Executive Director Biographies
Sonia de Leon – Deputy Director PIQE Bakersfield
Sonia De Leon, Deputy Director of the PIQE regional office in Bakersfield, provides leadership and guidance in analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. Ms. De Leon is responsible for maintaining a proper organizational structure and affective staff as well as partnering closely with senior management to plan for the future growth of PIQE’s presence in the region and its strategic response to industry and education trends. After more than 20 years of experience working with adults in the educational field in Guatemala, she joined PIQE in 2016 as Associate Director and three years later was promoted to Deputy Director.
Her passion for education and accompanying processes with adults arises from her own family experience. Her parent’s vision and a strong belief in education led to her being the first in her family to acquire higher education. She has worked in popular organization processes, especially with women, advocating labor and educational rights. She was part of the interdisciplinary team of the Central American Institute of Spirituality where she provided individual and group support to leaders in the process of personal growth. She instructed a diverse group of international attendees that allowed her to interact with varying cultures resulting in her being selected to provide training to a variety of countries.
With these enriching experiences, Sonia was promoted to Director of Advisers-in-training at the Rafael Landivar University of Guatemala. Under her management, the program grew from serving 250 students to 850 students. Upon emigrating to the United States, she aspired to continue in the education field so she immediately became involved in learning more about the reality that migrants live in California and shortly afterward she worked as a Consultant at Migrant Program Region III in California where she worked for more than three years conducting workshops for migrant parents to engage in student’s education and promoted the commitment of parents to guide their children to achieve higher education.
Ms. De Leon has a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work with Emphasis in Management Development from Rafael Landivar University and a Master of Arts in Human Dynamic and Mental Health from Mariano Galvez, University of Guatemala. She likes to listen to music, enjoys nature, and dance. Her favorite place to go for a walk with her husband Eduardo is the beach.
Sonia De Leon, Directora Adjunta de la oficina regional de PIQE en Bakersfield, brinda liderazgo y orientación en el análisis y evaluación de la efectividad y eficiencia de las operaciones. La Sra. De Leon es responsable de mantener una estructura organizativa adecuada y un personal eficaz, así como colaborar estrechamente con la alta dirección para planificar el crecimiento futuro de la presencia de PIQE en la región y su respuesta estratégica a las tendencias de la industria y la educación. Después de más de 20 años de experiencia trabajando con adultos en el campo educativo en Guatemala, se incorporó a PIQE en 2016 como Directora Asociada y 3 años después fue promovida como Directora Adjunta. Su pasión por la educación y los procesos de acompañamiento con adultos surge de su propia experiencia familiar. La visión de sus padres y su fuerte creencia en la educación la llevaron a ser la primera en su familia y en su comunidad en adquirir una educación superior. Desde muy temprana edad se dedico a trabajar en procesos de organización popular, especialmente con mujeres, defendiendo los derechos laborales y educativos. Formó parte del equipo interdisciplinario del Instituto Centroamericano de Espiritualidad donde brindó apoyo individual y grupal a líderes en el proceso de crecimiento personal. Ella instruyó a un grupo diverso de asistentes internacionales que le permitieron interactuar con diferentes culturas, lo que la llevó a ser seleccionada para brindar capacitaciones a una variedad de países en Centro América, América del Sur, México y Republica Dominicana. Como resultado de estas enriquecedoras experiencias, Sonia fue promovida a Directora de Asesores en Capacitación de la Universidad Rafael Landívar de Guatemala. Bajo su dirección, el programa pasó de atender a 250 estudiantes a 850 estudiantes. Al emigrar a los EE. UU.,
Executive Director Lilian Esther Hernandez
Sagrario Diaz – Executive Director of Fresno
Sagrario Diaz serves as the Executive Director of PIQE’s Fresno’s Regional Office. As Executive Director, she provides leadership and guidance by analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. Ms. Diaz also maintains a proper organizational structure and effective personnel, partnering closely with senior management to plan the future growth of PIQE’s presence in the region, as well as its strategic response to the education and industry trends. Prior to joining PIQE, Ms. Diaz was a high school Spanish teacher, Junior Class Moderator and the World Language Department Chair at San Joaquin Memorial High School.
