Nicole Swisher Woodson will take the reins as Circle of Friends’ new executive director starting June 1. photo by Jim Cornelius
Nicole Swisher Woodson will take the reins as Circle of Friends’ new executive director starting June 1. photo by Jim Cornelius
Sisters’ youth mentorship program Circle of Friends has a new pilot at the helm. Nicole Swisher Woodson will take on duties as executive director of the program starting June 1.

Woodson brings to bear a deep professional background in providing care, special education and mentorship for youth. She has worked in Texas in the world of education, foster care and child protective services for the past 25 years. But working with children with needs is much more than a profession for her.

“It’s my passion in life,” she told The Nugget.

That passion has been manifested in her work and also in her family life. She and husband Adrian have been foster parents and, in addition to having three children of their own, adopted an entire sibling group of seven in order to keep them together.

If her name seems familiar, she is the daughter of Steve and Novella Swisher — and she’s been bringing their 10 grandchildren to visit in Sisters for years. The desire to be closer to her parents was part of the reason Woodson jumped at the opportunity to apply for the executive director position at Circle of Friends.

Debbie Newport, who has been serving as interim executive director for the program, said that Circle of Friends conducted a very through application process and worked through a surprisingly large and well-qualified pool of applicants. Current conditions forced the organization to conduct its interviews remotely.

“Going through it in a virtual process was probably the biggest challenge,” Newport said.

She said the board is thrilled to have a director with Woodson’s background and enthusiasm on board.

“We’re all pretty excited,” Newport said.

Circle of Friends connects vulnerable children in the Sisters community with adult mentors. Circle of Friends in Sisters was founded by Duncan Campbell in 2011.The mentors spend quality one-on-one time with each of the children to build nurturing relationships that help them thrive, starting as early as kindergarten and first grade and continuing with them through high school.

Part of Woodson’s role will be to recruit more mentors into the program. It’s a natural role for her, because she has so much personal experience in the satisfactions found in helping youth with needs.

“You see that light-bulb moment — and it happens with every child at some point: ‘This person is going to help me. I can trust this person.’ And that’s the most rewarding thing you could possibly imagine,” she said. “It’s life-changing, those rewards.”