Shannon Olive, Board President
Shannon Olive was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She is 40 years old with two boys (22 and 20) who also live in Portland. After graduating from Concorde Career Institute with her Medical Assistant in 2004 it was very challenging to find a job. Later that year, she was introduced to Oregon Action by Johnnie Gage during the George Bush vs John Kerry 2004 Presidential Election and they were recruiting for their voter registration campaign.
Shannon never voted, but that year discovered that she can too make a difference and was glad to be a part of something different. Shannon was unstoppable, and now had joined the social movement, fighting for our rights, addressing issues then and now that would make Oregon a better place for low-income communities of color. Her first organizer position was with OPAL (Organizing People, Activating Leaders) and Environmental Justice Group in SE Portland. She organized their first Bus Riders Campaign and they informed over 2,000 Bus Riders about the fare increase and budgets cuts.
After her work with OPAL, Shannon returned to Portland Community College to further her education with an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice. While attending school she became an employee working with ASPCC Student Government for two years as the Director of Legislative Affairs. In June 2015, Shannon received her Associate Degree. Shannon has been serving her community since 2004. Now she’s the Founder/President for WomenFirst Transition & Referral Center, working to serve women in re-entry and recovery - supporting them to rebuild their lives to succeed. She will never stop. The fight is in her and she will continue to fight for change until it comes.
LaFonda Grant, Board Treasurer
Lafonda Grant is an empowered woman of color. She is a wife of 22 years, mother, sister, aunt, grandma and a best friend. At a young age she was raped, abandoned (mental illness), involved with Children Service Division, was addicted to crack cocaine, and had multiple of thefts on her record which caused her to be put away to prison. She experienced domestic violence and didn’t have no one to turn to. She was all messed up hit rock bottom.
Lafonda learned to love herself first. She is somebody who can teach love, give love, and create ways to share the love. Lafonda had to seek a doorway to learn to give herself a second chance. Having a higher power to give strength, developing tools for life-skills, obtaining the knowledge through her life-experiences too be willing to help others. She created a steady foundation to build relationships, so she can share her experiences. Out of love and hard work, Lafonda is somebody with a voice, has gratitude, making accomplishments to be able to fulfill her goals and discover what potential she has. Lafonda is a forgiver, she’s beautiful, she is awesome, a leader, and most of all she loves herself. Lafonda also has a degree in medical billing and coding from Portland Community College. And she is returning back to school to further her education to become a Phlebotomist.
Elona Wilson, Board Secretary
Elona is a native Oregonian, meaning she thrives in the rain and lives in her Birkenstocks. She found her passion in education at an early age, teaching her siblings how to read. As soon as she discovered her patience for teaching, development and empowerment, she was hooked. In her early years, she moved schools constantly due to her mother’s evictions, homelessness and eventually was taken in by a family in southeast Portland. She attended Franklin high school and was an Advanced Scholars mentor, 3-sport varsity athlete, an AP student and involved whenever she had a spare moment. Her senior year she was awarded the Black United Fund of Oregon leadership scholarship, became a Ford Family Foundation Scholar, and was fortunate enough to attend Pacific University.
During the summer before her junior year, she interned with Portland Public Schools in the district communications department, doing outreach. She went out into the community during the lead crisis and became an in-person resource for the public. The following summer, she took over as outreach coordinator. During this time, she took on interns of her own, did presentations on soft skills for Summer works interns, and worked with her team to introduce the new Superintendent, Guadalupe Guerrero. This was the year that she went out into the community solo to be the liaison between the district and the communities it serves.
She went on to be the first in her family to graduate from college and she was blessed to do so without incurring debt. In her years at Pacific, she became the youngest ever elected student body president, lived and studied in Barcelona Spain, changed her major 11 times, joined the Rowing, Rugby and Handball teams and discovered her calling. She initially wanted to become an elementary school teacher, but through research and a better understanding of the US public school system, she realized the corruption that is at play. She was always told that if she had a problem or complaint, she had to be a part of the solution, so she decided that she would pursue policy and business to one day be a part of the change that needs to happen in Washington DC. Her goal would be to work with the Secretary of Education, advocating for our students and making change to education at a national level because she truly believes that students are our future and thus they are the thing most worth investing in. She wrote an editorial that the Oregonian published titled “Students need support to thrive” highlighting the need for more support schools.
Renee James Wallace, Board Member
Renee James is the Mother of six, Grandmother of twelve and Great Grandmother of seven. She has been married for 17 years and has a Pomerania Chihuahua named Marley whom thinks he is a person and not a dog.
Renee received her GED from Portland Community College and completed several college courses over a two-year period before she became a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor at Hooper Detox for six years. She continued her counseling skills until 1999 when she began working for Multnomah County in several different classifications includingThe Needle Exchange, HIV case manager/ outreach worker, Data Entry specialist, Community Health Worker, Program Technician until she secured her dream job as a Program Specialist SME in the field of Early Childhood Home Visiting programs. She currently co/Program Manages four contracted agencies within Multnomah County that administer the National and State Healthy Families Home Visiting Programs.
She is an Ordained Missionary at Emmanuel Church in North Portland and enjoys advocating for her friends, family and community for Justice, Equity and CHANGE.
She has led different advisory groups in her community including a Parent Advisory and now leads the Maternal Child & Family Health advisory group, which includes stakeholders from the community, Early Childhood Home Visiting programs and parents.
Renee believes that experience is often the best teacher and welcomes the expertise of others always.
She was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and has lived in California, Louisiana, Arizona and hopes to retire in Hawaii.