Meet the Mentoring Alliance team

Administrative Staff

Susie Gallo

executive director

A 20-year resident of Sonoma, Susie Gallo joins the Mentoring Alliance after six years as Director of Operations at NapaLearns, an education nonprofit serving Napa Valley public schools. Originally from Duxbury, Massachusetts, Gallo is a graduate of 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. In her role at NapaLearns, Gallo worked closely with donors and superintendents to bring innovation to classrooms county-wide. Gallo also coaches girls’ lacrosse for the Sonoma Youth Lacrosse Club. She and her husband Geoff have two children, Daniel and Mary who are both recent graduates of Sonoma Valley High School.

Tina Baldry

Program Director

Tina has an extensive background in Early Childhood Education and Administration.  She was a teacher of young children in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma County and owned and operated Ready Set Go Preschool in Glen Ellen serving children throughout the valley. Over the past 30 years, she has been a committed community volunteer, served on the Rainbow Valley Preschool Board of Directors, Sonoma Valley Girl’s Softball Board of Directors, Project Grad at Sonoma Valley High School and served as President of the Field of Dreams for two terms. Her love of children brought her to the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance in 2000. She oversees program direction and Road Map, Career Discovery Outreach. Tina has two adult children, Bryanne and Rashell, and resides in Sonoma County with her husband, Ernie. She has been a Mentor to 2 sisters while at the Mentoring Alliance. 

Megan Hansen

Office Manager

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

elverano@sonomamentoring.org

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.

Brooke Finley

Altimira Middle School Mentor Center

altimira@sonomamentoring.org

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. 

Sue Sammon

Sonoma Valley High School Mentor Center

svhs@sonomamentoring.org

Sue received her AA from Santa Rosa Junior College. She previously worked at El Verano and Sonoma Valley High School as a teacher’s aide in Special Education classes. 

Brooke Cheeseman

Flowery Elementary School Mentor Center

flowery@sonomamentoring.org

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.

Katy Shetka

Adele Harrison Middle School Mentor Center

adeleharrison@sonomamentoring.org

Katy attended Sonoma State University where she majored in General Biology and worked temporarily for the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Fish and Game. She began studying  the Adlerian / Dreikurs approach to Positive Discipline Parenting Techniques through the non profit Family Education Centers. She began teaching weekly parenting classes at Sonoma Valley Unified School District schools and throughout Sonoma County.  She was the lead instructor of Counseling Strategies and Parent Education Training through the SSU Extended Education Department. She became the Mentoring Facilitator upon the opening of Adele Harrison Middle School in 2001. Now 18 years later she still enjoys this particular age with all it quirks and beauty. Katy has two grown boys of her own, and her Mentee’s in the program have since graduated from High School.

MJ Arner

Dunbar Elementary School mentor center

dunbar@sonomamentoring.org

Mary Jane received her BA in Cultural Anthropology, a minor in Music, and her Lifetime Elementary Teaching Credential from UC Santa Barbara. She taught elementary school in Fontana and Los Alamitos for 10 years before moving to Sonoma with her family. She has been very involved with the SVUSD over the years volunteering, serving on different school and district committees, and working for several of the district’s principals before transitioning to the Mentoring Alliance in 2004.  MJ is the proud grandmother of 9 grandkids and proud mother of 3 adult daughters.

Janelle Carranza

Sassarini Elementary School Mentor Center

sassarini@sonomamentoring.org

Janelle Carranza attended the Santa Rosa Junior College where she received an AA in Social and Behavioral Sciences, along with an AA in Natural Sciences. Born and raised in Sonoma, Janelle wants to give back to her community and watch the youth flourish, as working with children has always played a big role in her life.

Laurel Mohring

PRESTWOOD Elementary School mentor center

prestwood@sonomamentoring.org

Laurel was previously an Area Director for Camp Fire Boys & Girls and ran her own daycare before working for several pre-schools, including Tiny Tots, Gingerbread House, and Sunshine Nursery. She also ran the Primary Intervention Program at Prestwood Elementary School, a non-directive play therapy program, where she was trained in conflict resolution, non-directive therapy, and reflective listening.

Board of Directors

Lew Perlson

President

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. 

Susan Levine

Vice-President

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 4 years.

Marie Bradley

Secretary

Born in Atlanta to a mother who was a Montessori teacher and a father who was a corporate attorney. Marie’s family re-located several times when she was a child, before settling in San Anselmo at the age of nine. She gave up a Regional Management position for a large fast food chain to start a family, and become the Business Manager of a Montessori school in Marin which she helped transition to a 501c3.  After moving to Sonoma in 2003, her two sons attended Crescent Montessori School, where she was integral in launching and developing Crescent’s Elementary school. She has enjoyed producing fundraisers for her boys’ schools over the years as well as volunteering as the Team Mom for their baseball teams at various levels. For the past 16 years she has worked as the Director of Operations for Daniel Casabonne Real Estate. Marie loves to cook, bake and spend time with her husband, children and numerous pets. She has been a Mentor to an elementary school boy for 2 years.

