Who We Are
Children’s Action Alliance (CAA) is an independent voice for Arizona children at the state capitol and in the community.
Interim President & CEO
Kelley has twenty–five years of health, early childhood and family policy, advocacy and program experience. The past nine at Children’s Action Alliance. First as the Director of Early Childhood and most recently as the Vice President of Policy in charge of overseeing CAA’s full policy agenda. She is a Registered Nurse (RN) with clinical experience in a variety of health settings. Kelley spent thirteen years in public health departments creating, implementing and leading public health and development programs and working to improve public policy at the state and local level. Prior to her move to CAA, she served as the Policy Bureau Chief at the Arizona Division of Behavioral Health Services where she oversaw policy and contract development and compliance for the Regional and Tribal Behavioral Health Authorities. Kelley was also the Senior Health Policy and Program Specialist for Arizona’s early childhood agency, First Things First. Hailing originally from Indianapolis Indiana– she is a diehard Colts and Indy 500 fan. Kelley holds both her Bachelors and Masters of Science in Nursing Degrees from Indiana University. .
Communications Engagement Coordinator
As the Communications Engagement Coordinator of Children’s Action Alliance and The Arizona Center for Economic Progress, Sarah leads both state and federal advocacy outreach for issues like the Aggregate Expenditure Limit (AEL) school spending cap, and Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). Prior to joining the team, she worked as a Public Affairs Executive at Rose Allyn Public Relations where she specialized in crisis control, event management, and investor relations. During the pandemic, Sarah served as a Policy Intern for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego where she handled constituent concerns and community outreach. Sarah holds a Bachelor’s degree in Public Service and Public Policy as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Sustainability from Arizona State University. She is excited to use her experience in community engagement to advance the mission and policy agenda of CAA and the AZCenter.
Vice President, Development & Engagement
For over 15 years, Curry has managed fundraising and communications initiatives in her senior leadership roles for children and family organizations in Ohio and Arizona. In doing so, she was responsible for raising millions for the most vulnerable children in our communities. Damita has promoted affordable housing programs with President Clinton and created awareness for women’s health across the country. She has also received multiple communication awards for excellence in video, event, and collateral production from the Telly Awards, International Special Events Society, and American Marketing Association. Damita holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Kent State University.
Southern Arizona Director
Michelle serves as the Southern Arizona Director of CAA. In that role, she facilitates community-based organizing efforts to elevate voices of child advocates from across Southern Arizonans who are seeking to improve the status of children’s health, education, and safety in Arizona. Michelle is a proud two-time alumnus from the University of Arizona having earned her Master’s in Public Administration in 2011 and her Bachelor’s in Political Science in 1994, with a minor in Spanish.
Director of Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Policy
Deeply influenced by her own early experience as a foster child, Molly has dedicated her career to improving outcomes of system-involved youth. As a provider of direct legal services, Molly has represented hundreds of children and youth in dependency, juvenile justice, education, immigration, family law, and other proceedings. As a clinical instructor at Stanford and Loyola law schools, she has mentored and guided other advocates to serve system-involved youth. Prior to joining Children’s Action Alliance, Molly directed FosterEd Arizona. Molly holds a B.A. from Macalester College and a J.D. from Stanford Law School.
Director of Health Policy
Matt Jewett returned to the role of Director of Health Policy in March 2023, having previously worked in that role and as CAA’s Research Associate from 2004 to 2013. He has led outreach campaigns that increased AHCCCS and KidsCare health insurance enrollment. Overseeing grants for Mountain Park Health Center from 2013 to 2023, Matt managed up to $35 million a year in grant funds, including for construction of a new clinic. Matt was a member of the Creighton Elementary School District Governing Board in Phoenix for six years. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona, has studied graduate-level public health at A.T. Still University, and enjoys a good cup of tea, growing his vinyl collection, and exploring his home state of Arizona…and the world.
As the Development Assistant, Lauren helps manage and coordinate Children Action Alliance’s database management, fund development, and office administration. She has a variety of administrative and development experience through her participation in the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance Student Association at Arizona State University. As well, Lauren has worked with several organizations including Action for Global Health in the UK and ASU’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. A recent graduate of ASU with a BS in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, Lauren is deeply interested health policy and advocacy and looks forward to contributing to Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress.
Director of Fiscal Policy
Karen is the Director of Fiscal Analysis for Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Center for Economic Progress. She provides leadership on the state budget and tax issues. Prior to joining CAA in 2005, Karen held various positions with the State of Arizona including analyst with the Governor’s Office and Strategic Planning and Budgeting and the Financial Services Administrator for the Arizona Department of Economic Security. She earned her Master’s in Public Administration from Arizona State University.