For over 21 years, Ms. Diaz has worked in the field of education. She began her educational career as an instructional aide and worked herself up slowly until she became an instructor in her own classroom. She has worked with students and parents at all levels, from elementary, middle and high schools; both in public and private schools. Consequently, she has gained substantial knowledge about the needs of K-12 students in the Central Valley. Sagrario has been an active member of CTA, CABE, ELAC, DELAC, CLTA and school site councils. In 2005-2007, Ms. Diaz served as the Associate Director for PIQE’s Fresno Regional Office. During this time, she was instrumental in supporting the growth of the office and helped enhance the quality of PIQE’s programs throughout the Central Valley. Although she returned to the classroom, Ms. Diaz remained committed to PIQE’s mission by teaching PIQE’s signature program when possible, as well as facilitated PIQE’s Teacher Workshops. Ms. Diaz has a B.A in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in the blended program (also known as Bilingual Education) and an M.A. in Cross-Cultural Curriculum.
Ms. Diaz is passionate about helping English Language Learners (ELL) and students of underserved communities. She grew up in Cantua Creek, a small rural agricultural community. She always remembers her father stating that he may not have wealth to leave her and her siblings as an inheritance, but that he would leave them something greater, which was an education. All three of her brothers also received degrees, from various California State Universities and all belief in being role models for future generations. She is the proud mother of Cesar who is currently a college student.
Deputy Director Dr. Cindy Guardado
Executive Director Gabriel Rios
Libier Gonzalez – Executive Director of Richmond and Santa Clara Offices
Carmen Russian – Executive Director of San Diego
Carmen Russian has been the Executive Director of PIQE’s San Diego regional office since 1999. She provides leadership and guidance by analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. Ms. Russian also maintains a proper organizational structure and effective personnel, partnering closely with senior management to plan the future growth of PIQE’s presence in the region, as well as its strategic response to the education and industry trends. She was instrumental in ensuring PIQE’s signature program is offered in multiple languages in her region: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, and Somali.
Ms. Russian has participated in numerous San Diego community and education committees, conferences and fairs, including: Feria del Sol, North County Adelante Mujer, SDSU Compact for Success Annual Conference, Council of Exceptional Children 2015 Convention & Expo, Todos a Leer, UCSD MECHA High School Conference, and San Diego Unified School District Latino Council. Since 2010, Ms. Russian has been a member of the San Diego State University Enrollment Management Advisory Committee, which focuses on the role of parents and families in the college admission process, as well as the attainment of SDSU enrollment goals. Ms. Russian was a PIQE facilitator from 1997 to 1999. In June 1999, she joined the PIQE San Diego staff as an Associate Director, and later the same year she was promoted to Executive Director. Before her involvement in PIQE, Ms. Russian served in various capacities at a variety of governmental and non-governmental organizations, including Baja California Juvenile Court, UCLA Abnormal Cytology Research Center, and Scripps Perinatal Services Program. She has a B.A from the University of Baja California and an M.A. in Nonprofit Leadership and Management from the University of San Diego.
Ms. Russian and her husband, Eduardo, will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in 2016. They are the proud parents of two grown children, both college graduates from prestigious universities, and have two grandchildren. She enjoys music, folkloric dancing, and quality time with her family.
Mildred Gains – Best Practices Director
Mildred Gains is the Executive Director of PIQE’s Bay Area regional office. She provides leadership and guidance by analyzing and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of operations. Ms. Gains also maintains a proper organizational structure and effective personnel, partnering closely with senior management to plan the future growth of PIQE’s presence in the region, as well as its strategic response to the education and industry trends. After 15 years of for-profit experience, she joined PIQE in 2001 and has served as a course facilitator and an Associate Director in three other PIQE offices in southern California. In 2008 she was promoted to Executive Director of the San Jose office, and three months later she took on the added responsibility of running the Bay Area office, successfully managing both locations for two years. For the last two years, Ms. Gains has also served as one of the trainers for PIQE’s Best Practice model.
Prior to joining PIQE, Ms. Gains worked as a financial planner, preparing comprehensive financial plans for union members and their families with respect to college tuition, retirement, and investments. She also has 10 years of experience in customer service and corporate training. Ms. Gains received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration from Chapman University in 1999.
Ms. Gains is passionate about helping others. She is active in her community, partnering with California National Guard, Grizzly Challenge Charter School, and local churches to mentor high-risk youth who have dropped out or are at risk of not graduating high school. Ms. Gains has also turned her love for making jewelry into a business that helps to sustain the feeding of less fortunate individuals in her home town. Ms. Gains is a proud mother of two grown children and lives in Vallejo, California, with her husband, Craig, and their two dogs, Sparky and Buddie.