Tucson, AZ | Submitted by Jansen Azarias
Higher Ground is more than just a program, it is a family where our youth becomes a part of in order to pursue their dreams and experience life with an expectation of excellence. Our mission is reach, transform, and elevate students’ academic success and positive identity to build leaders in their community. But it’s not just our organization’s mission statement, this is a culture that we have created with the families and students that come to Higher Ground.
Over the past 5 years we have sought to provide a holistic programming for the youth and have been committed to supporting families with any and all challenges they face through the combined efforts of our staff, parents, students, and community. Higher Ground started in 2007 at Mission View Assembly due to the desperate need for a tutoring program in the Southwest side of Tucson. We became a tutoring program for K – 8th grade students that served about 30 students. Despite minimal fees ($15 per week), parents were withdrawing students due to economic reasons. In response, we offered our services to the community free of charge. Five years later, the program now maintains an average daily attendance of 130 students. We are servicing over 5 different schools, all within a 3 mile radius of the center. Seeing the desperate need for more than just tutoring, Higher Ground evolved into a holistic after school program that incorporated tutoring, mentoring, counseling, and recreational programs such as sports, art, music, finance and career classes, and dance. Through Higher Ground, schools, businesses, parents, government, churches, and other organizations can come together to fully maximize every child’s potential. The different programs are offered through Higher Ground by different entities, individuals, and organizations all with one purpose – to ensure that our youth succeeds in their future.
At Higher Ground we do not believe in their “at-risk” status. Rather it is merely a challenge to overcome to create a community of future leaders. Their zip-code, socio-economic status does not define their future or identity. Through Higher Ground, students are able to receive services equal to any side of town. They achieve tutoring from University of Arizona students and are held to accountability standards with their academic achievement as any other students. As a created culture at Higher Ground, the students are taught that they their academics are important and their goal is to go to college just as their tutors are. We build relationships with their teachers as well to ensure that they are given the education they deserve. Through Higher Ground we have brought several students from F’s to C’s and from C’s to A’s. Over 60% of students become first time honor roll students upon enrollment at Higher Ground. 90% of the students who attend our program increase their grades and school attendance compared to the school year prior to attending our program.
At Higher Ground we expect more and give more, and our students achieve more.