Executive Director, AZCenter
JoAnna Mendoza is a retired US Marine Veteran, government and political affairs professional, and servant leader. After retiring from the Marine Corps, JoAnna worked for a foster licensing agency contracted by the State of Arizona to find homes for children in foster care and developmental homes for children and adults with special needs. A few years later, JoAnna transitioned to working with vulnerable veterans and found her way to serving in government again, as a Veteran Service Representative and the Deputy District Director for a Member of Congress from the Arizona Congressional Delegation.
JoAnna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Intelligence Studies, a Master’s of Science in Leadership with an emphasis in disaster preparedness, a Public Leadership Credential from Executive Education at Harvard Kennedy School, a Brand Management Certificate from Cornell, and a Professional Certificate in Social Media Management from Georgetown.
Health Policy Specialist
Brianna serves as a Health Policy Specialist at CAA and works to facilitate the work of the Arizona Oral Health Coalition in promoting equitable access to dental care and oral health services through advocacy. Brianna’s passion for community service started in the U.S. Peace Corps as a youth development volunteer in Botswana, Southern Africa. Brianna worked on various initiatives aimed at increasing the capacities of youth, incarcerated individuals, and educators related to the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Brianna holds a Master of Arts Degree in Social Justice and Human Rights from Arizona State University and an undergraduate degree in Public Agency Service from Northern Arizona University with a minor in Criminal Justice.
Geraldine advances the Arizona Center for Economic Progress’ work by advocating for a sound fiscal policy through budget and tax-related projects. She joins the AZCenter after serving as a Senior Paralegal for Community Legal Services where she provided legal assistance and administrative hearing representation to Arizonans facing adverse Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and Social Security disability benefit eligibility and overpayment determinations. Geraldine holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree in International Politics with a certification in Asian Studies from Georgetown University.
Vice President, Finance and Operations
Jason works to further the mission of Children’s Action Alliance by ensuring the organization and team has the resources, tools, and procedures to effectively build coalitions and change policies that improve the lives of children and families. Beginning as a history teacher in the Phoenix Union School District, Jason discovered his calling within the nonprofit sector and has been for helping underserved youth populations through interventions and advocacy, since 1999. Like many nonprofit professionals, Jason has experience in many roles and has advanced important work as a Direct Service Provider, Program Manager, Grant Writer, and Executive Director. Jason is a native Arizonan who grew up in the Valley and attended Northern Arizona University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in education.
Luisa is a multimedia artist and advocate for the youth with a Bachelor’s degree from ASU in Film studies, focused on documentary work. She continues to explore film, graphic design and writing through her Colombian culture and local communities. With many years of experience in videography, digital marketing, and project management, Luisa is consistently learning how to utilize her talents to become a bridge for others. Prior to CAA and AZCenter, her experiences working with various nonprofit in the arts and youth sectors have expanded her focus toward a commitment to helping future generations.
Economic Policy Analyst
Franklin joins the Arizona Center for Economic Progress after serving as a legislative correspondent in Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s Office. In that role, he worked on energy, environmental, public lands and Tribal issues and supported Senator Sinema’s actions on the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Franklin grew up in Tempe and is a proud product of Arizona’s public K-12 schools. He earned his Master’s in Public Policy degree from American University as well as a B.A. in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government and a Certificate in Advanced Leadership Studies from AU. Other previous roles include serving as a deputy field organizer for the Biden presidential campaign in Iowa and graduate legislative intern in Salt River Project’s federal affairs office in D.C.
Ashley M. Anderson, MBA, SHRM-SCP
Ashley M. Anderson currently serves as a Senior Human Resource Professional for Creighton University Phoenix Health Sciences Campus. She brings over 8 years of Human Resources experience working in various industries to the board. Her expertise spans across Talent Acquisition, Employee Relations, Training and Development, and more. She also consults with small and medium businesses on HR needs as they arise. She also sits on the Board of the National Association for African Americans in Human Resources, State of Arizona Chapter. Ashley holds an MBA with emphasis in Management from American Intercontinental University.
Owner and President, Flatt & Associates, Ltd
Joanie Flatt is owner and president of Flatt & Associates, Ltd, public relations and public affairs, a company she founded in 1981 in Mesa. Over the years, the firm has served a wide variety of clients in business, social services, and education. Joanie was named the 2019 Shelley Award Honoree for her innovative work in supporting public policy beneficial to the arts and culture in Arizona.
Joseph Garcia, MA, Secretary
Chicanos Por La Causa
Joseph Garcia is a longtime communication and media professional, serving as a researcher, author, and presenter of public policy issues such as Arizona’s changing demographics, education, and the new electorate. He previously worked at ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy and The Arizona Republic. He teaches at ASU Cronkite School of Journalism.
