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Our Team

Our organization thrives because of our inspiring and dedicated team. The partnership they form with our families is the foundation for the transformative work we see at Family Connections every day.
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Executive Director

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Director of Infrastructure & Clinical Services

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Director of Programs

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Director of Administrative Operations 

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Early Learning Teacher

Daly City

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Early Learning Teacher

Daly City

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Early Learning Teacher

East Palo Alto

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Family Service Coordinator

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Family Service Coordinator

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Enrollment & Operations Coordinator

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Mental Health Clinician

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Early Childhood

Mental Health Consultant & Clinician

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Early Childhood

Mental Health Consultant

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Caregiver-Child Group Facilitator

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Early Learning TeacherUp Intern

Redwood City

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Early Learning TeacherUp Intern

Redwood City

Eric Valladares 
Executive Director

Eric Valladares joined Family Connections as the Executive Director in November 2021. For more than a decade, Eric has worked at various nonprofits in San Mateo County, where his focus has been on supporting some of our most vulnerable families and communities. His work has included home visiting services for children and their families, family reunification, school-based counseling, therapy in childcare settings, and supporting survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

 

More recently, Eric has taken on leadership roles overseeing programs that focus on Early Childhood, Child Abuse Prevention and Intervention, and Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention. Eric has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology from San Francisco State University and holds a Marriage and Family Therapy license through the State of California.

 

Eric loves spending time with his wife and two small children and, whenever he can, loves to visit Disneyland! 

Melissa Guariglia 
Director of Infrastructure & Clinical Services

Melissa joined Family Connections in 2022 as the Director of Infrastructure and Clinical Services. Her clinical experience of over 15 years working with at-risk youth, families, and adults has enabled her to develop and oversee specialized programs tailored to improve outcomes for youth in San Mateo County. Melissa is passionate about education and has dedicated several years to cultivating a training program that nurtures early career professionals in the mental health field. 

Melissa earned her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Human Development from the University of California, Davis. She later completed her Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, where she focused her research on aggressive behavior and empathic expression in adolescent males from the inner city.

In her free time, Melissa loves cooking and trying new restaurants. She also enjoys visiting plant shops and spending quality time with her family and pets.

Carolina Calderón Balladares
Director of Programs

Carolina Caldarón Balladares joined Family Connections as Program Director in May 2022.  For over 25 years, Carolina has worked in the early childhood and family services field in San Mateo and San Francisco County, including working as a preschool teacher, early education trainer, and program manager for several non-profit organizations, including the Resource & Referral Network, AbilityPath (Help Me Grow-San Mateo County), Homeless Prenatal Program and The Primary School-East Palo Alto. Her work is driven by the understanding that children need emotionally nourishing relationships during the first five years of life to lay the foundation for lifelong learning, health, and well-being.  

 

Carolina is the proud daughter of parents who emigrated from El Salvador in the late ’60s. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a minor in child development from St. Mary’s College.  

 

Carolina and her husband have two adult sons. In her free time, she enjoys sharing a nice meal with friends and family, going on long walks, listening to music, and journaling.

Marsha Quita
Director of Administrative Operations 

Marsha Quita joined Family Connections in August 2013 as a volunteer supporting our Preschool and Young Scholars Program. Since then, she has performed many roles in the organization. Currently, as Director of Administrative Operations, she is responsible for overseeing all administrative and operational duties, including human resources, finances, administration of payroll, savings and investment funds, annual audits, and monitoring of the operating budget.

 

Marsha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from the University of San Francisco and has past nursing experience from Stanford Hospital. Marsha continues to volunteer in her children’s organized school events and athletic and sporting organizations.

 

Marsha has two children; her son is in college, and her daughter is in high school. Marsha enjoys playing with her dog, traveling with her family, and loves visiting Disney Parks all over the world.  

Courtney "Coco" Rosales
Early Learning Teacher
Daly Ci
ty 

Courtney Rosales joined Family Connections in September 2023 as an Early Learning Teacher for the Daly City site. Throughout their life, Courtney has helped as a preschool teacher and a camp counselor for youth of all ages and is particularly focused on supporting queer, neurodivergent, and historically marginalized youth.

 

Courtney earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Creative Writing and studied education, Spanish, and biology as minors at Stanford University.

