Benicia Unified School District

Mel Paterno

Mel Paterno

Special Friend Guidance Assistant (Mary Farmar Elementary)

My name is Mel Paterno and I am both honored and proud to have worked as a Special Friends Guidance Assistant at Mary Farmar School for the past fourteen years. After graduating with a BS in Business Administration/Management, I was given the opportunity to work in the corporate finance world as a manager of an office for an Italian reinsurance company. I was then presented with multiple managerial positions for renowned retail stores over the proceeding ten years until motherhood came calling!

After being a stay-at-home mom for a few years, I realized that my kids were becoming more independent and that it was time to return to the workforce. Special Friends/Second Step program holds a special place in my heart. I have learned so much from the children with whom I have had the privilege of developing their friendship and trust. Seeing the world through their eyes – priceless!

Debbie Habegger

Debbie Habegger

Special Friend Guidance Assistant (Joe Henderson Elementary)

I started the Special Friends Program at Joe Henderson in the winter of 1989.  Since then, I have worked primarily at Joe Henderson with a few years at Mary Farmar and floating to all 4 elementary schools.  During the 35 year period I took 5 years off when my twins were born.

Children have always been the nucleus of my life.  Since I was 17 yrs. old I worked with children’s church and youth groups, choreographed over 20 children’s musicals, Room Mom every year for all 4 of my children (which all went through Benicia schools), coached girl’s soccer, Asst. Cheerleading Coach for BYF and Benicia High School, and PTA Vice Pres.  I also co-chaired Grad Night for 2 years.

My education includes studying business at Bowling Green State University and I am presently pursuing coursework in Psychology to further my education.

My husband and I have 4 children with 4 in-loves and seven grandchildren, with one on the way! They are 14, 13, 12, 11, 8, 6 and 4 yrs. old.  My free time consists of spending time with my family, cycling, cycling mountain races, exercising and running my part-time Pilates Reformer business.

I feel blessed to have a position that is a passion of mine.  My goal is to strive for each one of my students to feel unconditionally accepted and valued, also to build self confidence and develop a strong connection to school.  I continue to enjoy seeing the world through their eyes.

Elizabeth Crumpton

Elizabeth Crumpton

Special Friends Guidance Assistant (Robert Semple Elementary)

I am thrilled to work as a Special Friends Guidance Assistant at Robert Semple. I wholeheartedly believe in the Special Friends Program and am excited to share it with our students. My goal is to create a fun and welcoming environment where students can be themselves and feel unconditionally supported.

My husband, children, and I have lived in Benicia for twelve years. I’m an active volunteer at my children’s schools and serve as a board member of their school’s Parent Teacher Group (PTG).

I enjoy cooking, spending time outdoors, and traveling with my family.

I’m grateful to be a part of such a wonderful community.

Anne Mang

Anne Mang

Special Friend Guidance Assistant (Matthew Turner Elementary)

My name is Anne Mang and I have the privilege of working as the Special Friend Guidance Assistant at Matthew Turner Elementary for the last 15 years. Before that I was the Special Friend at Joe Henderson Elementary for a few years. Through the years it has been rewarding supporting our young students to build self confidence and develop a positive connection to the school environment.

Our family moved to Benicia 26 years ago. My 2 children attended grades K through 12th grade in the Benicia Schools, both excelled in the sports programs at Benicia High School. They have since graduated from college and are now working professionals.

As empty nesters my husband and I enjoy cooking, gardening, walking our dog Bing and visiting the beaches in Sonoma County.

Vanah Fracisco

Vanah Fracisco

Second Step Guidance Assistant

Being able to connect and help build lifelong social emotional learning skills with students at all four elementary sites in my hometown is both a blessing and my way of giving back to our community.

A couple of things about me: I was born and raised in Benicia, California, I am a woman of faith, devoted mother of three, mental health advocate, foodie, lover of nature and art. I enjoy road trips, camping, amusement parks; essentially any activities that involve spending time with my loved ones.

My educational background is in psychology. I am passionate about early intervention strategies and empowering students to succeed in school and in life.

During my time as the Second Step Guidance Assistant, I have had the privilege of working alongside an amazing team who are inspired and motivated to make a difference in the lives of students in need of support as well as the overall school climate. I am excited for the opportunity to work toward the district’s mission to ensure students achieve at their highest potential by providing the necessary social emotional learning support.