Director & General Manager, Arizona Public Media, University of Arizona
Jack Gibson’s career in public broadcasting spans over forty years and demonstrates the ideals of using media as a resource to educate, inform, and inspire audiences. Since 2006, Jack has served as the CEO of Arizona Public Media (AZPM), an editorially independent, nonprofit public service of the University of Arizona. AZPM provides three television program services, three radio services, and a variety of online program offerings at azpm.org, to audiences throughout Southern Arizona and beyond.
Nonprofit Strategy Advisor
Nora Hannah is a nonprofit organizational consultant and community leader with experience in building successful teams, creating consistent operating models, and achieving goals. Nora has an extensive background in civic engagement, nonprofit leadership, finance, and organizational alignment. She is active in the greater Phoenix community and received the Athena Award as Businesswoman of the Year from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.
Chief of Staff, Supervisor Matt Heinz, Pima County
David Higuera has years of experience in public policy, education and youth development. He currently serves as chief of staff for Supervisor Matt Heinz on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and prior to that, co-founded and co-directed the IDEA School in Tucson, a nonprofit K-8 independent school focused on social-emotional development, learning through inquiry, and being accessible to all families regardless of income. David is committed to the notion that policies that address the needs of children and families lead to better outcomes for every member of our community, and that effective public policy must focus on equity.
Mark Kendall, JD, PhD, Treasurer
Vice President of Legal Services, CopperPoint Mutual Ins. Co.
Mark Kendall is Vice President, Legal Services, and oversees CopperPoint’s Legal Services Division. He has been with CopperPoint for over 20 years and is a member of the State Bar of Arizona and a certified specialist in workers’ compensation. Mark is past co-chair of the workers compensation section of the State Bar of Arizona and of the Arizona Workers Compensation Defense Counsel Association.
Ana Z. Licona
Analyst, Broadband Equity Partnership
Ana is a community leader bridging advocacy efforts with local, state, and federal level governments. Currently, she is a leader in the Broadband Equity Partnership and HR&A Advisors where she supports projects working to provide effective, efficient, and equitable broadband. Before joining HR&A, she worked in the Office of former Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves with the California Public Utilities Commission, analyzing broadband access and the digital divide highlighted by COVID-19. Ana began her career working with the Obama White House Office of Presidential Personnel where she led leadership and professional development programs for over 3,000 political appointees. Ana is committed to public service and a proud alumnus of the Hispanic Leadership Institute, the Aguila Youth Leadership Institute, and the Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA).
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Consultant
As the first Associate Superintendent of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Arizona Department of Education, Ms. Erica Maxwell has more than 25 years as a certified educator. In her education tenure, Maxwell has served as an administrator, adjunct faculty member at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, and as a faculty associate at Arizona State University. Maxwell is also the co-founder of the annual Arizona Multicultural Education Conference and founder of Club READ (Reading Experiences Appreciating Diversity), which is a summer literacy initiative in Chandler. In addition to her educational equity consulting work, she hosted public forums for the Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, as well as for the Arizona Department of Education; Healing Racism Series, Mesa Community College Educators Academy, Scottsdale’s Cross-Cultural Communication Series and the Seventh Annual Future Educator’s Conference. In her free time, Erica enjoys going to the movies, reading, traveling, hiking, and exploring the amazing beauty unique to Arizona. She cherishes time with her children, friends, and relatives. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, she resides in Chandler with her two teenage children.
Ayensa I. Millan, JD, Chair
Managing Attorney, Cima Law Group, PC
Ayensa I. Millan has years of experience handling criminal and immigration matters and is the founder of CIMA Law Group, PC. Her commitment and dedication stem from her own personal experiences; knowing firsthand the struggles and needs of the immigrant community. Ayensa volunteers with various community organizations and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers. She also hosts two radio shows giving legal advice and information on criminal and immigration matters.
H. Brinton Milward, PhD, Past-Chair
Professor, School of Government and Public Policy, University of Arizona
Brint Milward is a professor at the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona. He holds the Melody S. Robidoux Foundation Fund Chair in Collaborative Governance. He was Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse that was co-chaired by President George Herbert Walker Bush and President Bill Clinton. He is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and in 2010 won the NASPAA/ASPA Distinguished Research Award. He won the 2019 H. George Frederickson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Public Management Research Association.
Professor at School of Public Affairs ASU
Thom Reilly is a professor in the School of Public Affairs and co-director for the Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy at Arizona State University. He is the former chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, chief executive officer/county manager for Clark County, Nevada (the Las Vegas Valley), and head of the child-welfare system for Nevada. He is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.
Wendy Valenzuela, MPA Vice-Chair
Government Affairs Representative, APS
Wendy Valenzuela works for Arizona Public Service as the Government Affairs Representative for State & Local Affairs. Prior to her role at APS, Wendy served as Chief of Staff for a council office at the City of Phoenix for two years. She serves on the American Heart Association Go Red for Women Executive Leadership committee, the Maricopa Community College Foundation Board, and the Phoenix Theatre Board.