 

Originally from Burlingame, Courtney now resides in Alameda and hopes to continue to honor their Mexican heritage by immersing themself in the Spanish language and advocating for multilingual education, which was discouraged and unavailable to their family in the past.

 

Away from Family Connections, Courtney enjoys reading long books, writing stories, befriending neighborhood wildlife, attending dance or Zumba classes, and giving big hugs to their dog, Murphy!

Sofi Acuna
Early Learning Teacher
Daly City

Sofi Acuna has worked supporting children, teenagers, and adults at various organizations in San Mateo County, including San Mateo County Public Libraries and Skyline College. She is passionate about helping the community learn more about the available resources and opportunities.

 

Born and raised in El Salvador, Sofia moved to the Bay Area six years ago. Sofi graduated from Skyline College with an Associate's degree in Communication Studies and is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Visual Communication Design at San Francisco State University. 

Yadira Mederos-Cardenas
Early Learning Teacher
East Palo Alto

Yadira is originally from Mexicali, Baja California. She arrived in East Palo Alto in 2001. In 2007, Yadira and her son enrolled in the Nurturing Families class at Family Connections. She returned with her second child in 2009. As a participant in the program, she noticed that some families struggled with the Special Education system. Yadira worked with members of the team to facilitate a Parent Support group where parents shared their experiences, supported each other, and learned how to advocate for their children with autism, ADHD, and Down Syndrome. 

 

Yadira eventually joined the team as a Parent Educator for the Preschool and Nurturing Families classes at the Redwood City site. She worked for several years in different capacities, including as an Early Childhood Teacher and Program Coordinator.  

 

In September 2023, Yadira returned to Family Connections as an Early Childhood Teacher. 

 

Yadira is continuing her education in Early Childhood and Special Education. She likes to read books while drinking coffee. She also loves to spend time with her family singing, dancing, watching movies, and going on walks, especially to her favorite beach in Pacifica.

Georgina Almaraz 
Family Service Coordinator

Prior to joining Family Connections as our Family Services Coordinator, Georgina Almaraz worked in Southern California as a home visitor, lactation education specialist, domestic violence advocate, Board-Certified Supervised Visitation Provider, and Board-Certified Autism Technician.  

 

The daughter of immigrants who came to the US from a small town in Mexico, Georgia has a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of California, Riverside.

 

When she is not working, she is probably listening to music, solving sudoku puzzles, or exploring her new home, the Bay Area.

Alondra Mendoza

Family Service Coordinator

Alondra is a proud first-generation Mexican American native of the Bay Area. She brings over 5 years of invaluable experience in supporting children and families. She is committed to utilizing her skills and knowledge to provide families with the best support possible. Alondra has a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and Business Administration from San Francisco State University. Before joining Family Connections in May 2024, she excelled as a Program Coordinator and Program Manager, serving numerous families throughout the Bay Area.

Alondra's passion for making a positive impact in the lives of others is evident in her dedication to her community. As the daughter of Mexican immigrants who achieved their American dream, she embodies the values of hard work, perseverance, and compassion.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Alondra finds joy in spending quality time with her dog Nova, exploring new culinary experiences across the Bay Area, and traveling to tropical destinations with friends and family.

Cristina Carrillo
Enrollment & Operations Coordinator

Cristina M. Carrillo has joined Family Connections as the Enrollment and Operations Coordinator. Originally from Redwood City, Cristina is a first-generation Mexican and Salvadoran. In 2021, she earned a Bachelor's degree in both History and Chicano Chicana Studies with a minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from San Jose State University.

 

Her career commenced in immigration and family services in San Francisco, where she supported undocumented individuals through various legal processes such as U/T Visas, VAWA, and Asylum for unaccompanied minors. Previously, she held a position at a local charter high school, starting as an office assistant and progressing to the role of office manager. In this role, she assisted families with enrollment and advocated for student services.

Cristina is deeply committed to serving her Bay Area community and is enthusiastic about helping Family Connections blossom.

Beyond her professional experiences, she enjoys spending time with her family, cultivating and capturing family traditions through food and travel. She enjoys boba and sweet treats and adores her pets, Gizmo and Bella.

Stephanie Loera
Mental Health Clinician

Stephanie Loera joined Family Connections in 2019 as the in-house clinician for parents. Throughout her career, Stephanie has worked with individuals and families using a trauma-informed, social justice, and strength-based approach. As a Pilates instructor, Stephanie is passionate about families and children being aware of their mind and body connections.

