Staff / Board of Directors
Our exceptional staff keeps kids focused on achieving their highest aspirations, through education.
Barbara Peterson’s career path has been interesting, to say the least. She has worked as a policy analyst for Interamerica studying the social service needs of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the Yakima Valley; a bus driver (and proud member of the Amalgamated Transit Union) for Metro Transit in Seattle; a senior financial analyst at BankAmerica; an analyst of higher education policy at the Higher Education Coordinating Board; and Director of LASER (Lawyers and Students Engaged in Resolution) for the Office of the Attorney General. And that’s only a partial list. Since 1999 she has been a director, now Executive Director of ALTERA, formerly NLA Group, an educational nonprofit located in Wapato on the Yakama reservation in the Yakima Valley in Washington State.
Born in Fresno, California, Sandra moved to Longview, Washington with her family when she was in fourth grade. After marrying, she and her husband lived at Fairchild AFB in Spokane, and Edwards AFB in Mohave, California before moving back to Kent, Washington and finally to Zillah, where they have been happily settled for the past 16 years.
Born and raised in Eastern Montana, Luann Anderson grew up as one of eleven on a farm, where her job every day was doing whatever job needed to be done. The work ethic and dedication of her parents continue to inspire her to this day. She has also lived in Bismarck and Turtle Lake (North Dakota) Plevna, Flaxville, Whitehall, and Florence (Montana), Dupree (South Dakota), and Cowiche (Washington), where she serves the kindergarten through third-grade students at Marcus Whitman Elementary in the Highland School District. Not every small town in the West, but an impressive number of them! </
Tiffany Coulson holds a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. She is a member of Beta Phi Mu, the international honor society for library & information science. Tiffany has traveled to 13 countries and lived in 5 on 3 continents. For the past 25 years she has raised her family on an apple orchard in rural Washington State. The only librarian in her small rural town, she continues her scholarship as an information professional by volunteering as a local and international literacy advocate.
The middle child of five siblings, Jeanette Kinlichinii was born to a Navajo mother and a French Canadian/Chippewa father and was raised on the on the Navajo Nation until she was 13 years old. Since then, she has lived in southern and northern California, central Michigan, the Colorado Rockies, Portland, Oregon, and western and eastern Washington. Currently, she is residing in Moxee, WA, “The Hops Capital”.
Michael Kranz grew up in the small Eastern Washington town of Tieton, not far from the intermediate school where he now works. He graduated from Highland High School in 2001 and continued his education at Central Washington University where he received his Bachelor of Sciences degree in Recreational Management.
Diego Laguna attended Missouri Baptist University where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Marketing and minor in Business Administration, and his Master of Sciences in Sport Management. Before moving to Washington State, he was Student Coordinator at Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services. Originally from Lima, Peru, Diego continues to be inspired by the hardworking and dedicated teachers and coaches at his school in Peru.
Fredy Marin earned his Bachelor of Arts in Business Management from Yakima Valley College in 2021. He has lived in the Tieton/Cowiche area since he was six years old, where he completed all his schooling in the Highland School District before taking a job first as a tutor for four years in the “Make Change” program before becoming the full time Junior/Senior Site Coordinator.
Dawn Miller was born in Seattle, but spent most of her life growing up elsewhere, including Fort Wayne, Indiana; Bayard, Nebraska; and Tonasket, Washington, where her father became a pastor at the same church where his father had served as pastor before him. She now resides in the town of Oroville. There’s no place in the world where she would rather live, because she can hike, hunt, fish, garden, and swim, all just a short distance from her own front door.
Juan Pore has a Masters in Education from Central Washington University, with an emphasis on Educational Leadership and Administration and a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Public Relations from Grand Valley State University with 20 years of experience in various roles of teaching and program administration. He is a 2021 Educator Award recipient and a 2020 Educator Honorable Mention of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Eastern Affiliate for his work with encouraging and engaging young female students in rural communities to pursue STEM careers in computer science, robotics, coding, and gaming.
Brandon Speers was born and raised in Puyallup, Washington, and earned an AA degree from nearby Green River Community College. After working in the restaurant and food industry for 15 years, he moved to Tonasket and took a job with AmeriCorps, tutoring and providing afterschool programs at Tonasket Elementary School. Inspired by how much he loved this work, he returned to college and earned a degree in Elementary Education from Western Governors University.
