The impact of our program is made possible by the inexorable dedication of our 70+ volunteer mentors who partner with our youth, their parents, committed donors, Board members, and community partners.
Our small but mighty staff provide the backbone support for our mentors and youth.
Sarah Shaw Dixon, Executive Director, she/her/hers
Sarah believes that a joyful, healthy, successful life is something that we all deserve to have and define for ourselves. Stemming from her own experiences of struggling with positive self-identity through youth, adolescence and early adulthood, she dedicated her career to creating inclusive spaces that proactively support young people to develop social-emotional skills, be confident in who they are, kind to one another, and pursue the things in life that make them happy. She believes that our communities can be places where we uplift each other, ensuring everyone can thrive and that addressing decades of marginalization, racism, sexism, and damaging stigmas of mental health is our collective responsibility. Youth are hungry to learn about the world and find their place in it; what a powerful community we can build if everyone is empowered to authentically shine. She is humbled to bring her experience and skills to lead Family of Friends Mentoring in creating an environment for kids to do just that in east Multnomah County, the place that for her has become “home.”
Her personal joy is in spending time with loved ones, especially her young daughter, being in nature whether she’s exploring national parks or her own backyard, and cooking and eating good food. She enjoys trying new things, and also values spending time alone reading or watching a movie.
Desiree Gutierrez, Program Manager, she/her/hers
email@example.com cell: 503-351-5805
Desiree moved to Portland from California when she was 14 years old and shortly after she met a women who became a blessing in her life. She supported and mentored Desiree in a time of life when Desiree felt she had no adults to trust, depend on or to love her. It is because of this woman that Desiree has such great passion for helping people gain the skills and tools to be their better selves. After 7 years’ working with Metropolitan Family Service SUN program at Oliver Elementary School, she is excited to join the team at Family of Friends. When she’s not out supporting her community, you can find her with friends and family: husband Gilberto and four children, Angelina (20), Yasmeen (18), Gilbert (12), and Gabriella (3). They enjoy hiking, bike rides, river trips and BBQs in the back yard.
Monica Segura, Bilingual Program Coordinator, she/her/hers
Monica joined Family of Friends in fall of 2017 and is the primary support person for the program’s Spanish-speaking matches in Gresham. She has a passion for working with youth, volunteers and families and is excited to work for Family of Friends. She has lived in Oregon for 17 years and is studying Psychology at Oregon State university where her focus is social psychology and women’s studies. Monica’s hobbies include reading, attending concerts, and running (she ran her first half marathon this year and plans on many more!).
Amaya Krasnitz, Program Operations Coordinator, (she/her)
Amaya was born and raised in Portland Oregon she is very proud to come from Jamaican and Jewish ethnicities. She grew up in NE Portland Oregon and has worked to better serve her community. she has always had a passion for dance and in high school was a part of a west African dance troupe “sebekan.” when Amaya isn’t working, she loves hiking and spending time with her family. outside of the fun time, she dedicates a lot of her life and passion to serving individuals identifying as Black, LGBTQIA+, and who experience trauma. It is Amaya’s goal to establish a healthy safe way for people of color to reach out for help when they need it. Amaya who Identifies as a member of the LGBTQIA+ uses her voice to spread awareness.
Bianca Tyrell-Alarcon, Community Engagement Manager, (she/her they/them)
Bianca knows all too well the importance of having a guiding light during some of the most integral and vulnerable times of childhood. Although she didn’t herself have a mentor until later in life, it was school teachers and non- familial stable adult figures growing up that kept her from getting lost amidst some of those darker days. Ultimately, a mentorship would have done wonders at an early age, fortunately, however that opportunity came later in her 20s- a teacher directed Bianca to use her passions for social justice, communal and personal healing to therefore translate that into her life’s work. Bianca was drawn to Family Of Friends because she has seen how important a solid adult figure can be in providing guidance in the right direction. This is especially true for BIPOC and Queer youth, and as Queer identifying- she recognizes the unique need for a focus to make QBIPOC youth feel safe and empowered.
Outside of the Organization Bianca likes adventure, whether that be a fun drive through the mountains or hike somewhere new! She was born and raised in Colorado but is happy to call Oregon her new forever home.
