"I've always been involved in activism," says Maria Paladino, a labor activist at age 16 who who has also volunteered in support of immigration reform, economic justice, women's issues, queer issues, and pit bull rescue. "Somebody needs to speak for the underdog." A native of Brooklyn who arrived in Salem, Oregon, in time for middle school, she went back east after high school, got married and had two kids, but returned to Oregon after a divorce. "It took me eight years to go to school," says Paladino, who completed a sociology degree at LCC and the UO in between jobs and mom-duties. Two years later, in 2000, she began full-time work as a legal advocate at Sexual Assault Support Services, a non-profit that offers education, support, and advocacy to survivors of sexual violence. "I still do front-line work. It's been a calling," says Paladino, who was executive director of SASS from 2007 until last month, when she resigned to become development director for the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. "The coalition provides training and tech support to member groups across the state." Learn about SASS programs and volunteer opportunities at sass-lane.org. The SASS 24-hour crisis line is 541-343-SASS.