BetsyBetsy Nikolchev
is the founder of the Family Engagement Institute (FEI) at Foothill College. FEI works to bridge educational inequalities by providing opportunities where families, schools, programs and communities work together to build systemic and integrated family engagement strategies that ensure the success and well being of all students – early childhood through college and beyond.

Betsy has over 25 years of experience in the field of education, family leadership and innovative program design. She brings a depth of experience 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.

BetsyCarmen M. Ponce
is the Director of Stretch to Kindergarten and Early Learning Programs and brings years of experience in early Childhood and Parent Education to the Family Engagement Institute (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.

BetsyElizabeth Simons
founded Stretch to Kindergarten in 2009 and is the President of the Heising-Simons Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to sustainable, research-based solutions in education, environment, science, and policy. Liz has deep interests in education, particularly, in family engagement, early math, and the experiences of dual-language learners – interests that were forged over the years by professional and volunteer experiences. Liz taught in Spanish-bilingual elementary school classes and coordinated an English-as-a-Second Language program. She wrote a daily education column for The Palo Alto Daily News. Liz has volunteered in schools, in programs for youth, as a home visitor for nursing mothers, and, currently, in a journalism class at Eastside School in East Palo Alto. She serves on the boards of the Daily Californian Education Foundation and the Foundation for a Just Society. She has a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley and a Master’s in Education from Stanford University.