Karen Roche

Treasurer

Karen moved to Glen Ellen 20 years ago and was immediately involved in the community starting with the Mayacamus Volunteer Fire Department and the board of the Sonoma International Film Festival.  Karen’s career focuses on providing companies strategic and tactical leadership required for rapid growth. Her background includes “C” Suite positions at WineTasting.com, and Streetwise Reports.  Karen currently is the CEO of SommSelect.com and serves on the board of Advanced Brain Monitoring where she is the Chairman.  She also chairs the Finance Committee at Impact100 Sonoma, is on the board of the Sonoma Valley Fund and Kid Scoop News.  

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

Jeff Gaffner

Born in Wisconsin, Jeff and his family moved to Sonoma in 1963. Jeff attended Prestwood and El Verano Elementary, Altimira Middle School, and graduated from Sonoma Valley High School. While pursuing a degree in Political Science at Cal State University Chico, and holding down jobs in both Sonoma and Chico, Jeff was lucky to stumble upon his life’s passion, making wine.  During what he describes as the ‘Camelot Years’ at Chateau St Jean, Jeff was hired and mentored by Winemaker Richard Arrowood, who showed Jeff that meticulous attention to detail – both in the vineyard and the cellar – is required to produce exceptional wines.  The years spent working with and learning from Arrowood provided Jeff with the experience and inspiration to launch his own wine brand, Saxon Brown Wines, in 1997. A critical success, Saxon Brown fueled demand for Jeff’s winemaking services.  He is currently is consulting winemaker for several prominent Sonoma and Napa wineries, including Ram’s Gate, Black Kite Cellars, Hestan Vineyards and Xtant.  One of the things Jeff has cherished most about making wine for himself and others, has been the opportunity, over the last 20 years, to mentor young vineyard and cellar workers, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers of their own. An avid supporter of youth programs,  Jeff has volunteered with many organizations over the years,  including,  Sonoma Valley Little League, Valley of the Moon Little League, Sonoma Valley Babe Ruth, Valley of the Moon  Boy’s and Girl’s Club, and Dunbar Elementary School (where both his sons attended). Currently, Jeff is mentoring a student at his old school, El Verano.

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.

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. 

David Parr

A resident of Sonoma, David is a Strategic Consultant working with companies and non-profits throughout Northern California, focusing on a wide variety of management issues and growth opportunities. Currently a Master Chair of Vistage International;  Graduated with a BA in Business Administration from University of Pacific; President/CEO of Bell Electrical Supply Inc. from 1970-1985; Co-founder of an educational foundation promoting global interdependence and conflict resolution; past member of the Board of Directors of the Valley of the Moon Teen Center in Sonoma. David chairs the Mentor Outreach Team as his passion for our mission.

Kate Rogers

Kate was born and raised in New York and moved to San Francisco in 1981. Since then she and her family have lived overseas twice and have now happily settled in Sonoma. In her professional life, she returned to school in 1994 to pursue a degree in Psychology and Art Therapy. She worked as an intern for the San Mateo County Mental Health, seeing school aged children, then 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 where she continued to see adolescents as well as adults and a number of younger children who had been adopted from the foster care system. She was also fortunate to volunteer at The Homeless Prenatal Program, where she ran an art therapy group with mothers who had been homeless, and with staff who had previously been clients of the program. She is now retired, having moved to Sonoma in September of 2018. She loves living here and looks forward to becoming more involved in this vibrant and caring community. She has three adult daughters, a son in law and a happy, beautiful grandson, all of whom love to visit her and her husband in Sonoma.

Mike Sangiacomo

Born and raised in Sonoma, Mike is the General Manager of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards which his family started more than 80 years ago. Mike received his BS from Santa Clara University and currently coaches the SVHS Varsity Football team. He has coached for the Sonoma Valley Baseball Little League and the St. Francis CYO Basketball team as well. Mike also serves on the Board for the Sonoma County Open Space Fiscal Oversight Commission.

Socorro Shiels

Superintendent SVUSD

Socorro has nearly 20 years of public education experience at the administrative and classroom levels, serving as a bilingual teacher, high school vice principal and elementary school principal. She led Santa Rosa City Schools, Sonoma County’s largest district, for four years while serving on the county’s Health Action Board and the Upstream Investment Team. She is a commissioner for Sonoma County First Five and continues to serve on the Instructional Quality Commission for the state Department of Education and as a representative for the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team. In 2016 she joined the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence, serving as the agency’s education director, working with volunteer districts to improve community engagement, decision-making and student success. In 2018 Socorro was named Superintendent of the Sonoma Valley School District, at which time she accepted a seat on the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s 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.

Founder

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.

Emeritus Director

Lee Morgan Brown

Lee originally hails from Texas. As a Sonoma resident of 15 years, she has deep roots in this community, as well as vast experience in creative fundraising and service. Morgan Brown came to California from Dallas, Texas 20 years ago after early career experience in luxury hotel management and wide-ranging work with the geriatric population, where she applied her Masters degree in gerontology and non-profit work. Some of Lee’s past successes have included program management, training and development, fundraising in diverse populations and team collaboration on philanthropic boards. After coming to Sonoma, Lee was actively involved with Sonoma Charter School where she spearheaded a program to get all parents, students and staff involved in fundraising to help support the school’s programs. She is a mother of three sons who are attending school in the Sonoma Valley Unified School System. 

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