Higher Ground Team

At Higher Ground A Resource Center, the staff is guided by a simple but a strong foundation of love, morals, and ethics. We start by recognizing the unlimited potential every individual possesses for a meaningful, responsible future. We also believe that every individual needs to be taught a set of values, self-control, and discipline in order to live a purposeful life.

 Broke… That is what I would call myself as I reflect back on all of the collectors items I had when I was a kid. From Ninja Turtles to Power Rangers and Transformers, I had a well kept collection of toys and memorabilia that I treasured. I was born in Louisiana but was quickly swept up on the “military brat plane” and landed in Honolulu, HI. It was there that my love for the outdoors was cultivated, so much so, that sitting outside during tropical storms was a pastime!  I am currently the Behavioral Health Manager here at Higher Ground. Meaning, I act as a liaison between our program and behavioral health agencies. I communicate the progress of students in our program and work with agencies to identify potential needs in order to assist in establishing goals for the individuals we serve.  Outside of work, I am married to my high school sweetheart and enjoy growing as a husband. I have grown into playing video games and would like to become a contributor in professional settings. I enjoy learning, whether that be through technology, reading or engaging with people. Gaining new perspectives is something that is ingrained in me. Higher Ground has cultivated my love for serving others and through our program, I have the opportunity to do what I love everyday!    

Broke… That is what I would call myself as I reflect back on all of the collectors items I had when I was a kid. From Ninja Turtles to Power Rangers and Transformers, I had a well kept collection of toys and memorabilia that I treasured. I was born in Louisiana but was quickly swept up on the “military brat plane” and landed in Honolulu, HI. It was there that my love for the outdoors was cultivated, so much so, that sitting outside during tropical storms was a pastime!

I am currently the Behavioral Health Manager here at Higher Ground. Meaning, I act as a liaison between our program and behavioral health agencies. I communicate the progress of students in our program and work with agencies to identify potential needs in order to assist in establishing goals for the individuals we serve.

Outside of work, I am married to my high school sweetheart and enjoy growing as a husband. I have grown into playing video games and would like to become a contributor in professional settings. I enjoy learning, whether that be through technology, reading or engaging with people. Gaining new perspectives is something that is ingrained in me. Higher Ground has cultivated my love for serving others and through our program, I have the opportunity to do what I love everyday!


 

Desmond Davis

Behavioral Health Manager

 We have all made mistakes. When I was in the 4th grade I was playing in my grandmothers makeup and hair brushes (like most little girls do) and I ended up getting a round hair brush stuck in my hair. I began to sweat as I tried and tried to loosen my hair from that tough bristled brush. Eventually, I lost it! I could not get the brush out of my hair. In fear of getting in trouble, I CUT MY HAIR! I was so scared to just ask for help because I knew I was doing something I was not supposed to be doing. It did not help, my grandmother found pieces of hair all over the floor and instantly knew that I had cut my hair (no matter how much I combed my hair over to hide the missing pieces). The following day my mother took me to the hair salon to get my hair fixed. It was so short that I was called "boy" and "Ricki Lake" for the rest of my elementary school years.  Looking back at my childhood I have realized how much I relate with the students we serve at Higher Ground. I wish that I would have had someone in my life that would teach me and guide me down a better path (that was not my parents). That is why I am at Higher Ground, if I can help guide one student down the right path, it is worth it.  I have gone from helping with homework, driving the van to pick up students from school, helping run the snack bar, becoming the office manager to transitioning to billing manager and assisting with our behavioral health department.    

We have all made mistakes. When I was in the 4th grade I was playing in my grandmothers makeup and hair brushes (like most little girls do) and I ended up getting a round hair brush stuck in my hair. I began to sweat as I tried and tried to loosen my hair from that tough bristled brush. Eventually, I lost it! I could not get the brush out of my hair. In fear of getting in trouble, I CUT MY HAIR! I was so scared to just ask for help because I knew I was doing something I was not supposed to be doing. It did not help, my grandmother found pieces of hair all over the floor and instantly knew that I had cut my hair (no matter how much I combed my hair over to hide the missing pieces). The following day my mother took me to the hair salon to get my hair fixed. It was so short that I was called "boy" and "Ricki Lake" for the rest of my elementary school years.

