Marathon Scholars was founded in 2002 by eight friends who wanted to make a meaningful difference in their community. Struck by the low high school and college graduation rates among children from low-income families, they developed a model that incorporates a long-term relationship between a child (“Scholar”) and an adult (“Mentor”) and provides them a $12,000 college scholarship. Our founders recognized that the journey to college for a child from an under-resourced community is much like an actual marathon and requires practice, hard work, perseverance, and help along the way.
We recruited our first class of Marathon Scholars in 2003 and new Scholars have been recruited every year since. In 2011 the first class of Scholars entered college and in 2014 that class saw its first graduates. In 2014 our Mentor Program was certified as a Quality Based mentoring program by Oregon Mentors and we continue to maintain high standards for program design and delivery. In 2016 we added the College Advising Program to help our graduates navigate the many challenges of college. Marathon Scholars is the only mentoring program in the Portland metro area that makes a 12+ year commitment to ensuring our students not only get to college, but through it as well.
We believe that higher education is life changing and should be available to all who aspire, regardless of their socio-economic situations. We work with whole families, recognizing that establishing trusting relationships are key to the success of the young Scholars enrolled in our programs. First generation students and their families face obstacles that are often second nature to multi-generation college educated families, so it’s critically important to engage and educate the entire family to ensure their successful navigation of the college admissions process and adaptation to campus life.
As a youth empowerment organization, Marathon Scholars aims to remove or mitigate barriers to accessing a quality education and college track opportunities for young people from low-income communities. Our approach to this work combines best practice models in youth mentoring and college readiness support with financial scholarships that, together, help close the achievement gap for talented, low-income students who are the first in their families to attend college.
Meet The Team
Wendy is an experienced nonprofit leader working to make our community more equitable for nearly two decades most recently as the Executive Director of the North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity. She served as the Director of Community Relations at Mt Hood Community College and raised funds for student scholarships. She served in leadership roles with her local Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, and Toastmasters. Wendy holds a BA in Management and Organizational Leadership from George Fox University and completed an Executive Leadership Development Series sponsored by WVDO.
Youth Program Director
Molli joined the Marathon Scholars team in August 2015. With 11 years of nonprofit program development and management experience serving families experiencing trauma and 6 years as a mentor herself, she brings a broad range of skills to support youth and mentor relationships. Molli holds a BS in Human Development and Family Studies as well as a Masters in Social Work, both from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
College Program Director
Brooke has mentored since 2010 and is excited to offer education and coaching our seniors in high school through their last year in college. As a first-generation college graduate, she wholeheartedly understands how college access and degree attainment can change the life of a first-gen student and open doors to worlds unknown. Brooke holds a Masters in Social Work and Certificate in Nonprofit Administration from Saint Louis University.
Meet Our Board
Principal, Cheney Consulting
David Cheney began working for several family-led businesses before starting his international career with Lafarge, a multinational construction materials firm. David advanced to leadership of the HR function of Lafarge’s North American Cement Division and was subsequently promoted to President of its industrial services subsidiary, Systech Environmental. After a corporate merger, David moved with his wife, Dawn, to Oregon in 2016. David currently leads a business & HR consulting practice and acts as an advisor to several local family-owned business leaders. David’s volunteer work is oriented to causes that leverage development and training to build communities which is at the very heart of the Marathon Scholars mission.
Attorney, Tonkon Torp LLC
Claire received her JD and MBA from Vanderbilt University where she was a Dean’s Scholar and inducted into the Beta Gamma Sigma honors society. At Vanderbilt, she served as an officer of several clubs and was active in venture capital and startup activities. Claire also volunteered with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, a nonprofit incubator and accelerator for early-stage companies. During her last year of graduate school, she spent a semester as a full-time intern with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement in New York City. Prior to starting her JD/MBA program, Claire was a financial intern for Obsidian Finance Group in Portland and a volunteer for a nonprofit in Tanzania. While a law student, she completed various legal internships, including with Mentor Graphics in Portland and as a summer associate at Tonkon Torp.
Daniel Edwards, CPA
Reporting Manager, Intel
Daniel is an external reporting manager at Intel, with emphasis on the balance sheet, statement of cash flow, and related footnotes. Daniel performs research, assures compliance with accounting guidance, and owns and reviews SOX controls. He has been with Intel since 2015 and was previously involved in acquisitions and divestitures, intercompany accounting, and operational efficiencies. Daniel joined Marathon's board in 2018 and is acting as the Treasurer and Chair of the Finance & Governance Committee. He has a master's degree in accounting from Utah State University, and undergraduate degrees in finance, economics, and accounting. He is a licensed CPA in the state of Oregon. Daniel's prior work experience includes KPMG and retail banking.
