Jansen Azarias

CEO and Co-Founder

Jansen Azarias was born and raised in the Philippines and left for the United States when he was 18 years old. With an understanding of the cyclical nature of poverty and a drive to empower youth in pursuit of their dreams, Jansen hoped to help youth build a legacy within their communities. After identifying the needs of his new city and of his own family, Jansen Azarias started Higher Ground a Resource Center in 2007. Jansen is a loving father of two sons and a dedicated husband to his wife, Barbie Azarias. They continue to lead Higher Ground as a family with their passion and drive. Their faith strengthens and motivates their work with the organization. Today, Higher Ground serves over 2000 youth in Tucson and is an established Non-Profit in our community. 

Higher Ground does Life Coaching, Community-Building, and Social-Emotional Learning with underserved youth in Tucson. Jansen’s leadership has helped drive the Community School’s Initiative for our city in partnership with our local school districts, La Frontera, and other community leaders. Jansen’s childhood informs the deep connection that he feels to the youth that Higher Ground serves. As the CEO and Co-Founder of the organization, he not only acts as a leader to his staff but also to the families that they serve. Going above and beyond his administrative duties, Jansen’s passion for martial arts has led him to coach both the youth and staff of Higher Ground to competitive championships in Jiu-Jitsu.

Jansen has unmet energy and natural leadership qualities. As a leader for Higher Ground, he has done extensive research on the importance of developing the skill of grit for individual success, as well as incorporated it into Higher Ground curriculum. As the founder of Character Lab and lead researcher on grit, Dr. Angela Duckworth said of Jansen “[he is] a paragon of grit. He is everything I study-laser focused on his goal of making kids’ lives better, and, at the same time, incredibly hardworking and resilient in making that goal a reality.”

Notable Achievements

Jansen is currently doing Professional Development for school districts and other organizations about Social Emotional Learning (SEL), compassion fatigue, and high quality youth methods.

Jansen’s leadership has led to opening the first Evening Reporting Center with Pima County Juvenile Court as a main strategy to reduce recidivism in the Pima County Juvenile population.

Currently through its different in-school and out of school programming, HG serves over 2000 youth annually. 3 years ago, Higher Ground was serving 300 students annually.

Jansen oversees HG’s 100+ regular UofA volunteers and over 20 staff members.

He helped developed key partnerships for his organization with over 5 contracts with different organizations in a matter of 2 years totaling to $600,000 of revenue a year.

Mentor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy

2016 Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 40 under 40

Winner National After-school Association

2017 Next Generation in After-school Honoree

2015 Child Abuse Prevention Award

2014 Youth Leader Award

2013 FBI Community Service Award

2013 Community Leadership Award

Judo (Brown Belt) Jujitsu (Purple Belt)

2016 Judo Summer Nationals Novice Champion

2016 Judo Winter Nationals Novice Champion

2017 IBJJF Pan American Bronze Medalist

#1 National Veteran's Athlete for USA Judo 55kg