Meet the Staff

Jim Baker
Executive Director

Mr. Baker comes to AZSILC with an extensive background in Independent Living, having previously worked as Executive Director of Centers for Independent Living in Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington state, as well as Executive Director of SILC in Florida. Jim’s background also includes serving as Executive Director of various Developmental Disability Programs in Colorado and New Mexico, and as a Teacher and Head Start Director. In addition to Independent Living core services, he has programmatic experience in employment services, case management, early intervention, and youth services. His educational background includes a Bachelor of Arts in Education & Psychology and a Master of Arts in Education (Curriculum & Instruction).

Recently, Jim gained experience advocating for and coordinating services and resources for people who have disabilities following Hurricane Irma. In addition, he assisted with relocation efforts for people from Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. This expanded his knowledge of emergency preparedness and disaster recovery.

Regarding this opportunity, Mr. Baker stated, “I am looking forward to joining a strong team at Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council, to supporting the Council’s mission, to promoting disability advocacy and services, and to leading the organization toward strong outcomes for the disability community. I have been aware of services and programs in Arizona for several years and am excited to have the opportunity to be part of this great work.”

Melissa Ann Santora
Director of Administration & Youth Coordinator

Melissa 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 Joehnk
Disability Integration Specialist

staff photo

Sara Joehnk is the most recent addition to the Arizona Statewide Independent Living Council team. Having to balance a chronic autoimmune condition with regular work and family life, Sara feels a deep empathy to the unique and individual struggles faced by the disabled community. As a hobby, she has developed skills in website design and marketing that she got to apply as the Logistical Manager at Arizona Advocacy Network and before that as an intern with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Outside of work, Sara enjoys living in Chandler with her husband, a cat, and three dogs.

Sara is an Arizona native and she graduated from Arizona State University in political science. With her experience in nonprofit management, she strives to bridge the divide between the elected officials and their constituents. She volunteers on the board of Somos America, an immigrant rights organization and she founded an issue-based advocacy nonprofit called People Demanding Action Arizona. Civic engagement is a life-long passion, and she is looking most forward to work with the AZSILC’s Community Leadership Academy.


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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