Looking back at my childhood I have realized how much I relate with the students we serve at Higher Ground. I wish that I would have had someone in my life that would teach me and guide me down a better path (that was not my parents). That is why I am at Higher Ground, if I can help guide one student down the right path, it is worth it.

I have gone from helping with homework, driving the van to pick up students from school, helping run the snack bar, becoming the office manager to transitioning to billing manager and assisting with our behavioral health department.


 

Rebecca Davis

Behavioral Health Billing

 I am Dina and I am the dance instructor at Higher Ground.  I am also involved with homework help and leading K - 2nd grade steam. I've been dancing for 12 years and before that I did competitive pom and cheer for 6 years. I first came to Higher Ground as an assistant dance teacher 7 years ago while I was in high school. I was inspired by the kids (who did not have previous dance experience) by how they learned dance technique, expression through dance, and a dance routine in which they performed. In 2017, I came back to Higher Ground as a University of Arizona intern. I saw how much Higher Ground grew and was amazed. By the end of the semester, I was asked to come back to teach dance and I could not say no. Everyday the children amaze me by how quickly they pick up the movements and technique. The best part is seeing them have fun.   

I am Dina and I am the dance instructor at Higher Ground.  I am also involved with homework help and leading K - 2nd grade steam. I've been dancing for 12 years and before that I did competitive pom and cheer for 6 years. I first came to Higher Ground as an assistant dance teacher 7 years ago while I was in high school. I was inspired by the kids (who did not have previous dance experience) by how they learned dance technique, expression through dance, and a dance routine in which they performed. In 2017, I came back to Higher Ground as a University of Arizona intern. I saw how much Higher Ground grew and was amazed. By the end of the semester, I was asked to come back to teach dance and I could not say no. Everyday the children amaze me by how quickly they pick up the movements and technique. The best part is seeing them have fun.

 

Dina Mathis

Dance Instructor

 My name is Jesse Haro, I am the  boxing coach at Higher Ground. The name of the boxing club is Scrapyard Boxing. At Higher Ground my credentials as a coach include a combined  number of 100 amateur and professional bouts.  It is my privilege and honor  to coach at Higher Ground to instruct and mentor both boys and girls who want to what has been called the sweet science of boxing.  I coach the fundamentals of boxing, teach kids strength and conditional skills, as well as teach them that hard work and dedication will enable them to obtain anything they pursue in life.   Never let your Guard Down!

My name is Jesse Haro, I am the  boxing coach at Higher Ground. The name of the boxing club is Scrapyard Boxing. At Higher Ground my credentials as a coach include a combined  number of 100 amateur and professional bouts.

It is my privilege and honor  to coach at Higher Ground to instruct and mentor both boys and girls who want to what has been called the sweet science of boxing.  I coach the fundamentals of boxing, teach kids strength and conditional skills, as well as teach them that hard work and dedication will enable them to obtain anything they pursue in life. 

Never let your Guard Down!

Jessie Haro

Boxing coach

 I am a transplanted New Mexican that came to Tucson in 1974 to find work for my family. My wife and my 3 boys, 4,9 & 10 packed our bags and left the only home we knew. Excited for this new adventure I found a job with American Finance and several years late I became the President of Arizona Association of Mortgage brokers where I was honored to work with many government officials here in Arizona and Washington DC. I have been married to my beautiful wife, Gloria for 53 years and she  has been my strength in all my endeavors. So, I am sure you are wondering about my 3 boys. My 10 year old grew up joined the United States Military  where he became Commander Sergeant Major in the United States Army and served 23 years. I am proud and honored to say that CSM Martin Barreras gave his all and lost his life in action.  My 9 year old grew up and he is the Founder of Yavapai Territorial Gospel Rescue Mission in Prescott, where he serves women and children. We are very proud of the his work! My 4 year old is the reason I am the Transportation lead at Higher Ground. He is the Assistant Director and has raised 4 beautiful girls who are strong, smart and crazy!! I want to bring laughter to the kids, I want to make sure that the time we pick them up to the program they know what laughter is!

