Kay Fernandez Smith
Assistant Vice President of Programs
Why do you do what you do?
I’m a proud first-generation Filipino American, mother, woman of color and resident of Oakland. My experiences sparked my life’s work on one central goal: that all people — regardless of race, class, gender or status — have just opportunities to reach their full potential in our society. When I moved to the U.S. as a child, my family first lived in a diverse low-income neighborhood. After my mom found a better job, we moved to a more affluent white suburb where there was access to high-performing schools, safe parks, healthy food and good jobs. I learned at an early age that where you live determines your access to opportunity, and I’ve been determined to change that.
What drew you to the foundation?
I joined the foundation right as we sharply focused our work on equity — a focus that completely aligns with my values. It’s exciting to be part of a community foundation that takes on roles beyond grantmaker, but also serves as a civic leader, convener, investor and advisor.
How would you describe your role?
I’m responsible for the overall operations and collaboration of the program department. I think of my team as being the glue for the gaps because we help connect teams and show the value of inclusive work. We also oversee capacity building work for our grant partners, manage the fellowship program, provide organizational learning and help raise funds for our equity work.
Are you involved in any volunteer activities?
I’m the board chair of Forward Together, a national multiracial organization focused on ensuring that all families thrive.