Elisa Andrade

Regional Organizing Director, Directora Organizadora Regional

Elisa is a first generation immigrant from Mexico City, Mexico and has established deep roots in the U.S. Growing up in the small town of Silverton, Oregon her initial work in nonprofit was her involvement with Silverton Food Bank and Silverton Together as a young volunteer. Elisa has drawn inspiration from her mother’s involvement in the Latina farmworker and immigrant organization Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas. An organization she holds dear to her hart to this day and one she continues to support as a lead member of the organization. Elisa has invested much of her time to serving immigrant families having worked for PCUN Service Center as a Partially Accredited Representative, approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals to represent immigrants before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. More recently she continues to assist low income families and immigrants in the Salem area as a Resource Navigator for Mano a Mano a sister organization of PCUN with in the CAPACES network. She is a proud mom of three: two boys 3 yr., 10 month old, and a 10 year old stepdaughter.

Sharon Bernstein

Deputy Director of Programming, Directora Adjunta de Programación

Sharon oversees our finances and operations, and provides support to our organizing program. She has more than 20 years of experience working in non-profits and education, with a focus on leadership development, equity, and social justice. Sharon was one of the original founders of Family Forward back in 2009 and has loved seeing the organization grow. When she's not working, Sharon loves to be out in nature as much as possible.

Kaitlin Gaffney

Development Director, Directora de desarrollo

Kaitlin brings to the political team over 15 years of experience working in federal politics and campaigns, including serving on Senator Merkley’s state team for a decade. Most recently, Kaitlin worked to pass Measure 26-214 Preschool for All, bringing universal preschool to Multnomah County.

Kaitlin comes to this work having experienced the difficulty of affording childcare while remaining in the workforce full time. She is a passionate advocate for racial, gender, and economic equity and is excited to work to advance policies and change systems to benefit and support mothers and caregivers. Kaitlin lives in Portland with her wife and their two boys.

Regan Gray

Child Care Policy Advisor, Asesora en Políticas sobre Cuidado Infantil

Regan Gray is the Child Care Policy Advisor for Family Forward. With 18 years of legislative experience in the Oregon State Legislature as staff, lobbyist and advocate, she has proven to be a strong leader on policies for women, children and families throughout her career. A native Oregonian and Portland State University graduate, Regan lives in Oak Grove with her partner and three young children.

Rae Jesequel

Operations Coordinator, Coordinadora de Operaciones

Rae is mom to four kids, ages 8, 13, 19, and 22. She has been a single mom, a stay-at-home mom, and is currently a married, working mom. Her experiences with motherhood opened her eyes to the serious lack of systemic support in this country for caregivers, and she became involved in activism with many different organizations, finally devoting most of her time to Family Forward. She previously served as Board Chair for Family Forward Action, as well as two terms on the Mother PAC endorsement committee. When she is not smashing the patriarchy, she enjoys making art, getting tattooed, reading, weightlifting, and hanging out at the dog park with her German Shepherd puppy making new 4 legged friends.

Nichi Linder

Grant Writer and Database Coordinator, Administrador de Datos

Nichi is a long-time feminist who believes strongly in the power of grassroots movement to create real social change in our communities. When women, particularly women of color, are lifted up, we all win. She has dedicated her professional career to creating positive change that betters the lives of Oregonians. With nearly a decade of experience in the reproductive rights & justice movement, Nichi is well-versed on what it takes to win. She’s an activist, a mother, an aspiring gardener, and a dedicated social justice warrior who knows learning never stops – and the fight for justice is worth it.

Ali Mayeda

Communications Director, Directora de comunicaciones

Ali has fifteen years of experience in communications and politics, including federal policy, ballot measures, and legislative campaigns. Prior to joining Family Forward she served as Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici’s Deputy District Director for almost seven years. She’s passionate about supporting families and young children and advancing racial justice, climate justice, and queer and trans equality. Originally from rural Maine, Ali has lived in Portland for 10 years. Outside of work she’s a proud mom, gardener, bike commuter, and picky reader.

