Meet the Mentoring Alliance team

Administrative Staff

Susie Gallo

executive director

A resident of Sonoma for over 20 years, Susie Gallo joined the Mentoring Alliance in May of 2020, just as the pandemic was gaining momentum. Originally from Duxbury, Massachusetts, Gallo graduated from Hamilton College and the Radcliffe College Publishing Program. She has a decade of experience in sales and marketing for Harvard University Press and the University of California Press. Most recently, she served as Director of Operations at NapaLearns, where she worked closely with donors and superintendents to bring innovation to classrooms throughout Napa County. She and her husband Geoff have two children, Daniel and Mary, both recent graduates of Sonoma Valley High School.

Brooke Finley

Program Director

Brooke Finley has a degree in Liberal Studies with a minor in Sociology, along with a teaching credential from Sonoma State University.  In addition to teaching in the Sonoma County School District, she enjoys spending time participating in community outreach, traveling, gardening and hiking with her rescue dog. 

Megan Hansen

Director of Operations

Megan is the Office Manager at the Administrative Office of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance. She received her BA in Political Science and Black Studies from UC Santa Barbara. After working for a Civil Rights Organization in DC, for start up technology companies in California and Colorado, she has returned to Sonoma to be a part of a community that she loves, and an organization she believes in strongly in. She has been a Mentor to an elementary school youth for the past 4 years.

Mentor Facilitators

Annette Giroux-Smith

El Verano Elementary School Mentor Center

Annette has studied Child Development, and Nursing prerequisites at Santa Rosa Junior College.  She received an AA in Medical Assisting from Empire College.  Annette has enjoyed working with people of all ages, and especially enjoys working with children.  She is a long-time Sonoma resident and proud mother of two children.

Erin Johnson

Altimira Middle School Mentor Center

Erin grew up in Sonoma Valley and is thrilled to be back living here with her husband and three children, ages 12,10 and 7. She graduated from SDSU with a degree in Communications and received a full ride swimming scholarship. Erin’s career path has included working in advertising sales for Time Inc. and San Francisco Magazine, to currently working as a real estate agent for Compass. Erin enjoys her busy fun filled life spending time watching her kids play sports, attending school functions and events, swimming, traveling and taking care of their two rescue dogs. Erin is pleased and excited to be a part of such a wonderful community and organization!

Dulce Silvi

Sonoma Valley High School Mentor Center

Dulce graduated from the University of the Philippines where she focused on European Languages. She grew up in the Philippines and Malaysia, and moved to Sonoma over 20 years ago with her husband Greg. She has over a decade of experience in public relations and advertising, hotel management, event planning, being a parent volunteer and serves on the board of Crescent Montessori School. She enjoys traveling, going on adventures, and spending time with her husband and their three children, as well as being actively involved in the community and their church. Their daughters, Isabella and Alegria, are enrolled at the Sonoma Valley High School, and their eldest, Joseph, is an alumnus.

Brooke Cheeseman

Flowery Elementary School Mentor Center

Brooke Cheeseman received her Business degree from California Polytechnic in San Luis Obispo. With that she made a career managing events benefiting non-profit organizations and worked for the Boys and Girl’s club in San Francisco as their event manager. Now a mother of two boys who attend Flowery Elementary school as well as having a mentee at flowery, she is able to further her career in the non-profit world benefitting her favorite cause, children.


Lulu Balderas

Adele Harrison Middle School Mentor Center

Lulu was born and raised in Napa California where she currently lives with her husband and children. She is bilingual in Spanish and English, and especially enjoys helping children and watching them grow. Lulu’s son attends Prestwood Elementary and absolutely loves it. Her family has a passion for sports and they love watching their son play soccer every weekend. 

Laurel Mohring

Prestwood Elementary School mentor center

Laurel was previously an Area Director for Camp Fire Boys & Girls and ran her own daycare before working for several pre-schools. She also ran the Primary Intervention Program at Prestwood Elementary School, a non-directive play therapy program. She spent 11 years as a local soccer coach and served on the Sonoma Valley Soccer Board . She and her husband Glenn have five adult children, four grandchildren, and several now adult Foster children as well as 5 “foster” grandchildren. They were chosen to receive the Foster Parent Caregivers of the Year in 2006-07 for their dedication to keeping foster siblings together.
Laurel is now enjoying her 15th year as Prestwood School Mentor Facilitator.

Maureen Crumly

Sassarini Elementary School Mentor Center

Maureen is a California native and graduate of San Francisco State University, with a BA in Spanish. She also holds a Bilingual Teaching Credential from Sonoma State University. Maureen taught Kindergarten for several years in Santa Rosa before starting a family. She and her husband have two grown children who attended Sassarini Elementary School, Altimira Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School. For ten years she was a mentor to Maricela and a classroom volunteer as well. She truly enjoys working with children and helping them realize their potential. Maureen loves Sonoma Valley and has lived here for over 30 years.