I am a transplanted New Mexican that came to Tucson in 1974 to find work for my family. My wife and my 3 boys, 4,9 & 10 packed our bags and left the only home we knew. Excited for this new adventure I found a job with American Finance and several years late I became the President of Arizona Association of Mortgage brokers where I was honored to work with many government officials here in Arizona and Washington DC. I have been married to my beautiful wife, Gloria for 53 years and she  has been my strength in all my endeavors. So, I am sure you are wondering about my 3 boys. My 10 year old grew up joined the United States Military  where he became Commander Sergeant Major in the United States Army and served 23 years. I am proud and honored to say that CSM Martin Barreras gave his all and lost his life in action.  My 9 year old grew up and he is the Founder of Yavapai Territorial Gospel Rescue Mission in Prescott, where he serves women and children. We are very proud of the his work! My 4 year old is the reason I am the Transportation lead at Higher Ground. He is the Assistant Director and has raised 4 beautiful girls who are strong, smart and crazy!! I want to bring laughter to the kids, I want to make sure that the time we pick them up to the program they know what laughter is!

Ray Barreras

Transportation Lead

 As a native of Tucson, I grew up with the passion of wanting to help others. My life goal growing up was to be a doctor, but life had other plans. I graduated from Flowing Wells High School in 2009 which provided me the path to complete another goal that I had, which was attending the University of Arizona after a semester I ended up dropping out. Life took a lot twists and turns from there and I wound up being dragged down and beaten by life. I was a broken person through all of this. Through it all life built me back up and Higher Ground gave me a chance.  I have been at Higher Ground for 3 years. I am now the Manager of School Programs and I get the privilege to be able to use my experiences to influence and impact the kids. This has given me the opportunity to accomplish that life goal of being able to help others. I never thought it would be in this way but life has its own plan. I continue looking forward to growing and learning with Higher Ground so I can do the best I can for all of the youth we serve so none of them have to go through life alone.    

As a native of Tucson, I grew up with the passion of wanting to help others. My life goal growing up was to be a doctor, but life had other plans. I graduated from Flowing Wells High School in 2009 which provided me the path to complete another goal that I had, which was attending the University of Arizona after a semester I ended up dropping out. Life took a lot twists and turns from there and I wound up being dragged down and beaten by life. I was a broken person through all of this. Through it all life built me back up and Higher Ground gave me a chance.

I have been at Higher Ground for 3 years. I am now the Manager of School Programs and I get the privilege to be able to use my experiences to influence and impact the kids. This has given me the opportunity to accomplish that life goal of being able to help others. I never thought it would be in this way but life has its own plan. I continue looking forward to growing and learning with Higher Ground so I can do the best I can for all of the youth we serve so none of them have to go through life alone.


 

Fernando Gil Lamadrid

School Programs Manager

 My name is Ryo Sato, and I work for Higher Ground as a SEL Instructor, Child Advocate and a Rec Coach. I go to Tucson Unified School District Alternative Education Program site in the morning to teach Social Emotional Learning, Social Skills at Sunnyside School in the afternoon, and build relationships with students at our main facility during after school hours.  Something interesting about me is that I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and spent 19 years of my life there. This is my 10th year living in Tucson. I enjoy the food and culture here.  I strongly believe that what we do is making a huge impact to the community. Through my work, I hope that I can be a part of this community and make a positive impact with my knowledge and experiences.   

My name is Ryo Sato, and I work for Higher Ground as a SEL Instructor, Child Advocate and a Rec Coach. I go to Tucson Unified School District Alternative Education Program site in the morning to teach Social Emotional Learning, Social Skills at Sunnyside School in the afternoon, and build relationships with students at our main facility during after school hours.

