Who Are We?


We support and empower students who make their communities a better place

In Memory of Alisa:

Alisa Michelle Wallendorf was a compassionate and caring teen who lost her life at 15 in a tragic car wreck. During her short life, Alisa showed us the impact a single person can have by caring for others because “that is what we were put on earth to do.” 


Alisa’s Angels was created by her father, Kirk Wallendorf, to carry on her spirit. Inspired by Alisa, we are committed to creating a ripple effect of caring.

We award scholarships to graduating high school seniors who make their communities better, and support them with mentoring. Through this support, the memory of Alisa’s laughter, faith, hope and love can bring happiness and joy to others.

"My dream is to graduate from school, go to college and become a better person, someone who would be able to help other people"
-Okongo, Scholarship Recipient, 2009

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Meet The Team




Tara Koleski 
Executive Director

Tara, an Arizona native, joined Alisa's Angels Foundation as their first full-time hire and was named Executive Director in August 2021. Tara brings a passion for youth empowerment and development. She brings years of nonprofit experience and always strives to make a positive impact in communities.


Cynthia Cote
Communications Manager

Cynthia is in her senior year at the University of Arizona. She is a marketing major, minoring in psychology and studio art, specializing in digital marketing and information visualization. With a passion for learning and growing, Cynthia is committed to helping Alisa's Angels reach new heights and foster enhanced connections with the community. 

Board of Directors

Executive Board


Kirk Wallendorf
Founder and President

Kirk created Alisa’s Angels in 2005 as a way of carrying on the faith, hope and love of Alisa, his youngest daughter. Kirk is a retired major in the United States Air Force.

Liz Wallendorf
Board Chair

 Liz has been involved in Alisa's Angels since its inception and is currently the Board Chair. Liz is a former major in the United States Air Force. She has also worked in information technology planning and program management for Tucson city government; and as a director for government education events for a private company.


Zoe Burcham

As a Chicago native (or where she claims to be from), Zoë is an alumna of The University of Illinois at Chicago, with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and a minor in German. Zoë comes to the board with experience in many different areas, a true jack of all trades! Her personal motto is anything worth doing, is worth doing right. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Arizona and traveling with her husband Sean and daughter Bennett.

Mariela Cabrera

Mariela is a tax supervisor with BeachFleischman. She is a Certified Public Accountant and a graduate from the University of Arizona.

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Board Members


Rudy Padilla
Scholarship Committee

Rudy is a 2007 Alisa's Angels scholarship recipient.  He graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 2014. Rudy is currently  on active duty as a JAG in the United States Air Force and a civil rights investigator at the University of Arizona. Prior to that he was a deputy county attorney at the Pima County Attorney's Office.

Michelle Petrowski
Board Member

Michelle is a Certified Financial Planner for over 10 years and previously enjoyed a career as a project manager & software developer in technology. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Financial Planning Association in AZ and NY, as well as her local School Board, and her church’s Stewardship Committee in NY. Michelle is an active volunteer with Fresh Start Women’s Foundation and Savvy Ladies, worked with the AZ National Guard around financial literacy, and writes for “The Street: Retirement Daily”.

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Michael Smith
Board Member

Michael is a tax supervisor with Beach Fleischman. He has a Master of Accountancy from New Mexico State University

Colorado Expansion


Shannon Anderson
Communications Committee

Shannon is an entrepreneur and Social Enterprise development expert. Since graduating as Student of the Year, with honors, from University of Colorado in 2014, she has assisted several for-profit and non-profit entities alike in developing and implementing socially responsible business models, practices and policies that not only aim to generate financial returns, but social and environmental returns as well.

Ed Rios

Ed is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force, and is the CEO of CSOC, one of Alisa’s Angels partners. He has 26 years of military service in space operations, special technical operations and command/control; and 10 years of corporate experience. He lives in Colorado Springs, CO.


Emeritus Board

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Sue Schmelz

Sue Schmelz has been involved with Alisa's Angels almost from the beginning. She came aboard when Kirk asked her to review applications and help select scholarship recipients. As the foundation grew, she joined as a Board Member and is dedicated to helping further develop the program, honoring Alisa's spirit of giving by assisting other young people who have that same spirit pursue their dreams.


Sue is a retired social worker who dedicated many years to helping children with the Department of Child Services. She full-heartedly cares about the work of Alisa's Angels and believes in its purpose.


She enjoys recognizing the scholarship recipients' contributions and celebrating their service in honor of Alisa, and promoting a ripple effect of caring for others. She says: "serving as an Emeritus Board Member allows me the opportunity to continue to contribute to the mission and encourage and support the youth who are making a difference in their communities."

Craig Zimmerman

Craig had the honor of knowing Alisa Wallendorf, so when Kirk and Liz asked him to sit on the board, he thought it seemed like a great way to help his two friends navigate their way through a tough time in their lives, never imagining how the foundation would grow and touch so many lives.


Since then, he has encountered unbelievable stories of young people volunteering their time to help others in need describing each one of their life stories and service ventures as "unique and humbling."


Craig has witnessed how the Alisa's Angels recipients have become a family that cares for and takes care of each other. Inspired by the 'Angels' in their quest for education and making our world a better place, he has elected to stay with the foundation through the years and join the Emeritus Board.

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Pat Lopez is a senior partner at Rusing, Lopez & Lizardi, PLLC. He volunteers his time as the legal adviser for Alisa’s Angels. Pat has over 30 years of experience in counseling and assisting businesses, entrepreneurs, lenders, and developers to reach their goals, solve their problems, and implement their business plans. He is active in the community and has volunteered with organizations such as The First Tee, Arizona Land and Water Trust, formerly Arizona Open Land Trust, Salpointe school board, Perimeter Bicycle Association (non-profit charitable organization and sponsor of “El Tour de Tucson” bicycle race), and Chinanos por la Causa.


Pat Lopez
Legal Adviser


Dan Nentl
CFS, ChFC, Investment Adviser

Dan Nentl is a partner with Ironwood Financial, LLC. Dan and Ironwood volunteer their services to manage the Alisa’s Angels investment account, the Angel Fund. Dan volunteers for numerous causes in the community, including the Boys & Girls Club, Wee Works and the Centurions. He is the founder of Rollin for Ninos.

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