Focus on Leadership

"Every child should have someone to look up to, someone who is responsible, caring, and a trusted friend."
Dena Valin, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Nevada County &
North Lake Tahoe
UCI/UCLA Alumnus

For over a decade, Dr. Valin has seen the power of mentoring in young people’s lives. She believes that every child should have someone to look up to, someone who is responsible, caring, and a trusted friend.

Dr. Valen became involved with mentoring when she helped start a small nonprofit in 2000 that paired college students with inner city elementary and middle school students in project-based mentoring as part of the college service learning curriculum. She saw how children bonded with their mentors in a short amount of time, and how they were so profoundly impacted by that experience of learning together. Many had never known anyone who went to college; most never envisioned it could be them someday. 

Four years later in 2004, Dr. Valin moved back to her hometown of Nevada City and became the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nevada County. At the time, it was a small nonprofit serving about 100 children annually. It had also gone through numerous transitions in leadership in previous years and needed someone who could bring some stability to the agency and help diversify its funding sources. In the seven years since Dr. Valin began her career with the agency, she has seen many positive changes. The agency currently serves nearly 250 at-risk children annually in one-to-one mentoring relationships. In 2007, through collaboration with other nonprofits and with funding from the S. H. Cowell Foundation, she was able to expand her agency’s mentoring services to children throughout the entire County and to the North Lake Tahoe region. Dr. Valin’s biggest accomplishment, however, was when her agency received the Gold Standard Award in 2009 from Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, the national agency with which they are affiliated. This award was given to only 22 agencies out of the 400+ agencies in the Big Brothers Big Sisters network because they exceeded the national standards of excellence and quality service in mentoring.

Dr. Valin is pleased to be working and serving in the community she was raised in. She has been a Big Sister mentor for seven years to a Little Brother named Timmy who is being raised by a single dad and who lost his mother to drug abuse several years ago. She is also committed to helping develop leaders in other nonprofits through her work as a Board Member of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership. She was recently appointed to serve as a member of the Nevada County Adult and Family Services Commission.

In her spare time, Dr. Valin enjoys spending time with her family and friends, doing outdoor activities in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains, and Bikram yoga.