Board of Directors

Marie Bradley

Board Chair

Marie was raised in San Anselmo but has been a resident of Sonoma Valley for the past 20+ years, where she raised her two sons. She is a licensed real estate agent with Sotheby’s in addition to being the Director of Operations for Daniel Casabonne, Sonoma’s most prolific real estate agent over the past 20 years. Prior to her real estate career, she was the business manager of a Montessori school in Marin and helped launch Crescent Montessori’s Elementary School in Sonoma. Marie became a mentor in 2018, joined the SVMA Board of Directors in 2018 and was recognized by the Sonoma Valley Fund as a Star Volunteer in 2021. In her free time, Marie loves to travel, bake and spend time with her husband (Erich), her two sons (Sean and Chance) and her pets.

Kate Rogers

Vice Chair

Kate Rogers was born and raised in New York and moved to San Francisco in 1981. Since then she has lived overseas twice and settled with her husband and three children in San Mateo. After receiving a Masters degree in Psychology and Art Therapy she interned at San Mateo County Mental Health, seeing school aged children, then worked as a classroom therapist at the Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto, seeing adolescents and their families. In 2000 she opened a private practice in San Mateo and worked with children adopted from the foster system, adolescents and adults. She volunteered at the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco where she ran art therapy groups for new mothers and staff. She is now mostly retired, having moved to Sonoma in 2018. She and her husband have three adult daughters, a son in law, and two grandchildren. She has been a mentor since 2020.

Cindi King


Cindi is a retired corporate attorney who relocated from Mill Valley to Sonoma with her husband. They have two adult daughters. Cindi received her J.D. from UC Davis and her M.B.A from the University of Nevada. She practiced law  at Cooley, Godward, Huddleson & Tatum, a San Francisco firm specializing in venture capital financing and software licensing. She moved to working in-house and consulting for businesses and eventually for non-profit organizations, primarily in the public media area at KPIX-TV, and eventually co-owned CycleBar. She has served many non-profit boards beginning with arts organizations in San Francisco such as the Intersection for the Arts, and on the Tim High Foundation in Marin County. Her chief avocation is classical music and she has been singing in classical choral groups in San Francisco for many years and currently serves on the board of the Valley of the Moon Music Festival. Cindi is a mentor to a fifth-grader at Sassarini Elementary School.

Jordan Kivelstadt


Jordan founded Free Flow Wines in 2009 and has been leading the growing wine on tap movement in the US. Jordan was trained as an engineer at Tufts University, where he is currently a Board member of the Entrepreneurship Studies program, before moving on to management consulting for over two years. In 2006, Jordan began his career in the wine industry as production manager for The Donum Estate. Since then he has made wine in four countries, founded his own brand, Kivelstadt Cellars, manages his family’s organic 10-acre Sonoma County, California vineyard and continues to innovate in the industry he loves. His latest project is Kivelstadt Wine Garden located in the old Schellville Grill location. 

Lisa Burnett

Lisa is a retired marketing consultant who helped nonprofit and government organizations articulate and deliver their message to achieve their missions. Her clients included the Napa County Office of Education, Mentis, Up Valley Family Center, Our Town St. Helena, Voices, Cope Family Center, Jackson Hole Community Foundation, and the American Institute of Wine & Food. After receiving a degree in English/Mass Communications from Sonoma State University, she worked in public relations in San Francisco before commencing a career in commercial property management in Palo Alto, which included managing a real estate portfolio for Stanford University. As a Napa Valley resident for almost 30 years, Lisa volunteered in her community to help empower young people. She moved to Sonoma in 2022 and promptly sought to get involved by becoming a mentor at Flowery Elementary. When she’s not visiting her grown son who lives in Beaune, France, and her son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren who live in Rocklin, California, Lisa enjoys playing bocce ball, Mahjong, kayaking and cooking.

Jeanette Rodriguez-Chien

Superintendent, Sonoma Valley Unified School District

Dr. Rodriguez-Chien holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Southern California as well as a master’s and bachelor’s degree from UCLA in educational leadership and psychology, respectively. Dr. Rodriguez-Chien has also taught educational leadership courses at Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California. As a public school educator for over 30 years, Dr. Rodriguez-Chien started her career as a bilingual classroom teacher and has served in a variety of capacities including school site principal, director of curriculum and instruction, chief academic officer, assistant superintendent and most recently Deputy Superintendent of San Diego County Office of Education. Additionally, Dr. Rodriguez-Chien is experienced in curriculum development and implementation, English language learner programs, mental health programs, early literacy, special education, accelerated learner programs, as well as strategic planning and data analysis.

