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The new associate director of WAGAP, Jennifer Pauletto, and her partner Ben Mitchell. - [Photo provided by WAGAP]

“I have a huge commitment to making the Gorge a more equitable place,” Pauletto said. Making a move to WAGAP was appealing to her because it serves as a one-stop shop with many different programs under its umbrella. The ability to work within one agency to support individuals with a wide variety of needs was a good fit.

“At WAGAP, I saw the focus on equity and better increasing and understanding the needs of the community,” Pauletto said. She appreciated that leadership and staff care about people and want to improve conditions for those in need.

Originally from the Vancouver-Camas area, Pauletto traveled east down the Gorge to land in White Salmon as part of the one-year AmeriCorps program after college. She worked with preschool children at MCCC, supporting many low-income families. She stayed an extra year and got to know the area better. 

Her next role was with Haven, where she worked with domestic and sexual violence survivors and their children. Coordinating services was the focus of her work. 

She worked again with children at Greater Oregon Behavioral Health (GOBHI). Here, she worked with youth in foster care, supporting their complex needs of balancing safety, security, and emotional stability. 

She would later return to Haven to support survivors with mental health concerns. This role as a program manager focused on growing a human trafficking county task force, a collaboration that she found very engaging.

“I’m thrilled to have Jennifer join the WAGAP team,” said Leslie Naramore, WAGAP’s executive director. “Her passion for equity is a real strength.”

With the tremendous growth at WAGAP over recent years, Naramore said she is excited to share the workload with Pauletto and learn from her experiences. “I’m hopeful we’ll both be able to spend more time making a difference in the community with our partners,” she added.

Over time, Pauletto has developed special interest in better understanding the different groups of people who live in the Gorge. She studied social science in college and spent a year abroad, expanding her world knowledge. “I learned a lot about the importance and impact of culture on folks’ day-to-day life,” she said. “Sharing space and sharing time together was core to the importance of community.”

What has kept Pauletto in the Gorge over this past decade are friends and individuals who share the ideals they want to make sure the community is better suited to meet all its members' needs. She met her partner, Ben, during their AmeriCorps year and said they share a passion for service.

Together the pair love getting outdoors, hiking or flatwater kayaking. Pauletto is obsessed with tracking native wildflowers. In the spring, she follows the growth of the flowers throughout the region.

Pauletto wants everyone to enjoy their lives and have the same opportunities, like getting out into nature. So, for her, ensuring people have equitable access to housing, food, and safety is an essential base for creating a quality life for their families. She says affordability and stability in housing are key concerns for all, especially for Native people who have lived here for generations.

During her brief tenure at Gorge Grown, she participated in the Native Food Sovereignty Subcommittee, bringing attention to the Indigenous population’s food security needs. She also worked on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee. The group brought stakeholders together to identify problems and provide education related to the potential harm pesticides can pose to farm workers. 

For Pauletto, what it boils down to is equity. She wants to be sure people from all walks of life have opportunities to thrive, regardless of where they come from or what job they hold. She hopes her new role at WAGAP will help her continue to communicate and collaborate with individuals and organizations with whom she has built relationships, focus on equity, and deal with unique barriers that individuals face.

“The reason I’ve stayed in the Gorge so long is because it is an amazing group of individuals and ongoing partnerships,” Pauletto said. Naramore said the team at WAGAP is excited to tap into her energy and ideas.

Pauletto encourages anyone needing assistance to contact the office and start a conversation.

She invites people to call (509) 493-2662 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with their questions. To learn more about all of the programs, go to

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