Something interesting about me is that I was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and spent 19 years of my life there. This is my 10th year living in Tucson. I enjoy the food and culture here.

I strongly believe that what we do is making a huge impact to the community. Through my work, I hope that I can be a part of this community and make a positive impact with my knowledge and experiences.

 

Ryo Sato

SEL Instructor, Child and Family Advocate and Rec Coach

 Hi, I am Felicia, often known as Feli. I am a part time barista and full time queen of sarcasm. When I am not at work you can find me at the local pet shop admiring all the adorable dogs I cannot adopt.  I am the lead office administrator here at Higher Ground and my job is to ensure that everything in the office is organized and running as smoothly as possible.  I love being able to come to work every day within the community I was raised and my hope is that no matter where these kids go, they will remember the values Higher Ground has taught them.   

Hi, I am Felicia, often known as Feli. I am a part time barista and full time queen of sarcasm. When I am not at work you can find me at the local pet shop admiring all the adorable dogs I cannot adopt.

I am the lead office administrator here at Higher Ground and my job is to ensure that everything in the office is organized and running as smoothly as possible.

I love being able to come to work every day within the community I was raised and my hope is that no matter where these kids go, they will remember the values Higher Ground has taught them.

 

Felicia Mendibles

Lead Office Administrator

 I graduated from high school in the spring of 2015. I found out about Higher Ground through a friend who volunteered and was part of the Jiu Jitsu program. I decided that I wanted to be a part of all this. I had volunteered here for 2 years and had been part of the Jiu Jitsu program. Once I graduated, I decided that I wanted to stick around Higher Ground and continue to help.  I was born and raised in Tucson. I am the second oldest of 4 girls. I have always been very involved with kids.  I volunteer in my church’s youth and children programs and I worked in the daycare at my high school.    My position here at Higher Ground is to make sure that the program continues to run smoothly. I run around with the kids and fill in wherever my assistance is needed.    I hope that by working here at Higher Ground I can make a difference in at least one child, and make a change in the community.

I graduated from high school in the spring of 2015. I found out about Higher Ground through a friend who volunteered and was part of the Jiu Jitsu program. I decided that I wanted to be a part of all this. I had volunteered here for 2 years and had been part of the Jiu Jitsu program. Once I graduated, I decided that I wanted to stick around Higher Ground and continue to help.

I was born and raised in Tucson. I am the second oldest of 4 girls. I have always been very involved with kids.  I volunteer in my church’s youth and children programs and I worked in the daycare at my high school.  

My position here at Higher Ground is to make sure that the program continues to run smoothly. I run around with the kids and fill in wherever my assistance is needed.  

I hope that by working here at Higher Ground I can make a difference in at least one child, and make a change in the community.

Isa Barreras

Youth Center Program Manager

 My Name is Andres Leon, others know me as “Big Brother”. I am the Music instructor at Higher Ground.  I grew up playing music starting off on drums. I picked up guitar in Middle school and piano in high school. I am a Music Major in Composition currently studying at  Pima Community College and the University of Arizona. My job every day is to reach individuals through music and be a positive influence at Higher Ground.   

My Name is Andres Leon, others know me as “Big Brother”. I am the Music instructor at Higher Ground.  I grew up playing music starting off on drums. I picked up guitar in Middle school and piano in high school. I am a Music Major in Composition currently studying at  Pima Community College and the University of Arizona. My job every day is to reach individuals through music and be a positive influence at Higher Ground.

 

Andres Leon

Rec Coach

 I grew up in the City of South Tucson and graduated from Pueblo High School in 1996.  I love Disney and all the magic it represents!  As a child my life goal was to be Goofy at Disneyland.  Although that dream was never achieved my love for kids and childhood fantasies still lives.  I have two boys who keep me on my toes.  I was a parent volunteer at Higher Ground for a couple of years before becoming the outside sports leader.  Although I am only at Higher Ground part-time, my love for children and the desire to have a positive impact on our youth is why I am grateful to be part of Higher Ground. 