 

She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in Peace and Conflict Studies and Spanish and Portuguese and a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California.

 

During her free time, she likes to arrange flowers, read the latest books, and go hiking with her rat terrier, Toby, and her husband. 

Jessica Sirias
Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant and Mental Health Clinician

Jessica Sirias joined Family Connections in 2023 as an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant. She is a registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Clinical Counselor. She holds a Master's in Counseling from SF State and has worked with multiple age groups, including infants/toddlers and preschoolers and their families, adolescents, and college students.

 

Jessica has over eight years of experience working in the early childhood field, including providing training and consultation support to childcare providers and case management and supportive services to children and their families. Jessica approaches her clinical work using a trauma-informed, social-justice, strengths-based, and attachment-informed approach. When providing consultation support, Jessica prioritizes collaboration to support staff and parents to find their inherent wisdom to help little ones thrive.

 

During her free time, she likes to go for walks, travel, and watch TV with her husband and furry poodle, Moose. 

Karina Meneses
Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant

Karina Meneses is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and joined the Family Connections team in 2022 as an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant. As a Consultant, Karina works collaboratively with the whole early childhood team, supporting and empowering staff and caregivers; encouraging them to keep in mind the social and emotional development of young children while delivering care and interventions in the context of the child’s and caregiver’s everyday activities and caregiving.

 

Karina has provided Early Childhood Mental Health services to Family Connections since 2016 through an outside agency. She has over 14 years of experience working with children and families in preschool, community, and outpatient settings.

 

Karina is a proud mother of an 11-year-old daughter. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, taking long walks, and going on road trips. 

Judith Cortes
Caregiver-Child Group Facilitator

Judith Cortes joined Family Connections in March 2023. She brings over 17 years of experience working with children and families. Judith has extensive knowledge of parent engagement practices, assessments in early childhood, and community resources.

 

She holds a Child Development Credential, a Site Supervisor Permit, and an Associate degree in Early Childhood Education. Judith possesses a deep understanding of child development principles, curriculum, and instruction. She prides herself in communicating effectively with parents and guardians through various channels.

Judith is the daughter of immigrant parents. She was born in Daly City, California, and raised in South Lake Tahoe, California. Growing up in a multicultural environment, she developed a deep appreciation for diversity and a passion for advocating for marginalized communities. Her personal experiences have shaped her work ethic and drive to succeed in all aspects of life. Judith is fluent in English and Spanish.

 

Judith likes to read and listen to podcasts in her free time, but her favorite pastime is spending quality time with her husband and three children.

Maria Reyes
Early Learning TeacherUp Intern

My name is Maria Reyes. My position at Family Connections is Early Learning TeacherUp Intern. I am originally from Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. I am currently a student at Cañada College. In 2023, I completed the ESL classes, and currently, I'm taking my first class in early childhood education. This is my first step to being an early childhood educator.

I have two adult children, and they both work with children. My favorite pastimes outside work are cooking and hiking with my family and my dog, Coco.

Jacqueline Rodriguez Luna
Early Learning TeacherUp Intern

Jacqueline Rodriguez Luna joined Family Connections as an Early Learning Teacher-Up Intern at the Redwood City site. She is currently continuing her professional preparation by studying Early Education and ESL at Cañada College. Jacqueline completed studies in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Education in Mexico. She is particularly passionate about the area of special education. Jacqueline’s belief in holistic learning is her compass and guiding principle. She is convinced that diversity is an enriching opportunity for all students and that the foundation of human development is established in early childhood.

Jacqueline is a parent leader for the Innovate Public Schools program, and she advocates for high-quality education for all students.

Jacqueline is proudly Mexican and the daughter of a strong, tenacious, intelligent, and hard-working woman who helps raise her children, Marian and Emiliano. She enjoys practicing yoga and going on long walks. Jacqueline treasures every moment that she spends with her family and the love that her children transmit.

Join our Team

Joining our organization means you will be a part of an experienced, hard-working, kind, and welcoming team who all work together to support our community and our families. With funding secured through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we have funding to provide our staff with a wide variety of high-quality professional development opportunities with the goal of setting up our staff for success and sustainability. ​


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