June 10, 2022 – Portland Workforce Alliance is excited to welcome five new wonderful members to the Board of Directors, who work in industries including business, manufacturing, higher education and public services.

We asked our nominees about their early career experiences and what brings them to PWA. Learn more about them and the unique perspectives they bring to the organization below:

Tania Sanchez
Portland State University 

Best career advice: “Don’t let others determine what you are capable of achieving” 

Most memorable job as a teenager: During high school, I got a job at the mall. Like most teenagers back then, I thought it was “so cool” to be able to work at the mall. That idea of “so cool” was short-lived, however, being able to have my own money was well worth it.

Something I learned in high school about work:  Always show up and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are unsure of something.  

What draws me to serve PWA: As a first-generation student from a lower income family, I too have had people and organizations such as PWA that have helped me in my educational and career journey.  Working in higher education has taught me the importance of providing students with tools and resources that allow them to make informed decisions that help pave the road to success.


Cole Whitehurst
Multnomah County 

Best career advice: Don’t burn bridges and clean up the messes when you can.

Most memorable job as a teenager: The physically challenging blue-collar jobs. I worked for Portland Public Schools painting the walls and cutting the grassy fields.

Something I learned in high school about work: My experience playing sports taught me the importance of working within a team.  Everyone on the team has a role, and collectively, we all support each other.

What draws me to serve PWA: We have to invest in our local community. When I was young, several people mentored me. My role at Multnomah County is managing our College internship program, a pathway for career exposure and ultimately stability.

Amanda Sayler
Greenbrier Gunderson

Best career advice: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

Most memorable job as a teenager: While working as a bank teller in high school, I had the opportunity to connect and build rapport with people in all walks of life. The daily interactions with the public helped shape who I am today by teaching me both resiliency and compassion.   

Something I learned in high school about work: The greater the effort, the greater the reward.

What draws me to serve PWA: Being born and raised in Portland, I am deeply drawn to the opportunity to give back to our community by supporting the development of our youth. Having grown up and now raising children in Portland, I’ve seen the systemic and extrinsic changes that are leaving a broader section of our youth at risk of being left behind. I want to be a part of the transformation that provides alternatives for students who gravitate toward a learning-by-doing and mentoring approach to workplace training and career development.

Courtney Wright

Best career advice:  “Attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” This was advice from a coach at my school in Michigan. I think energy and curiosity are two of the most important things you can bring to a job.  

Most memorable job as a teenager: I worked as a sports & science counselor at the Lawrence Hall of Science in California. I loved being able to combine two things I'm passionate about, and share that inspiration with kids. 

Something I learned in high school about work: As a coach and tutor, I learned how impactful each and every interaction you have with another person can be. I think intention and empathy are two of the most valuable skills someone can develop. 

What draws me to serve PWA: I am passionate about creating accessible opportunities for students from all backgrounds to pursue their dreams. I have volunteered to lead STEM programs for students from underrepresented backgrounds for the past seven years, and am excited to apply those learnings with PWA.

Gabriela Patino

Best career advice: Some of the best traits you can build for your career is to be a good listener and a lifelong learner. 

Most memorable job as a teenager: I worked in an office with my Aunt - a lot of simple clerical and organization projects. One of the most memorable things from that job was that we had to use a typewriter for manual checks.

Something I learned in high school about work: Attention to detail in my work and building connections are so important.

What draws me to serve PWA: The opportunity to give back to the community and support youth in a way that I wish I would have had when I was younger. I'm also drawn to the opportunity to share my experiences and potentially inspire them to join a line of work that they may have never considered.

The PWA board of directors will vote on nominees at its June 14 board meeting, where it will also elect the 2022-23 officers. 

PWA Welcomes New Board Members for the 2022-23 School Year
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