores' service earned him the Santa Clara University Alumni Association's 2010 Ignatian Award. This award recognizes alumni who live the SCU ideals of competence, conscience, and compassion, and who have been a credit to the Alumni Association and the University through outstanding service to humanity.

Valentin Garcia
Valentín García has focused his career on working with students and families in order to assist them in reaching their career and academic goals. For thirteen years, he has worked with the University of California, Santa Cruz Educational Partnership Center, serving high school students in San Jose by providing counseling, tutoring, coordinating college recruitment efforts and workshops. Valentín has extensive experience developing and implementing curriculum for parents and students through San Jose State University's Project ROAR (Respect Ourselves, Accept Responsible) and College: Making it Happen; the Family Engagement Institute; and Parent Institute for Quality. He received both his MA in Counseling, Education and BA in Sociology with a Family Concentration from San Jose State University.

Silvia Gitlin
Silvia has over 16 years of experience in the field of education teaching both ESL and Spanish in the Palo Alto School District as well as teaching Kindergarten through 5th grade in private schools. Silvia currently teaches Pre-K at T'enna Preschool at the OFJCC in Palo Alto. Over the last 2 years Silvia has been a mentor to new teachers. She holds a California Child Development Site Supervisor Permit as well as a BA in Architecture from Massachusetts College of Art, a BArch from Southern California Institute of Architecture and an MA from UCLA. Born in Mexico City, Silvia is deeply committed to supporting underserved families in our community through education and accessing resources. She is passionate about art, and enjoys cooking and hiking.

Nora Gonzalez de Beltran
Nora González de Beltrán is a Parent Educator at Reach Potential Movement in Sunnyvale, CA where she teaches parent education workshops to underserved families. Prior to her work with Reach Potential Movement, she was the site coordinator for Reading Partners at Selby Elementary School in Redwood City, CA and the Site Director for Castro Elementary School in Mountain View, CA. In both of those capacities, Nora managed a one-on-one tutoring program for challenged readers and created and executed the Home Connections Family Literacy component. She received a MA in Engineering from the University of Toronto, Canada and a BA in Management & Information Systems from the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico.

Amparo Leyman-Pino
Amparo Leyman Pino joined the Family Engagement Institute at Foothill College in September 2012. Amparo earned her BS at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Psychology, and her Masters in Education at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey. She has a true passion for education, which has led her to work in formal and informal education settings in México, US and Jordan. She started in the field as mediator at Papalote Museo del Niño. She has contributed developing content and programs for twelve children's museums and science centers. She is co-founder of a private elementary school in México. She is the Director of Educational Content and Programming at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, writes articles on the advancement of the informal education for the Swedish Exhibition Agency: Riksutställningar. She lives in Mill Valley where she continues doing volunteer work and enjoys the outdoors running and biking.

Wendy Lundeen
Wendy Lundeen began working at Stretch to Kindergarten (STK) in 2012 as a Kindergarten teacher. In the Spring of 2013 she began working as an STK coach for teachers and works directly with families to promote school readiness, family literacy, and early math as Adjunct Faculty. She currently works for Milpitas Unified School District as a Transitional Kindergarten teacher where she strives to integrate learning concepts through all content areas. Her current focus is the integration of technology in the classroom. She has also taught Kindergarten, Second, and Fourth grade. She has just completed her sixth year teaching in elementary school. Wendy has earned her BA in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Education and her MS in Education with a concentration in Reading from CSU-East Bay. She also holds a California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, a Reading Specialist Credential, and a Site Supervisor Permit.

Omar Nevarez
Omar Nevarez is an entrepreneur, as founder of Nevarez Boutorwick Builders, Inc. a general construction company, with a love for teaching and helping out his community. He has been working with the Santa Clara County Juvenile Probation department for the last 8 years helping minors understand the consequences their actions have on victims. In addition to this work he is also a member and volunteers for East Side Heroes. East Side Heroes is based out of San Jose, CA and takes a novel approach to influencing at-risk youth to get them to turn their lives around by establishing a group of mentors. East Side Heroes provides scholarships to attend private high schools in the area and help with college admissions. His educational background includes a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Business Management degrees from San Jose State University.

Monica Rios
Monica Rios, has over 20 years of experience working with children and families. Originally from Peru, Monica has worked for 12 years with children in Kindergarten classes. She has dedicated the last eight years working with First 5 as a Family Partner and Family Resource Center Coordinator, with Rebekah's Children Center facilitating parenting workshops, and now with Santa Clara County's Head Start program as a Family Advocate.

She is passionate in her work with families, and helping them reach their goals and empowering them to advocate for their children are the things she enjoys most about her work. Monica holds a BA in Early Childhood Education from Instituto Superor Pedagogico Privado "Diego Thomson" and a Program Supervisor Permit.

Nashmeel Sadjadi
Nashmeel Sadjadi holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Administration of Justice and a Master's degree in Public Administration from San Jose State University. During the course of her career she has worked as a Deputy Probation Officer with the Santa Clara County Juvenile and Adult Probation Departments. In addition to this, she served as a school liaison and resource officer to various middle school and high schools and implemented a victim offender mediation program for minors that were responsible for committing non serious offenses. Nashmeel currently works at the San Mateo Superior Court as a Court Investigator in which she conducts full investigations for the Probate Court as well as serves as a Court Officer. In addition to this, she is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of Phoenix's School of Criminal Justice and Security. Throughout her career, she has served as a mentor to college students getting ready to graduate with their degrees. One of her passions is to help others achieve their goals.

Rachael Tipton
Rachael Tipton began working at Stretch to Kindergarten as a preschool teacher. This is her fourth year in the program and she is now a coach for teachers and works directly with families to promote school readiness, family literacy, and early math as Adjunct Faculty. She has over six years experience teaching and coordinating in preschool classrooms across the Bay Area and holds a site supervisor permit. Her focus has been to foster a love of learning by immersing her students in curriculum that is meaningful to them and integrates all subject areas. Rachael graduated from California State University Fullerton with a B.S. in Child Development and has completed the Multiple Subject Credential program at San Francisco State University.

Parent Leadership Team

FEI is creating a Parent Leadership Team. They will advise the FEI on key program development matters, lead the parent leadership team and assist in program implementation.

FEI Student Interns

Pedro Carbajal O'Limon, Community Service Awardee
Natalie Aguilar
Yusra Beig
Katie Hutchison
Karla Salgada

Consultant Team

Carola Matera

Advisory Board
Nancy Ducos, Senior Program Manager, Bring Me A Book Foundation
Oscar Garcia, President & CEO, Mountain View Chamber of Commerce
Liz Simons, President, Heising-Simons Foundation
Denise Swett, Associate Vice President, Middlefield Campus & Community Programs, Foothill College
Jeanne Thomas, Chair, Foothill College Child Development Department
Laura Woodworth, Associate Director, Foothill-De Anza Foundation
Jorge De La Concha, Student Intern, Family Engagement Institute and Foothill College Student