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 Cheng joined the Family Connections Board in 2014. She was introduced to Family Connections at the 2014 Night of Dreams event and was moved by the work that Family Connections has been doing over the years, as well as the personal stories told by Family Connections family members and former students. Gretchen visited an Open House 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 she has worked at Association to Benefit Children in New York, the English School Foundation in Hong Kong, 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 of Arts degree in Allied Health/Division of Occupational Therapy from Ohio State University. She lives in the Noe Valley neighborhood with her husband and three small children. She enjoys cooking, running and long city walks with her family.
Governance Committee (Board Development Chair)
Night of Dreams Event (Co-Chair)
Angela Espinosa joined the Family Connections Board in 2014...She had an instant affinity for Family Connections; stemming from her own involvement in a parent-participation preschool and as a volunteer at a charter elementary school in East Palo Alto. She saw firsthand how valuable a parent-participation preschool could be for children’s early development and for parents seeking advice and support. She also came to appreciate the tremendous challenges that parents face when trying to navigate a complex school system, made even more challenging when families are under additional stresses and without the language skills and cultural knowledge that the educational system assumes.
Angela's professional background began in corporate team training and then evolved to include roles in change management consulting, project management, client relationship management, and ultimately in human resources where she focused on professional development and leadership coaching.
Angela has extensive volunteer experience including board and leadership positions at the Junior League of Palo Alto - Mid Peninsula, Global Partners for Development, Burlingame Mothers' Club, and the San Francisco Zoo Auxiliary. She has held various committee roles and helped raise funds for My New Red Shoes, Children’s Health Council, and The Carey School; and recently served three years as 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 and Psychology. She lives in Burlingame with her husband and two children, - and still can’t believe how lucky she is to have lived in the Bay Area for nearly 20 years.
Advancement Committee (Chair)
Young Scholars Committee (Chair)
Andrea Higuera-Ballard joined the Family Connections Board in 2012. She 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’s professional background is in marketing and strategic planning, with experience as a Brand Manager at the Clorox Company and as a strategy consultant for Swander, Pace & Company. Andrea is committed to education and community service. She is currently a Trustee on the Board of Directors for KIPP Bay Area Schools, is the President of the South Hillsborough School Parent Group, and serves on the National Advisory Board for the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. From 2005-2011, Andrea served on the Board of Trustees of CuriOdyssey, where she was the Board Vice-Chair and Development Committee Chair. She is an active volunteer at South School in Hillsborough and 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 and doing Zumba.
Angela Kalayjian joined the Board in 2016. She learned about Family Connections through the Night of Dreams event and saw the program in action when she attended an Open House. She was touched by the families’ stories and the dedication of the teachers. After focusing so much effort to improving schools in her own town of San Carlos, Angela felt it was time to focus on supporting great educational opportunities for the broader Peninsula community.
Angela brings finance and fundraising expertise to the Board. Professionally, she served as Assistant Director of Planned Giving at Stanford and Director of GATX Capital. She also volunteered with the San Carlos Education Foundation (SCEF) from 2008 through 2014, serving as Vice President of Development from 2011-13, helping SCEF to grow its Leadership Circle donor level and increase overall giving to local schools.
Angela earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Asian Studies from Connecticut College and holds a certificate of Financial Planning from the University of California at Berkeley Extension. She lives in San Carlos with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling, making stained glass, cooking, reading, and walking her dog.
Nic Kiyasu, President
Facilities Task Force
Governance Committee (Chair)
Nic Kiyasu 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 opportunities. 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.
Picole Lamarre joined the Board in 2016. She learned about Family Connections through the Board Match Silicon Valley event that grants interested candidates access to meeting the leadership of different Bay Area nonprofit organizations. She was looking for a youth-focused opportunity, and after learning more about the organization, she was inspired to find out how she could be of service.
Professionally, Picole is Vice President of Human Resources and Risk Management at Woodside Hotels. Her expertise includes talent acquisition, employee relations, compensation and benefits design, training and development, and HR policy design. Volunteering has always been a part of Picole’s life, through volunteering at local soup kitchens, participating in charitable work through her church, and promoting volunteerism through her professional role.
Picole received her Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management from Palm Beach Atlantic University and holds a Senior Certified HR Professional certification (SHRM-SCP). She and her family relocated to the Bay Area in 2007 and together enjoy hiking and exploring all aspects of the beauty and culture of the Bay Area.
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 2005. 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, Karen is an education policy researcher focusing on early childhood education programs. She is currently leading the evaluation of California’s Transitional Kindergarten program and is the lead author for the first impact report from this innovative early education program, released in December 2015. She has also 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.
Sandy Moore, Treasurer
Facilities Task Force (Chair)
Finance Committee (Chair)
Sandy Moore joined 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 education 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 attending 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 immediately thought about Family Connections.
Professionally, 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 underwriting commercial loans for the mortgage backed security market. As a 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.
Nisha joined the Family Connections Board in 2016. With two young boys just starting to enter the school system, she wants to focus her energy on issues related to education and the achievement gap. She attended an Open House and heard a parent’s firsthand account of the impact that Family Connections made in her life and knew she wanted to contribute. Professionally, Nisha has worked in private equity. She was most recently the Chief of Staff to the Chief Marketing Officer at Visa Inc. where she worked on global projects for the marketing function across multiple businesses, products and geographies. Nisha also serves on the Board of Trustees of Breakthrough Collaborative, an academic enrichment program for under-served middle school students. Nisha received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Stanford University and an M.B.A from Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University). She lives in Hillsborough with her husband and two sons and enjoys cooking spicy food, teaching her boys how to dance, and playing foosball.
“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!”