Meet the Staff

Melissa Ann Santora
Interim Executive Director

MelissaMelissa Ann Santora is presently the Director of Administration at Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council, and Coordinator of Arizona Youth Leadership Forum (AZYLF) for Students and Transitioning Young Adults Who Have Disabilities. Melissa’s human service career began in 1990, when she was blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime to work at a group home for adults who have developmental disabilities. This position crystalized her calling, and became the catalyst for opportunities to serve people who have disabilities of all ages, in additional residential, vocational, educational, and recreational settings.

For a decade, Melissa served as the Founding Executive Director of Same Difference Inclusive Theatre Company, a disabilities awareness, advocacy, and empowerment troupe that performed in Montana, Texas, New York, Nebraska, Utah, Arizona, and in Canada. Melissa’s career also includes positions in corrections, addiction treatment, child protection, early intervention, child and family education, medical case management, strategic planning and results oriented meeting facilitation, domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy, rural services development, poverty alleviation, housing, and Veteran’s services.

Although Melissa has lived in the West throughout her adulthood, she is a native New Yorker, who continues to appreciate growing up in an Italian neighborhood, surrounded by rolling hills, autumn leaves, and the sun and swim of Lake Ontario. Melissa is the proud parent of two amazing adult children, an adorable grandson, and claims about a dozen other youth who call her “MamaLissa,” their “otha motha.” Melissa loves people, cooking, sports, entertaining, writing, Africa, and the 1980’s.


Sara Ann Joehnk
Disability Integration Specialist

Sara Ann JoehnkSara Ann Joehnk joined the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council team in August 2017. As the Disability Integration Specialist, Sara Ann works with governmental agencies, nonprofits, and other partners to include individuals who have disabilities in all aspects of emergency management. Sara Ann represents AZSILC on Arizona’s Access and Functional Needs Taskforce, which since 2012 has gained national recognition for their work to provide caches of durable medical equipment to all shelters rather than opening separate shelters for people who need additional support; for their biennial Partners in Preparedness Summit which promotes dialogue between the public and emergency managers, and for Arizona’s Emergency Response Interpreter Credentialing Program (ERIC). Sara Ann is excited to be next in a long line of AZSILC inclusive emergency management pioneers.

Sara Ann is an Arizona native and graduate of Arizona State University. Outside of work, Sara Ann enjoys living in Chandler with her husband and a houseful of pets. While pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health, Sara Ann suddenly developed small nerve fiber neuropathy. She was twenty-three years old when severe pain and fatigue put a dramatic halt to career plans and life dreams. It took five years before medical professionals discovered that Sara Ann had an autoimmune disability called Addison’s disease, which was the underlying cause of both the nerve damage and fatigue. Equipped with a diagnosis and proper treatment, Sara Ann returned to work and began her life long journey of living with a disability.


Tahneesha Smith
Administrative Support Specialist

Tahneesha Smith, AZSILC

Tahneesha Smith joined the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council as the Administrative Support Specialist in November 2018.

Tahneesha brings a distinct set of skills and expertise to the AZSILC team having provided administrative support in various roles since 1998. For a decade she helped support small business owners and nonprofits working as the principal and owner of a virtual assistance business. Prior to operating her business, she held roles such as: staff assistant for a Veterans Services office, legal secretary and presentation support specialist for a joint military school having served four years in the United States Air Force. Tahneesha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies with a Minor in Business.

Tahneesha is married to her high school sweetheart. They have lived in several different states but really enjoy raising their four children in the West Valley.










Mission Statement

The mission of AZSILC is to promote the equality, inclusion, and choice for people with disabilities through collaboration and public policy change.

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PO Box 46354
Phoenix AZ 85063

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