Board of Directors
Alejandra Galindo, Latino Network
Alejandra manages Latino Network’s Community Healing Initiative, which engages at-risk and gang-involved youth to reduce violence and juvenile justice system involvement. When she’s not advocating for youth or spending time with her family, she’s working part-time as a real estate agent in the Portland Metro Area. She is extremely excited to join the Family of Friends Mentoring board to continue to serve her community and young people.
Francisco Marquez, OnPoint Credit Union
Francisco came to Oregon from Juarez, Mexico when he was 13 years old. He understands the feelings of loss and isolation among young people when they face a completely new culture and customs. When he became a father at age 18, a mentoring program at Reynolds Learning Academy became a life line, and completely changed the course of his life. It introduced him to a community of other teen parents and mentors who became his village of support and helped him develop confidence as a parent and a love of the outdoors in Oregon.
He is now a financial advisor at Merrill where he is driven to help low-income families position themselves for a better future. He’s excited to be a part of family of Friends Mentoring and help pay forward the power of mentoring.
Joe Walsh, City of Gresham
A native Oregonian, Joe graduated from the University of Oregon before starting a 10-year career with the Boys & Girls Clubs. There he learned firsthand about the impact of gangs on youth, and has used that experience to coordinate gang prevention efforts including mentoring programs in Hillsboro, Beaverton, Vancouver, and now, Gresham. Joe lives in Camas with his wife Alia and their three children: Lily (16), Jack (14) and Molly (10). He enjoys rooting for the Ducks and Blazers, and binge-watching Netflix. When not sitting on the couch, Joe also likes playing basketball, camping, and hiking, and plans to one day hike the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Lula Chaney, Native American Youth Association
Lula is a long time resident of Portland Oregon. Lula has a huge place in his heart for the youth of today. This is evident in the passion and drive he brings to his work. He is the founder of Intercity Sports Ministries (ISM); a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the legacy of Evelyn Collins (Miss Collins) the Mother Theresa of NE Portland. Lula is a passionate and avid advocate for youth and loves anything sports related, enjoys relaxing, listening to rap and R&B music, and appreciates traveling and day trips.
Lisa Elwood, Clackamas County Bank
Lisa Elwood is a Sam Barlow High School graduate, who has resided in Gresham for 24 years with her husband of 28 years and their two grown kids. As a native Oregonian, Lisa and her family enjoys the Pacific NW outdoors by hiking, biking and camping. Lisa has over 30 years of experience in banking and is currently a Loan Servicing Officer for Clackamas County Bank where she works to connect non-profit organizations in the surrounding communities with bank services and provide resources to those organizations with volunteers and other support. Understanding the importance of mentors in one’s life, Lisa finds passion in giving back as a volunteer to help impact kids and other community members like the mentors that she has had in her personal and professional life. She strongly believes that every child and young adult needs a healthy role model in their lives to help build character, integrity and life skills to be a successful adult.
Renee McKechnie, OHSU, Board Secretary
Renee is the Director of Digital Strategy for Oregon Health & Science University where she puts her Masters in Biomedical Informatics to good use by guiding strategy, infrastructure and user experience for OHSU’s websites. Through her career and volunteer work, she’s been involved with social service programs for more than 15 years. Renee is passionate about mentoring, and maintains a 6+ year relationship with her teenage mentee, Emily. As a native Oregonian, Renee enjoys gardening, skiing, and obsessing over the weather with her husband, Evan, and their dogs, Lucky and Rune.
Sandra Swartzendruber, Retired Banking Professional
Sandra first got involved with the program in 2016 when her husband Cloy started mentoring a 10 year old boy. She saw first hand the positive difference this program made in both their lives. Sandra has over 35 years of banking experience, most recently as Vice President of Commercial Loan Operations for US Bank. Unfortunately she has been medically retired for the past several years. She now enjoys volunteering her time and has served on multiple nonprofit boards, mainly focusing on children. Sandra has two adult children and just welcomed her first granddaughter in February 2021. She enjoys traveling with her husband, including going to their cabin at Lake Merwin and spending time on the water. She also enjoys riding power a assisted hand cycle to go on long bike rides with friends and family.
Shelly Arnold, Rivermark Community Credit Union