I grew up in the City of South Tucson and graduated from Pueblo High School in 1996.  I love Disney and all the magic it represents!  As a child my life goal was to be Goofy at Disneyland.  Although that dream was never achieved my love for kids and childhood fantasies still lives.  I have two boys who keep me on my toes.  I was a parent volunteer at Higher Ground for a couple of years before becoming the outside sports leader.  Although I am only at Higher Ground part-time, my love for children and the desire to have a positive impact on our youth is why I am grateful to be part of Higher Ground. 

Mary Ann Angulo

Rec Coach

 Hi, Im Cheryl E. Lopez born and raised in Monte Vista, Colorado. I graduated from Monte Vista High School in 1987 with classmates I went to school with all 12 years-13 if you count Headstart.(preschool).  After graduating High School, I went to J.S.B.C.(Jimmy Swaggart Bible College) for a year then I went to S.A.G.U.(Southwestern Assembly of God University) for a year.   Then finally after four more years of college I received my B.A.in Christian Education from S.A.B.C.(Southern Arizona Bible College) .  I was the Assistant Pastor/worship leader on campus and the valedictorian for my graduating class in 1993.  During my time at SABC I met my best friend and eventually fell in love and married Eli Anthony Lopez.  A week after we got married we began our journey together in Arizona as Youth Pastors at Mission View Assembly of God and then after 10 years, we became the Senior Pastors of the same church and later changed the name to The Well Worship Center, in total we served there for 23 years.  In the mist of of serving Tucson as Pastors we had two beautiful children, Josiah Daniel Lopez and JaeDee Lynne Lopez who are the greatest gifts we have ever received.  We also had the privilege to be apart of the start of Higher Ground, I was one of the first life changers and was in charge of the Cafe called Azusa Street Cafe.  As Higher Ground grew and then moved to other facilities and my children grew older I decided it was time to develop my career skills and started working at Little Angel Learning Center where I took care of the 3-4 year olds.  After working there for a year the owner decided to close the center and retire.  At this time a position opened at Higher Ground for a Parent Liaison.  I have been working in this position for over a year and plan on many more years, reaching, transforming and elevating one family at a time. Walking side by side, finding a need and meeting it as best as possible.

Hi, Im Cheryl E. Lopez born and raised in Monte Vista, Colorado. I graduated from Monte Vista High School in 1987 with classmates I went to school with all 12 years-13 if you count Headstart.(preschool).  After graduating High School, I went to J.S.B.C.(Jimmy Swaggart Bible College) for a year then I went to S.A.G.U.(Southwestern Assembly of God University) for a year.   Then finally after four more years of college I received my B.A.in Christian Education from S.A.B.C.(Southern Arizona Bible College) .  I was the Assistant Pastor/worship leader on campus and the valedictorian for my graduating class in 1993.  During my time at SABC I met my best friend and eventually fell in love and married Eli Anthony Lopez.  A week after we got married we began our journey together in Arizona as Youth Pastors at Mission View Assembly of God and then after 10 years, we became the Senior Pastors of the same church and later changed the name to The Well Worship Center, in total we served there for 23 years.  In the mist of of serving Tucson as Pastors we had two beautiful children, Josiah Daniel Lopez and JaeDee Lynne Lopez who are the greatest gifts we have ever received.  We also had the privilege to be apart of the start of Higher Ground, I was one of the first life changers and was in charge of the Cafe called Azusa Street Cafe.  As Higher Ground grew and then moved to other facilities and my children grew older I decided it was time to develop my career skills and started working at Little Angel Learning Center where I took care of the 3-4 year olds.  After working there for a year the owner decided to close the center and retire.  At this time a position opened at Higher Ground for a Parent Liaison.  I have been working in this position for over a year and plan on many more years, reaching, transforming and elevating one family at a time. Walking side by side, finding a need and meeting it as best as possible.

Cheryl Lopez

Parent Engagement Liason