Richard De León

Richard De León is an Organization Development professional who elevates underrepresented voices.  Currently, Richard is facilitating a community empowerment initiative in Sonoma Valley at Hanna Institute located within Hanna Boys Center as the Community Engagement and Research Coordinator. In a prior role, he served as an Educational Opportunity Program Advisor to incoming Sonoma State students from diverse backgrounds to support their empowerment and academic success. As a son of Guatemalan immigrants, Richard identifies as a proud Latino/LatinX Northern California native. In 2005 he was the first in his family to graduate from college with a B.A. in Chicano and Latino Studies. Then in 2018, Richard earned his M.A. in Organization Development at SSU. Every day, Richard aims to be a better son, father, husband and an authentic human.

Rayne Dessayer

Rayne moved from San Francisco and knew immediately she had chosen the right place! After years in management at Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, and Four Season Hotels, Rayne had established The Hospitality Group, providing temporary staffing for San Francisco’s hotels and private clubs. Eventually transitioning from her career, she became involved with the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and Impact100. Rayne familiarized herself with Sonoma’s school-age population by substitute teaching in elementary schools, by becoming a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), and by mentoring with the Mentoring Alliance. She remains active with youth, cooking with teens at Sonoma Teen Services and The Ceres Project. Also, Rayne proudly serves on the Board of La Luz Center. In addition to Sonoma’s non-profit community, Rayne is active with her gourmet groups, book club, and Free Spirits Choir. She and her partner, Mike, enjoy their friends and family – and vacationing at far-reaching destinations.

Steve Evans

After studying Public Policy at Duke University and spending 2 years as an apprentice to a leather furniture designer, Steve found his way to the Bay Area where he received his MBA from the Haas School of Business at Berkeley. It wasn’t long before he discovered Sonoma and has had a foothold here for over 20 years. After a career in brand building and product development that took him from San Francisco to New York and Dallas, he has finally returned home to Sonoma full time. In the last several years he has turned his focus from global brand and foundation work to living life locally.   His return brought him to the Mentoring Alliance and his mentee Joel who keeps him laughing and learning.

Mara Kahn

Mara Kahn was raised to know that if you do good you will do well. Mara was a 2018 recipient of a Spirit of Sonoma Award and the National Recipient of the Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Community Involvement Award. Mara is a Mentor with the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, co-mentoring a lively group of four freshmen girls at Sonoma Valley High School. A Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Wine Country Group, Mara has always felt contributing her time and resources to non-profits is her second job. Mara and Fenway Bark, her Chocolate Labrador Retriever are a Canine Assisted Therapy Team that reads with 3rd-grade classrooms at Sonoma Valley elementary schools each week. Currently the President-elect of Sonoma Valley Rotary, she was instrumental in the fire recovery response. Mara is a founding member of Impact 100, and a member of Congregation Shir Shalom. A native New Yorker, Mara & her husband Phil have lived in Sonoma for 15 years. She is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Consumer Economics, where she was the first woman to be the university’s Rhode Island Ram Mascot.

Geoff Leonard

Geoff is a retired law firm partner who has been a resident of Sonoma since 2014. Geoff received his J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center and previously practiced as a corporate partner at Orrick LLP, Ropes & Gray LLP and King & Spalding LLP in San Francisco. He continues to act as a consultant for several former clients. Geoff is married to Sandy Leonard, who serves on the Board of Directors at Jack London State Historic Park, and they have two adult daughters. Geoff is an avid mountain biker who frequents the trails in the six state and regional parks that are closest to his home in Glen Ellen. He is a new member of the Board of the Mentoring Alliance and is looking forward to being a Mentor.

Susan Levine

 Susan was in the financial services industry for most of her career.  She was most recently a Managing Director at the Cowen Group, working primarily with the real estate investment arm, RCG Longview, where she was responsible for capital raising and investor relations.  Prior to joining the Cowen Group, Ms. Levine held several marketing and investment positions at a number of different private investment firms, including one that she co-founded.  Ms. Levine started her career in finance at Lehman Brothers, which she joined in 1984, and left in 1993 to join the Clinton Administration. From 1993-1995, Ms. Levine was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Development, Debt and Environmental Policy at the U.S. Treasury Department, and from 1995-1996 she was senior vice president at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Ms. Levine received a B.A. in political science with distinction from Swarthmore College and an M.B.A. in finance from Columbia University. Ms. Levine has held and continues to hold board positions in several different nonprofit organizations.  She is vice president of the board of the Mentoring Alliance and is vice chair of the board of Reconstructing Judaism.    Ms. Levine was appointed by President Clinton as a commissioner of the White House Fellows Program.  She has been a member of the Council on Foreign Relations throughout her professional career.  She is an active participant in the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which supports the participation in sport of people with physical challenges. She has been a Mentor in our program for since 2017 and was our past board chair.

