August 12, 2021

Celebrating 20 Years- Insights with Senior Program Director Ann Saneto

By Valerie Kelly

Ann Saneto is our South Region Senior Program Director and she’s celebrating her twenty-year anniversary with us at Catalyst as of this month! Through the name changes and rebranding, she’s worn many hats within the organization in addition to supporting the Bay Area and the OC and OX regions.

How long have you been with Catalyst? Have you had any other roles/titles with us?  

I’ve been with the organization for twenty years, holding five different roles during that time. I started off as a Program Director and oversaw the Anaheim area with Fritzi Gragg, she hired me. We shared the Anaheim area and then I went to Riverside. I later picked up Tustin and Lindbergh, working most of the region except for Newport,  Menifee, and Irvine. I went to support Oxnard when they needed a program director and then I went up to the Bay Area to provide support as well. Prior to my current position as Senior Program Director, I was a Regional Ops Director, then I was an Associate Director of Program Operations and then I moved into Director of Business Operations.  I was given the opportunity to work out of my strengths and provide support in different areas.

Tell me about your career and educational background. What roles were you in prior to coming to Catalyst? 

I have a Master’s degree in Child Development. I started off by working as a Site Supervisor at a corporate-sponsored childcare center. At the time, it was one of the largest infant-toddler preschool programs on the west coast. After that, I worked at a backup child care center in downtown LA. The capacity for that program was about 50 children. We cared for infant-toddler, preschool, and school-age children. We had company clients where if their employers needed childcare for various reasons, they could make an appointment with us to be able to drop off their child with us for the day or week. You saw different children each day, which was fun. My last role prior to coming to Catalyst was as a Product developer for Lakeshore. I created their first toddler furniture line before I left.

Can you share an experience when you’ve seen a teacher or child’s life change at Catalyst? 

We had a Kindergartener who had a tough time. The child had behavioral problems to the point where they were almost termed for disruption. The Site Supervisor and one of the teachers really connected with this child. The family was going through a divorce at home and needed a safe place and someone to understand them. We saw the staff and Site Supervisor really wanting this child to succeed. Giving that child the extra support they needed to get over this angry and confusing period to be where they are now and be successful. It was great seeing our staff come together.  Another example  A child needed a bed at home and the Site Supervisor reached out to their contacts and got the child a bed. The child was so excited to have their own bed for the first time. You know it is the small things that make a permanent impact on a child.

What do you enjoy most about being a Senior Program Director or working here at Catalyst?  

I enjoy the variety of the job and supporting others. I like the fast pace of it and working with people. I have always told my team and anyone that I hire on that my sole job is to support them and center, the children, and staff for them to be successful.

What does a typical day look like in the role as a Senior Program Director? 

There is never a typical day as things are always changing.  I’m always supporting the centers, having meetings, answering questions, and problem-solving.

Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of? Why? 

I am pretty flexible and people know that they can count on me. Whatever the agency needs, and I can help, I am always willing to jump in.

Tell me something that you think makes our organization unique. 

Prior to coming to Catalyst, every 4 years I was normally looking for a new job. Now I have been here 20 years this month and I attribute that to the people and how we support each other as well as the care and support the agency has. There are a lot of growth opportunities. I have had five different titles myself and it has been amazing seeing others in the organization start off as Assistants and move into Site Supervisor and Center Manager positions. It is nice to see the longevity and growth opportunities people have within the organization.

With so many great organizations to support, why should others choose to support Catalyst? 

The variety of programs that we serve throughout the state. We do not just go into high social-economic areas, we have such a wide variety. When we look at who we serve, we really serve everyone.  We are special because we have both subsidized and private centers. Because we have both, that puts us in our own pond. YMCA for example has federal grants but focuses on one niche and that is how they get most of their funding. It is harder for us because we have both. I do not know many childcare providers that do both subsidized and private.

What do you wish people knew about the world of child care/camps /etc? 

I want people to know how important the role we play in a child’s life and in overall society. There is one thing about academia and learning from school, but we really teach children about life skills and how apply all that they learned into their life. For example, they learn math in school, and we show them how to apply that math in real life with a cooking project.   When we teach them how to share and divvy things up, we are teaching them fractions.   A lot of people do not see that. They assume we just play with children, but we are teaching children how to be successful adults and important life skills. We are teaching them how to interact with others, Problem-solve, critical thinking, how to be creative, and how to be optimistic. Some of our children come from tough homes and when they are with us, we are asking them what they want to learn. We might not always have the funds, but we will figure it out. We contact our networks outside and get what we need. We are teaching them how to be empathetic human beings with a strong sense of self.