Former Marathon Scholar
As a recent graduate from Concordia University, Portland and Marathon Scholars, I am very eager to participate in the program as the newest board member. My family immigrated to America from Belarus in 2005 and I was fortunate enough to become a Marathon Scholar in 2006. Having graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in psychology, I am on the way to pursuing my career in the medical field. I am very passionate about helping people and have chosen to do so by working in healthcare and hopefully, one day becoming a doctor. In the meantime, I am very thankful for the opportunity to have been a Marathon scholar and am looking forward to give back to the program and help other students and their families reach their educational goals.
Manager, Master Plan Development
Born in Portland Oregon, raised in the San Francisco Bay area, Andrea is pleased to be back living in Portland. A graduate of Santa Clara University with a BS and an MBA, she is operating a family business focused on commercial and industrial real estate in the greater Portland metro area.
With Arehart Advisors, Luke works in a solution-focused firm providing concrete framework giving clients confidence to overcome barriers and achieve goals. The advisory services offer unique knowledge in an array of markets, opportunities to connect with decision makers and the ability to execute strategy toward measurable results. Luke has spent much of his career working in the retail implementation industry in support of some of the largest athletic, outdoor and luxury brands in the world. Luke currently works in retail space development using his experience in retail environment/fixture design, account management, as-built drawing production and installations. Luke’s experience in the industry also includes work in business development, client services and marketing. A first-generation college graduate, he earned his Bachelor of Architecture and English degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is a regular contributing writer/editor for PortlandArchitecture.com with guest posts featured on Young Architect, Medium and Architizer.
Business Operations Manage, Intel Corporation
Chris is a Business Operations Manager at Intel Corporation, supporting the Silicon Engineering Group. He is responsible for supporting the group’s Chief of Staff with a focus on Data Analytics & Organizational Health. Chris assumed his current role in 2018, after nearly 7 years at Intel. In his previous roles, Chris has supported Intel’s Purchasing & Accounting organizations where he has been recognized for his efforts on Systems, Processes Design & Master Data Management. Chris joined Marathon’s board in 2018 and sits on the Finance & Governance Committee. He is an alum of Michigan State University with an MBA, where he also chaired Wikipedia’s North America Education Program. He has a Bachelor’s in Finance and Computer Science from Saint Mary’s University.
Sr. Director, Direct to Consumer Core Products and Programs, NIKE
Susan began her professional career as a computer programmer at Mountain Bell Telephone (US West) in Denver, Colorado moving up the ranks in the Technology organization and into a Software Development Management position. Along the way, Susan earned a MBA from the University of Colorado at Denver, and a Master’s Certificate in Program Management from the University of Denver. After leaving US West, Susan took a technology manager position at Nike and moved to Portland, Oregon. Susan is currently the Senior Director of Commerce Core capabilities in the Nike Digital Engineering organization. She joined the Board of Marathon Scholars in 2016.
Board Chair, Portland Patrol, Inc.
John is Board Chair of Portland Patrol, Inc. which helps to ensure the safety and security of individuals, businesses, and property in the downtown area. PPI serves as the “Safe” side of the Portland Business Alliance’s Downtown Clean & Safe Program that provides security and cleaning for Portland’s Business Improvement District. John is a retired Captain from the Portland Police Bureau. A first-generation college student from Scappoose, John attended the University of Oregon and knows first-hand the struggles of adapting to college life. John is one of the founders of Green House, and New Avenues for Youth. He also served as Chair and board member of Advantis Credit Union. John has served on the Marathon Board of Directors since 2016.
Attorney, Schwabe Williamson Wyatt
Juan is an attorney with Schwabe Williamson Wyatt. Juan is a first-generation college graduate and closely identifies with the Marathon’s mission. Juan grew up in South Los Angeles and was fortunate to have had a strong caring family and one of a very small group of kids who were singled out for enrichment programs putting him on a track to college, but Juan could see how many kids of potential were left behind. Juan graduated from UC, Santa Barbara and received his JD from University of Oregon Law School. Juan also serves on the Oregon Hispanic Bar Association and Liaison to the Hispanic National Bar Association. He joined the Board of Marathon Scholars in 2018.
