Co-Founder & Executive Director
Dawn has worked with young people in San Francisco for more than two decades, starting campus-based girls’ support groups at Lincoln High School and A.P. Giannini Middle School in the early 1990s and co-founding in 1992 the organization that would later become Sunset Youth Services. In addition to providing leadership for the nonprofit, managing staff, connecting with donors, and building relationships with young people served by Sunset Youth Services, Dawn partners with numerous community coalitions and city agencies as an advisor, change agent, and voice for the disenfranchised youth of the city.
In 2018 Dawn was elected to co-chair the Juvenile Justice Providers Association (JJPA) –– a consortium of community-based organizations that she helped establish in 2004 and which plays an important role in local policy-making, youth advocacy and has a strong voice in how funds are used to meet the needs of vulnerable youth.
Dawn also worked as a community organizer in the Sunset from 1993–1996, funded by a federal grant through Neighborhoods In Transition: A Multicultural Partnership. During this time, she started the Sunset District Neighborhood Coalition, an umbrella organization that coordinated the efforts of various nonprofit groups in the Sunset. And in 1994, she helped establish the annual Sunset Community Festival, a landmark festival celebrating the rich cultural diversity of the region that attracts nearly 3,000 visitors each year.
Recognizing the need for better coordination of services in her district, Dawn helped spearhead the Sunset Juvenile Justice Collaborative 1999–2003, partnering with SFPD, probation officers, SFUSD, and Recreation and Park leaders to better respond to the needs of young offenders.
From 2013–15 Dawn also worked on the Steering Committee to reauthorize the Children’s Fund, a city tax-funded set-aside for programs and services for children, youth, and families. The measure was successfully passed, winning greater funding, longer funding cycles, better oversight, and expanding to include transitional-age youth. In addition she helped staff and SYS youth organize the successful 2014 “Solutions not Suspensions” campaign to ensure that SFUSD schools practice restorative practices rather than punitive measures that inordinately impact minority children and create a school-to-prison pipeline.
Dawn sat on the San Francisco District Attorney’s Youth Advisory Task Force from June 2012–2014, helping to find solutions for complex systemic issues faced by youth in San Francisco. She consults regularly for community groups and other nonprofits on such issues as coalition building, board development, nonprofit management, strategic planning, and work with high-risk populations. She served on Nazarene Compassionate Ministries USA/Canada Task Force for five years, helping develop guidelines that are now used nationwide as a roadmap for healthy organizations and an assessment tool for nonprofit funders.
She has received numerous awards, and letters of recognition and outstanding service from community, city, and state leaders, including Governor Gray Davis, Senators John Burton and Mark Leno, Mayor Willie Brown, and Supervisor Fiona Ma.