Newsoms kick off Mentoring Alliance speaker program

Filmmaker and women’s advocate Jennifer Siebel Newsom, along with her husband, California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, will sit down for a conversation with broadcast journalist Sydnie Kohara at the Sebastiani Theater on Monday, Feb. 3, to launch the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance’s new speaker program.

Titled, “If You Can See It, You Can Be It,” the conversation will explore gender and cultural themes introduced in Siebel Newsom’s 2011 award-winning documentary, “Miss Representation,” which examines how gender stereotyping at an early age contributes to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence.

The event will be held at the Sebastiani Theatre from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for youth, 13-to-18, and can be purchased on the Mentoring Alliance website, sonomamentoring.org.

The event is the first in a new speaker series, “Sonoma Mentoring Presents,” that will bring to the Sonoma Valley diverse speakers with something important to say about helping today’s youth reach their full potential. This first event will be structured as a conversation between the Newsoms and Kohara, with the audience given the opportunity to ask questions.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a filmmaker, speaker, and advocate for women, girls, and their families. Newsom wrote, directed, and produced the 2011 award-winning documentary “Miss Representation,” and subsequently launched MissRepresentation.org (now The Representation Project), which uses film and media to raise awareness about the effects of gender stereotyping. She also served as Executive Producer for the Academy Award-nominated documentary “The Invisible War” and currently is in production on two documentaries, “The Mask You Live In” and “The Great American Lie.”

Gavin Newsom is the current California lieutenant governor. Prior to this, he served as San Francisco’s mayor and was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Newsom gained worldwide attention early in his term as mayor when he granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He is the co-author of a recent book, “Citizenville,” which discusses how ordinary citizens can use new digital tools to dissolve political gridlock and transform American democracy.

Kohara has more than 20 years experience as an award-winning broadcast journalist and news anchor in the Bay Area and internationally, including positions with CBS and CNBC. She currently works as a media strategist and speaker, and has recently become a Sonoma resident.

Kathy Witkowicki, Mentoring Alliance’s executive director, said she sees the new speaker program as a way to bring to the Sonoma Valley interesting speakers who can expand the organization’s message about the need to nurture and inspire youth. “We had arranged a showing of the documentary, ‘Miss Representation’, for the young women in our program and their mentors,” said Witkowicki. “They loved it and we are really excited to have Jennifer and Gavin Newsom come and talk to the larger community about this important topic. We’re looking at a wide range of potential speakers in the future and will let the community know as we schedule additional conversations,” she said.

For more than 17 years, the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance has helped at-risk school children by pairing them with caring adult mentors who make a big difference in their lives. It currently provides mentors for approximately 450 students and maintains professionally-staffed Mentor Centers on eight public school campuses in the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, ranging from elementary through high school. The organization also provides structured activities for mentors and mentees outside school, including trips to museums, concerts and sporting events, participation in community service projects and other enrichment opportunities. The organization is recognized nationally as a model for community-based mentoring programs.