In-school programS

Bringing social-emotional learning support to students during the school day.


Recognizing the success of our social-emotional learning (SEL) based curriculum delivered through our after-school activities, the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) and Sunnyside Unified School District (SUSD) contracted Higher Ground to provide SEL-based services to selected groups of students during the school day.

These include the following programs:

District Alternative Education Program (DAEP)

In January 2017, Higher Ground partnered with TUSD to provide their District Alternative Education Program (DAEP) services for students suspended from school. This program allows students on long-term suspension (typically 20 to 45 days) to continue receiving classroom instruction, in addition to our social-emotional learning (SEL) services, at an alternative campus location during the period of suspension. Utilizing jiu jitsu, judo, and basketball as the delivery methods, Higher Ground spends four hours each week with these students, teaching them key social-emotional skills, such as self-control, knowing and understanding their feelings, and communicating, among others. Students from any TUSD middle and high school are eligible for this program, which is held at the following TUSD-designated DAEP sites : Project MORE High School, Doolen Middle School, Magee Middle School, and Southwest Education Center (for both middle and high school students).

Notably, we are the only provider of DAEP SEL services for TUSD.

SEL & Post-High School Preparation

In August 2016, Higher Ground began providing social-emotional learning, vocational education, and college preparation to students at STAR Academic High School, a SUSD school that principally serves students that are falling behind on the standard public school track or had previously dropped out and are trying to reenter and graduate from the public school system. In addition to delivering their unique SEL programming during weekly seminar classes, Higher Ground also works alongside STAR’s junior achievement program, providing resume-building, interviewing, and fast-pitch courses, as well as bringing in guest speakers from the community to give students a better idea about trade and workforce options post-graduation.

SEL-Based P.E. Alternative

Beginning in August 2018, Higher Ground launched an SEL-based P.E. alternative program at Hollinger K-8, for a selected group of sixth grade students. Many of the students selected for the P.E. alternative program were identified by the school as having issues with behavior or attendance.

Five days a week, Higher Ground trained coaches and staff provide our unique SEL-based curriculum through structured jiu jitsu and judo classes. In addition to being a fun and engaging alternative to P.E., the jiu jitsu and judo class is an ideal vehicle for teaching these students key social-emotional skills, such as self-control, respect for self and others, effective communication, deliberate practice, recognizing risk, goal setting and GRIT.


Social-Emotional Learning - Over the years, we have developed a unique SEL curriculum, which we deliver through various activities, including judo and jiu-jitsu.