Bertha Villa-Maldonado has a Bachelor of Arts in Education, endorsed in Spanish, English Language Arts (ELA) and English as a Second Language (ESL) from Eastern Washington University. She received a Masters in Foreign Languages/Cultures and Pedagogy from Washington State University, and completed Ph.D. courses in Literature at Arizona State University with an emphasis on Mexican-American literature.
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Nila Whiteshirt is enrolled Pawnee with Otoe and Arapaho Tribal affiliations. She currently lives on the Yakama Nation Indian Reservation. Nila continues to draw on her innate spirituality, which was nurtured and developed through generations of family members helping each other navigate their lives. Her native cultural ties have always inspired her to be resilient and attentive to her place in the world, professionally and personally.
Amy Alvarez-Wampfler's earliest memories are of her immigrant family working the land while she played in the shade of a cherry tree. Growing up in rural Eastern Washington, she developed an appreciation for agriculture at an early age, but it wasn't until she joined the tasting room staff at Columbia Crest Winery shortly after high school that a career path took hold. Combining her talent for growing things with her gift for sensory analysis, she pursued winemaking. Since then, her expertise has grown to include wine marketing, sales, finance, and business development.
Rick Foss holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education, a Master of Education in Administration with a Superintendent Credential. Rick began his experience as a music teacher in a small district in Eastern Lewis County in Washington State. The district served three towns: Packwood, Randle and Glenoma. Employment centered on the logging industry. Most students came from homes that earned middle-class incomes, and about 35% of students went on to college while the remainder stayed in the area and worked in the forests and lumber mills.
John McLain has a 40-year career in higher education. He currently serves as Associate Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, Grants, and Foundation Relations at The Evergreen State College. In this role, John leads the college’s efforts to raise external financial support for scholarships; Native arts, cultures, and education; prison education; faculty and student research; student support programs such as TRIO Student Services; faculty and staff development; community-based learning; high school outreach and college readiness programs; capital projects; and technology.
Bertha grew up in Toppenish in the Lower Yakima Valley, an agricultural region in central Washington State; her family has been in the region since the 1940’s when her father came as a migrant seasonal farmworker. Her extended family of siblings, nieces and nephews, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren fill positions throughout the central Washington region that include university and K-12 educators, and in myriad other fields. Throughout her long career in the Lower Yakima Valley of Washington State, she has focused on improving education and the quality of life in the Yakima Valley.
Marvin Ortiz is a first-generation college graduate, former GEAR UP student, and scholarship recipient from Central Washington. He currently works for Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS), Family Reconciliation Services (FRS), & Family Voluntary Services (FVS) Social Worker for the Washington State Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF). He holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Service from Central Washington University. He is enrolled in the Master of Social Work program at the University of Washington.
Rafael Ramirez has had a long and varied career supporting education and education policy in both state and federal roles. At the federal level, he worked in the office of Senator Bingaman, (Democrat, New Mexico) where he helped craft the legislation creating the National Hispanic Serving Institutions Bill. Within the Department of Education, he helped to write the legislation for the national Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program for college outreach for underrepresented students, becoming the program’s first National Director.
An experienced postsecondary educator, Dr. Riznyk has held faculty and administrative positions at California State Polytechnic University Pomona, Alaska Pacific University, Central Washington University, and California State University Dominguez Hills. He was instrumental in developing and receiving federal funding for programs that help low-income, first-generation students successfully transition to both undergraduate and graduate postsecondary programs. Dr. Riznyk has a BS in biology from the University of New Mexico and a PhD in botany from Oregon State University.
Dr. Sandoval has worked for decades in positions supporting Hispanic issues, including stints in higher education, academic research, and policy development for various government entities and foundations. He is also a published author with expertise in Hispanic voter behaviors.
Judith Shulman spent most of her life in urban environments, growing up and attending college in Chicago, while working her way through school. She obtained her law degree from Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut, then practiced law in Seattle at Davis Wright, becoming a partner in real estate and business. She left Davis Wright to start a “Woman Business Enterprise” consulting company (PHAROS Corporation) specializing in real estate acquisitions for government and railroad projects nationwide. For this work, she was recognized as Nellie Cashman Woman Business Owner of the Year in 2002. She grew the company to 75 employees before selling it to HDR Engineering, Inc., and “retiring” in 2011.
Leroy Werkoven is a retired educator with 30 years’ experience in Washington State’s K-12 schools. A co-founder of Altera (aka NLA), Leroy worked for the agency for 13 years as Director and Co-Executive Director. His vision for ALTERA is to continue to find ways to help rural youth find success in school and mature into contributing citizens.