Sara Sembiante joined IEL in November 2016 as a technical assistance liaison with the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Youth Technical Assistance Center (Y-TAC). She has been working in the field of disability for over 20 years in various capacities ranging from residential care to leading a state VR transition program. Sara is a fierce advocate for empowering youth with disabilities to achieve their dreams. She has a very strong commitment to assist in efforts to educate youth, professionals, and families in transition and employment.
Sara grew up in western Pennsylvania. At a young age, she began working with Special Olympics and what was referred to “special needs” scout troops, where she developed a passion for working with individuals with disabilities. At California University of Pennsylvania, Sara worked with regional treatment centers as a residential staff member in a group homes. She also worked with the Pennsylvania State Board of Behavioral Health Service providing behavior management support to children and their families. In 1999, she earned her B.S. Degree in Cross Categorical Special Education.
In Tucson, Ariz., Sara was employed as a self-contained exceptional educational teacher for students with emotional difficulties in the Tanque Verde School District. After six years of teaching and learning, Sara became a special education director for a large charter school district in Tucson. During her years in education, she gain much experience with special education laws, assessment, specialized instruction, and teamwork. She became interested in teaching independent living skills and the transition process for students with disabilities.
From 2007 to 2016, Sara worked for Arizona Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) VR counselor with a caseload of adults with various disabilities and barriers to employment. During her second year of at RSA, she was able to participate in a grant funded federal RSA partnership with the University of Arizona to obtain her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. Upon graduation in 2010, Sara received her national certification in rehabilitation counseling and began working with high school students in the transition process. She soon became the VR program transition specialist for southern Arizona after two years of providing technical assistance to VR staff and schools she became the statewide transition coordinator for RSA.
As RSA coordinator of transition services, Sara oversaw Transition School to Work Programs which are contracted vocationally focused programs with school districts across Arizona and forged partnerships between RSA and stakeholders. She gained experience developing service contracts, developing and administering training, writing interagency agreements, state planning, and data management. She became a leader in her state with the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act as well as representing RSA in the Employment First movement in Arizona.