COmmunity Schools Initiative

By transforming schools into community resource hubs, we can change the future of today’s youth for the better.


“A community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.” - Coalition for Community Schools

For us, the Community Schools model provides a holistic and responsive framework to organize school and community resources around student success, offering them the best road for their future. This model has already proven to be successful in lower income neighborhoods in New York and Chicago.

At Higher Ground we are committed to ensuring that poverty is not a limit or boundary to the aspirations of our youth. We believe that through our integrated focus on social-emotional learning and the collective power of Community Schools, the children of Tucson will have every opportunity they need to succeed.

Currently, we have full-time community school directors integrated into the Hollinger K-8 and Gallego Intermediate community school sites, as well as AmeriCorps members serving a similar function at Apollo, C.E. Rose, Palo Verde, Desert View, Challenger, Envision and Pueblo.

The next phase marks the transformation of each individual school into a full-service community school where we duplicate the Higher Ground model, providing comprehensive social-emotional learning, assessment, and key social services. This phase will place fully-trained community school directors at every school site, with AmeriCorps members serving as auxiliary support.

History of Community Schools in Tucson

In 2015, the City of Tucson’s Mayor, Jonathan Rothschild, launched a community-wide education initiative to address the needs of youth in Tucson through a grant that was awarded through the Corporation for National and Community Service.

This initiative was spurred by dismal statistics about the youth in our city. According to the 2014 US Census, 25% of youth in Tucson are living in poverty with the average graduation rate of only 73% at schools in the city’s low-income areas. The initiative targeted six high schools adopt the Community School model, in an effort to increase graduation rates at these schools and ensure graduating seniors have access to post-graduation opportunities.

Thus began a partnership between La Frontera, Arizona Serve, a program of Prescott College, Higher Ground and many others to launch the city-wide development of Community Schools Model in Tucson, with Americorps members designated as the primary support.

In 2017, this grant was awarded again and placed in the leadership of La Frontera, Arizona Serve, and Higher Ground a Resource Center. Working with TUSD and SUSD, the data drove the focus to shift to middle school and earlier high school age groups and increase the attendance rate of chronically absent kids. Then in 2018, the National Center for Community Schools and Children’s Aid began to get involve in guiding the efforts and model.