Meet the Mentoring Alliance team
Director of Operations
El Verano Elementary School Mentor Center
Altimira Middle School Mentor Center
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.
Sonoma Valley High School Mentor Center
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.
Adele Harrison Middle School Mentor Center
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.
Dunbar Elementary School mentor center
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.
Sassarini Elementary School Mentor Center
PRESTWOOD Elementary School mentor center
Board of Directors
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.
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.
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.
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.
A resident of Sonoma Valley since 1970, Ed previously served multiple terms on the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance Board, and was President of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees twenty-five years ago when the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance came into existence, so he has been involved from the beginning. He led two successful School Facilities Bond Measures for the district, totaling $58 million dollars. President of Empire West Inc., manufacturers of Ceilume Ceiling Tiles, Ed is also a well-known fiction writer, and he competes internationally as a masters level discus thrower. His children, Emily and Noah, went through Sonoma Valley schools, and his wife Jan was a longtime teacher within the district.
Richard De León
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.
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 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 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.
Superintendent, Sonoma Valley Unified School District
Dr. Adrian Palazeulos, Superintendent SVUSD: Dr. Palazuelos began his career in education as a bilingual educator before expanding his collegiate credits to include a Masters of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from UCLA, along with a PhD in Education from UC Santa Barbara. He has held leadership roles at all levels of education – including Elementary, Middle and High School Principal positions. Most recently, Dr. Palazuelos served as Superintendent of Fillmore Unified School District in Ventura County where he made noteworthy contributions including the expansion of college and career offerings in technical education pathways, investment in a new career technical education facility, increased access to Advanced Placement courses and exams, and further enhancing the partnership with the local community college to increase student access to their programs and courses. Dr. Palazuelos and his wife, Julie, have been married for over 20 years and are the proud parents of four children.
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.
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.
Vince Quilici is a Managing Director of Code and Theory, which is one of the leading digital design firms in the nation. He spends his days working with clients at the intersection of creativity and technology, helping to drive digital experiences in publishing, e-commerce, healthcare, wine, and communications. As you might gather from his hairline, Vince began his career before the internet, securing a prize entry-level job at J. Walter Thompson. Vince has always been drawn to creative organizations where diverse people collaborate to generate ideas that have an impact on business. Vince grew up in Sacramento and attended college at Santa Clara University, where he also played football and rugby. His wife Caroline is Director of Events at Jack London State Park and their children, Isabella and Jack, attend Sonoma Valley high school. Vince has coached Sonoma Little League baseball and St. Francis CYO basketball. The Quilicis have lived in Sonoma for 17 years but their roots go back to the late 1800’s when Augustino Pinelli, Vince’s great great grandfather, immigrated to Sonoma from Italy.
Emmanuel Saavedra Bazan
Emmanuel Saavedra Bazan or Manny, as many people know him by, was born in Mexico City and moved to Sonoma Valley with his family when he was 6 years old in 1995. He sits on the board of directors for the Sonoma Young Professional’s as Vice President, is a Sonoma Valley High, Santa Rosa JC, and Sonoma State Alumni. In addition, serves Sonoma County by helping local residents and business owners create, build and preserve wealth through his financial services. He started his career in financial services with New York life in January 2019 after graduating from Sonoma State University in 2018 where he majored in financial management. During his time off he enjoys giving back to the community he grew up in by volunteering with local non-profit organizations and spend quality time with family, friends, and most of all his longtime girlfriend Yadira. As a young professional in the community, he seeks to make a positive impact by teaching others how to financially prepare for the future and hopes to inspire other young professionals to become leaders in the community.
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.
Amelia Zimmermann Wolff
Amelia Zimmermann Wolff grew up in Sonoma Valley. She attended Dunbar Elementary School and Altimira Middle School, and graduated from Sonoma Valley High School. Amelia earned a BA in Mathematics from Azusa Pacific University and an MA in Education from Stanford University. She also holds a Single Subject Teaching Credential in Mathematics and earned National Board Certification. She spent nearly a decade teaching high school math in Southern California before moving to San Francisco. Since then she has focused her time on nonprofit agencies, co-founding and continuing to help operate the Excelsior Community Food Pantry in San Francisco, as well as advising and fundraising for several organizations, including Friends Like Me, a program of The Arc San Francisco. Amelia has mentored youth in the past, and values and appreciates the positive outcomes for both mentor and mentee that evolve through the mentoring relationship. Amelia resides in San Francisco with her husband and daughter. When she is not busy with work at home and in the community, Amelia enjoys reading, traveling, and visiting her family in Southern California and Sonoma.