FEI's success is a result of the commitment of many dedicated people.
FEI Leadership Team
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.
Robin Galas has 11 years of experience in finance and administration in the non-profit sector.
Over the last 6 years, she has worked with at-risk youth in garden-based and nutrition education programs in San Mateo County.
Concurrently, she has served on the San Mateo County Food System Alliance (SMFSA) where she has promoted a "garden in every school"
and helped to implement a farm-to-school pilot. Passionate about health and nutrition, in 2008, she began teaching healthy
cooking and nutrition workshops for low-income families and in 2011 became Adjunct Faculty at Foothill College. She is a member
of the 2020 American Heart Association Task Force and serves as co-leader of the Farm-to-Institution Subcommittee of the SMFSA.
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.
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
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 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 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,
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
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.
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 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
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 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 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, 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 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 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
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