Senior Claim Technician, Liberty Mutual
Ka is the parent of one of our current scholars in her junior year of high school. Ka is very engaged with the Marathon Community and is an avid supporter of the program. Inspired by her daughters, Ka is enrolled at PCC and plans to enter PSU. Ka currently works at Liberty Mutual Insurance as a Senior Claims Technician where she manages workers compensation accounts for the states of Oregon, California, and Washington. She joined the Marathon Scholars Board in 2016.
Director of Admissions, De la Salle North Catholic High School
Ni’Cole Sims has years of experience working in higher education with positions ranging from advising to academic coaching. She has also taught college success courses at Portland State University. Her strong dedication and passion for the field of education was developed while an undergraduate student at Portland State University where she earned not just one, but four separate bachelor degrees. Yet, the greatest honor bestowed upon Ni’Cole while an undergraduate student at PSU was when she was selected from among the top students at PSU to deliver the student commencement speech.
After completing her advanced degree in Educational Leadership and Policy, Ni’Cole went on to work at Pacific University as the Assistant Director of Graduate and Professional Admissions where she works to help students gain admission into more than 15 different health profession programs. With a commitment to social justice, diversity, equity and inclusion, Ni’Cole joined Northwest Regional Education Service District as the regional achievement collaborative coordinator. Most recently, she supported a Department of Education grant — the Opening Doors Project — through Portland Community College, which increases college and career opportunities for young women at Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility, providing support pre- and post-release.
Ni’Cole is a proud mother of two sons, Malik – a Marathon Scholar – and A.J., and as a first-generation college student knows first-hand that low-income students face a number of barriers during their pursuit to earn a college degree, which is why she’s eager to be a part of the Marathon Community.
SVP, Senior Property Manager, The Schlesinger Company
After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Art Center College of Design, Mark started working as a professional photographer in Los Angeles’ fashion and music industry. He later moved back to Portland for the family business, The Schlesinger Companies, whose foundation is a strong supporter of Marathon. Mark joined the Marathon family as mentor in 2016. His nephew, Josh, is also a mentor and sponsor. Mark is the past President and former Board Member of Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Multnomah and Washington Counties, a former Board Member of Portland Center Stage, and a former Trustee for Legacy Good Samaritan, Emanuel Medical Center, and Emanuel Children’s Hospital Foundations. He is currently the Secretary of the Schlesinger Family Foundation, the immediate past board chair of Portland’s Downtown Clean & Safe, a board member of the University of Oregon Portland Council Advisory Board, and a Board Member of the Portland Business Alliance.
Senior Director of Philanthropy, Cascadia Behavioral Health
Deniz Tasdemiroglu Conger is a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) and has raised more than $150M in principal and major gifts in six capital campaigns for four leading charitable institutions in Michigan and Oregon. She has a 22-year track record in fund development in arts and cultural nonprofits, healthcare, human services, and higher education. Organizations include Henry Ford Health System, Michigan Opera Theatre, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Museum of Contemporary Craft, Oregon Symphony and Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare. Her two recent campaigns have been recognized locally for being innovative, game-changing projects. Most recently, she has served on the boards of Metropolitan Youth Symphony, Hands & Voices Oregon. In addition to serving on the Board of Marathon Scholars, Deniz is also a Board member of the Portland Winter Light Festival
Gloria M. Zabel
Chief of Staff, VP Communications, HR, and IR, Lattice Semiconductor
Gloria joined Lattice Semiconductor in 2010 and is currently the Company’s Chief of Staff driving strategic corporate initiatives and leading the Communications, Corporate Marketing and Investor Relations teams. She also leads the company’s People Operations to drive innovative people initiatives leveraging the company’s diverse, global talent. She has spent much of her career leading strategic projects, spearheading marketing programs and focusing on leadership development and corporate culture. Gloria is an alum of the Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business Executive Leadership Development and holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and International Business from the University of Akron. She joined the Board of Marathon Scholars in 2017.
We partner with a variety of community organizations and education institutions in the design and delivery of our programs, including Title I schools dedicated to advancing the education of low-income communities and communities of color.
Current partners include:
- Alder Elementary School
- Faubion K-8, 3toPhD Program
- Together We Are Greater Than
- Family of Friends Mentoring
Do you want to join us? We are looking for motivated people to join our work in development, event planning, and more.