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Be a part of Family Connections

Board of Directors

Family Connections talented team of Board of Directors oversees the operations of our non-profit, helping us with funding and advising us on how we can better serve the needs of San Mateo low-income families in need of a preschool education.

Gretchen Cheng, Secretary
Gretchen joined the Family Connections Board in 2014.  Gretchen was introduced to Family Connections at the 2014 Night of Dreams and was moved by the work that Family Connections has been doing over the years, as well as the personal stories told by FC family members and former students.  Gretchen visited an Open House event and felt a calling to become more involved.

Professionally, Gretchen has practiced pediatric occupational therapy on two continents.  She recently worked for Connected Kidz in San Francisco, and has worked at Association to Benefit Children in New York, the English School Foundation in Hong Kong, and the Integrate Hong Kong Pediatric Clinic and Kidspace in San Francisco.  While in Hong Kong, she volunteered at Mother's Choice and taught at the Hong Kong Polytech University School of Occupational Therapy.

Gretchen received her Bachelor or Arts degree in Allied Health/Division of Occupational Therapy, from Ohio State University.  She lives in Noe Valley neighborhood with her husband and two small children.  She enjoys cooking, running and long city walks with her family.


Angela Espinosa
Angela joined the Family Connections Board in 2014.  Angela attended Little Wonders with her own children and decided to join the Family Connections board because "I believe in the model, especially for families who are under additional stresses and may not have support systems at home."

Angela's professional background is in change management, project management, and client management.  She has also worked as a Human Resources generalist and as a training instructor.  Angela has extensive and broad volunteering experience, including board and leadership positions at the Junior League of Palo Alto - Mid Peninsula, a board position at Global Partners for Economic Development, and a leadership position on the Burlingame Mothers' Club board.  She currently serves on the Executive Committee of the San Francisco Zoo Auxiliary, as well as fundraising for My New Red Shoes, and various committee and board postions at the Carey School.  She is also a Brownie Troop Leader for the Girls Scouts of America.

Angela was born in Houston and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin in Economics an Psychology.  She lives in Burlingame with her husband and two children and loves to arrange flowers.




Andrea Higuera-Ballard
Andrea Higuera-Ballard joined the Family Connections Board in 2012.  She is currently the Chair of the Young Scholars Committee and serves on the Financial Sustainability Committee.  Andrea learned about Family Connections when she and her son were attending Little Wonders, a cooperative preschool. She decided to get involved with Family Connections because she wanted families in underserved communities to have access to this same foundational and transformational educational experience.  She feels passionately about the work that Family Connections does to educate children and parents and to set the foundation for a lifelong love of learning.  She and her husband Andy have been critical in launching the Young Scholars Program to continue this education and support from kindergarten through to college.

Andrea previously was a Brand Manager at the Clorox Company, a strategy consultant for Swander, Pace & Company, and the Director of Public Affairs for the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City.  Andrea has served on the Board of Trustees of CuriOdyssey since 2005 and is currently the Board Vice Chair and Development Committee Chair.  She is an active classroom volunteer at South School in Hillsborough and an active volunteer for the Hillsborough Schools Foundation.  She is the former Co-President of St. Paul’s Nursery School, former President of Little Wonders, and former volunteer with the Stanford Alumni Consulting Team and BUILD. 

Andrea received a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with Distinction from Stanford University, an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and a Diploma in International Business Administration from the Instituto Tecnologico Autonomo de Mexico.  Andrea currently lives in Hillsborough with her husband and two children.  She enjoys spending time with family, playing tennis, skiing, doing Zumba and volunteering in the community.



Nic Kiyasu, President
Nic Kiyasu is the President of the Board at Family Connections.  She is the Chair of both the Governance Committee and the Facilities Task Force and serves on the Communications and Financial Sustainability Committees.  She joined the Board in 2011 and previously served as Vice President.  Nic believes in Family Connections because she feels passionately that everyone should have access to a good quality education starting in preschool regardless of their ability to pay.  Nic says, “I benefitted so much from my own cooperative preschool experience with my two daughters, and I wanted low-income families to have the same opportunity.  So I jumped at the chance to join the Family Connections Board.”

Nic is from England and previously worked as the Human Resources Manager for Aspect Communications, SAS Software and Micro Focus in her home country.  She also taught business English in Madrid, Spain and Santiago, Chile.  Nic is an active community volunteer.  She held several officer positions at Carlmont Parents Nursery School in Belmont, CA, and has held various volunteer positions for the San Carlos Educational Foundation.

Nic has a Diploma in Human Resources from Swindon College in England and a TEFL Certificate from the Madrid Language School in Spain.  She currently resides in San Carlos and enjoys traveling, visiting art museums, hiking, reading, gardening, music and current affairs.


Sandy Moore, Treasurer
Sandy Moore jointed the Family Connections Board in 2014.  Sandy first learned about Family Connections when she was on the outreach committee at Little Wonders, a cooperative preschool.  She feels strongly that early childhood educations that involves both children and parents is essential for building a lifelong love of learning.  In particular, Sandy is passionate about literacy and the importance of reading aloud to children at a young age.  Having benefitted from attendting Little Wonders with her own children, Sandy enjoyed the support system of a cooperative preschool.  Sandy was looking for a way to get more involved in her community and immidiately thought about Family Connections.

Professionallly, Sandy worked at Wells FArgo Bank in commercial real estate finance and then joined Bank of America as a Vice President in the affordable housing group.  She has also worked at Bridger Commercial funding underwritting commercial loans for the mortgage backed security market.  As volunteer, Sandy is very involved in her children's elementary school where she chaired their largest family fundraiser and has held various committee positions.  She and her family are also involved in St. Paul's Episcopal Church.

Sandy received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles.  She currently lives in Burlingame with her husband and their three children.  In her free time, she enjoys travel, reading, skiing, and hiking.


Karen Manship

Karen Manship joined the board in 2015. She has been a volunteer with and supporter of Family Connections since moving to the Bay Area in 2006. She has volunteered in multiple capacities, first leading groups of volunteers through Hands on Bay Area (HOBA) and currently teaching piano classes to children at Family Connections’ East Palo Alto site. Karen believes strongly in Family Connections’ goals to provide quality early learning opportunities for children and families regardless of their circumstances, and she was eager to join the board to further support the organization’s mission and strong future.


Professionally, she is an education policy researcher focusing on early childhood education programs. She is currently leading an evaluation of California’s Transitional Kindergarten program and has led teams of researchers to evaluate summer kindergarten readiness and family literacy programs. She is a co-author of a report to the State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care entitled Condition of Children Birth to Age Five and Status of Early Childhood Services in California. Since 2013, she has worked pro bono with Family Connections to develop evaluation plans for the Young Scholars program. She has recently volunteered with HOBA and with sea turtle conservation efforts in Costa Rica. She was a member of HOBA’s Leadership Institute Fellowship Team (LIFT) in 2008.

Karen received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wake Forest University and a Masters in Urban Affairs and Public Policy (with a focus in nonprofit management) from the University of Delaware. She currently lives in Sunnyvale. In her free time, she loves to travel, dance, hike, practice Spanish, and listen to live music.


Renee Zimmerman
Executive Director


“After graduating from Family Connections when my son went to Kindergarten, I helped in the classroom as a teacher’s aid during the art program. I wanted to see his development in the classroom. He was happy to see his Mom there too!”

Margarita Herrera, Family Connections parent and mother of two children 8 and 2.5 years old