I am the product of two mid-west, small town farm families who instilled in me the value of hard work and the importance of family and community. We moved to the Bay Area from Minnesota when I was seven. I attended public schools, graduating from Lynbrook High School in San Jose, and then San Jose State University where I majored in Occupational Therapy. Many years later, I received a Masters in Interfaith Studies from the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment in San Jose.
I began my professional career with Catholic Charities in their Vocational Learning and Treatment Center, supporting adults with mental illness in gaining skills and employment. In 1990, I joined a fledgling high-tech laser and optics start-up which eventually went public, where I worked in customer service, facilities management and human resources for nearly ten years.
In 1994, I was invited to be a mentor for a new program in the East Side Union High School District for students who were struggling with issues involving gangs, drug or alcohol abuse, violence, or severe academic underachievement. The program profoundly changed my life and I have been involved in one way or another ever since. Community service continues to be a passion. Here are a few of the volunteer activities I have been involved in:
- Bright Futures/Conexíon to Community, mentor trainer and coach
- California Community Partners for Youth, volunteer
- South Bay Mentoring Coalition, founder and conference organizer
- Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, youth and adult spirituality leader
- Restorative Justice Council for the Diocese of San Jose, board member
- Pax Christi East San Jose , member
- Juvenile Hall Flower Program, volunteer coordinator
- Carry The Vision Community Nonviolence Conference, past event manager and youth program coordinator
- Santa Clara County Restorative Justice Program, volunteer area coordinator
- Girl Scouts of Santa Clara County, troop leader
In 2015, I was appointed and in 2016, elected to the East Side Union High School District Board of Trustees. I am married to Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese and have two children, ages 21 and 25, and two adult step children