Lew Perlson

Lew is an attorney and is Of Counsel with the law firm of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Milwaukee.  He has been recognized in the area of trusts and estates since 2006 in The Best Lawyers in America published by Woodward/White, Inc. and distinguished as a “Wisconsin Super Lawyer” in the area of estate planning and probate by Super Lawyer Magazine.  He is a former Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and has co-authored several publications in his field of practice. Lew is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison where he received a BBA degree from its Business School and a JD degree (cum laude) from its School of Law. Lew’s community involvement includes being past President of Milwaukee Jewish Family Services and Congregation Sinai in Fox Point, Wisconsin.  He has served on the Board of Trustees of the Milwaukee Public Library Foundation, Milwaukee Jewish Community Foundation and the Milwaukee Jewish Home Foundation.  He is a Board member of the Sonoma Valley Fund, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Sonoma County.  Lew is a member of the Public Issues Committee of the San Francisco Jewish Family and Children’s Service – Marin – Sonoma County Region. Lew has been a Mentor for the past 7 years. 

Sherry Preiss

Newcomers to Sonoma in 2021, Sherry and her husband, Rich, relocated from New Jersey to be close to family. They became active community members of Sonoma Valley. Sherry is on the board of Impact100 and the Ed Foundation, as well as on the advisory board at La Luz. Sherry’s career has been focused on education. At LEGO Education, she led an international teacher professional development program. At KIPP Foundation, she was Chief Teaching and Learning Officer. At Pearson, she published and edited ESL textbooks which were sold globally. Sherry is a part-time consultant to Tufts University on a grant from the LEGO Foundation to develop and scale play-based engineering learning programs. Sherry and Rich have a son and daughter -in-law in Brooklyn, and a daughter, daughter-in-law and grandson in SF. She loves reading, listening to podcasts, walking, playing pickleball and most of all, playing the piano. Sherry began mentoring in January 2022.

Whitney Sangiacomo

Whitney has been a Sonoma Valley resident for the past 26 years. After receiving a business degree in finance at Santa Clara University, she worked in Commercial Property Management in San Francisco before becoming a full time mom. She currently works part time at Sangiacomo Family wines, which has been in operation since 1927, passing through three generations of dedicated and skilled farmers. However, her main passion has been her philanthropic endeavors. Whitney strongly believes in supporting children and is always looking for ways to get involved and help children reach their highest potential. She and her husband Mike, are proud parents to three grown children whom they raised in the beautiful Sonoma Valley. She is excited to be joining the Mentoring Alliance Board.

Jeff Wiggins

Jeff was born in Midland, Michigan, to a librarian and a fisherman/chemist/mad inventor. After growing up in a town owned by Dow Chemical and attending school where the students proudly refer to themselves as “The Chemics” (whatever that is), Jeff attended Hope College and studied biology and chemistry. He then took the obvious step of enrolling in a master’s program in Opera at Northwestern University. He sang professionally for several years before returning to Research and Development at Baxter Laboratories, then earned an MBA at Northwestern before going to work in the investment business with O’Connor & Associates and later for RCM Capital Management where he became a partner. Some time later, Jeff attended Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he was issued his third master’s degree, in Writing, in 2009. In whatever time is left now after writing, investing, and gentleman farmerhood, Jeff attends to the service of a number of public and private boards.

Coaching Team

Michael Brooks


Sue Warnock Brooks

Lmft, lep

Linda Tiefenthal

Retried educator

Sandy Zimmermann


Founder & Board Member

Kathy Witkowicki

Kathy Witkowicki is our Founder and served as Executive Director for 19 years. During Kathy’s tenure, the Mentoring Alliance become the Sonoma Valley’s go-to agency for children identified as falling off-track academically or faced with family or cultural barriers to success. Our program is distinguished by the longevity of our mentoring relationships and by its “wraparound” program that blends the best of both school- and community-based mentoring. Kathy’s area of expertise lies in her experience of constructing, implementing, and teaching best practices for school and community-based mentoring programs. She has presented mentoring workshops at the local, state and national level for over a decade, and has received numerous awards for her work. Her career began as a Registered Nurse specializing in Emergency Room practices. She has resided in Sonoma for over 30 years, She is pictured here with her Mentee, Jackie. They were matched in 2008 when Jackie was in 6th Grade. Kathy is now a Mentor to a second youth who is in 3rd Grade.

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