Audreona Mullens

Regional Organizing Director, Directora Organizadora Regional

Audreona has always lived in the PNW. Growing up in Vancouver WA, she began volunteering with non-profits as a young teenager working with organisations created to prevent teenage suicide through peer support and mentorship. She served on the Clark County Youth Commissioners Board through high school.

Audreona began working in nonprofits 2015 with New Avenues for Youth as a way to give back and get involved after having accessed services as a young adult. There she worked with youth in job development and created programming specifically for youth of color. From there she worked with various other non-profit organisations, like ALF-Oregon, RaceTalks, and Financial Beginnings Oregon before becoming a stay at home mother in 2019.

After a birth related injury resulted in her son having a disability she became aware of how many limited resources exists for parents who are also caregivers to disabled children, the drastic differences in birth outcomes for women of color and specifically black women, and how current support systems directly correlate to poverty in families affected by disabilities. Deciding she wanted to do something about it she began meeting with other mothers of color whose children had special needs and created a small but mighty group of mothers who helped with milk sharing/feeding challenges, respite care, and general community building.

When she is not working she can be found gardening, reading, going to the dog park, knitting, and singing loudly along to metal core or broadway & musical show tunes. She lives in Gresham with her husband, son, and 3 dogs.

Mersades Thompson

Digital Communications Manager

Mersades is a talented digital communicator who founded Reliable Nanny Connection two years ago to connect families with safe and reliable child care providers. As a child care provider and mother herself, she is passionate about our mission and vision for a world where care is seen and valued! She is also a frequent attendee and speaker at the PSU Black Convening, where she offers her child care services yearly so BIPOC community members can share space and work towards healing. Mersades is on the City of Beaverton Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee as an active board member. Mersades and her husband live in SW Portland with their three children and dog Coco.

Courtney Veronneau

Deputy Director of Movement Building, Directora Adjunta de Edificio del Movimiento

Courtney brings over a decade of political and policy experience to Family Forward. She led the lobby effort to pass the most inclusive paid family & medical leave and reproductive healthcare access policies in the nation and historic investments in child care. Courtney has also brought her valuable political experience to ballot initiatives, like No on 106: No Cuts to Care, and nearly a dozen candidate campaigns.

As the Sr. Political Director since 2020 at Family Forward, Courtney led the development of political strategy for the organization. This includes developing and managing the political team to implement high-level campaign plans that incorporate policy, legislative, political, field, communications and organizing strategies

When she is not working or snuggled up with her dogs watching paranormal investigation shows, Courtney serves on the City of Portland Open & Accountable Elections Commission and as a Co-Chair for the Oregon Child Care Capacity Building Fund at Seeding Justice. She grew up in Southern Oregon but has called Portland home for over a decade. Courtney earned a B.A. from the University of Oregon.

Candice R. Vickers MEd, MSSE

Executive Director, Directora Ejecutiva

Candice R. Vickers grew up in NE Portland and graduated from McCoy Academy Public Charter School with the Portland Teachers Program scholarship. She earned a Bachelor of English with a minor in psychology and a Master of Education from Portland State University before becoming a high school Language Arts teacher in Molalla, Oregon. She went on to earn a Master of Science in Special Education and is currently completing her doctoral degree in leadership and policy. Throughout her career, she has been dedicated to interrupting the inequities experienced by students of color, students with disabilities, and students learning English in our public schools. This includes creating systems to ensure students were not disproportionately disciplined, excluded from school, and that they received the special education services they deserved and were entitled to.

Throughout her career, she has served in a variety of teaching and leadership roles including general and special education teacher, district climate coach, assistant principal, student services supervisor, principal, school director, and executive director of student services. She has served as a board member in a non profit organization in N Portland, on bargaining teams in two large school districts, and as a mentor, mother, partner, and daughter. Her commitment to equity has led to diverse opportunities to serve historically underserved communities in a variety of contexts and spaces, and to grow as a servant leader.