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 was the 1994 Sherman Oaks center for Enriched studies Varsity basketball captain, varsity volleyball captain and prom king.  I attended the University of Arizona where I earned a social and behavioral science bachelor’s degree.  I also graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Master’s in education.  I love God, my family, and my opportunities to serve, which include my job and coaching basketball.  I have 4 awesome children and a phenomenal wife whom I could imagine a day without.  I am the associate pastor at Lighthouse church international, a high school basketball coach and a family counselor.  I enjoy every aspect of life as I believe that all things, good or bad are purposed to teach us how to become compete in our purpose.

I was the 1994 Sherman Oaks center for Enriched studies Varsity basketball captain, varsity volleyball captain and prom king.  I attended the University of Arizona where I earned a social and behavioral science bachelor’s degree.  I also graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Master’s in education.  I love God, my family, and my opportunities to serve, which include my job and coaching basketball.  I have 4 awesome children and a phenomenal wife whom I could imagine a day without.  I am the associate pastor at Lighthouse church international, a high school basketball coach and a family counselor.  I enjoy every aspect of life as I believe that all things, good or bad are purposed to teach us how to become compete in our purpose.

Arthur Rodgers

DAEP Coach

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

Jessie Haro

Boxing coach

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

Hello, I am Christina Rupp and I am the basketball and a DAEP coach at Higher Ground. I teach social-emotional learning and life skills through basketball. I started my college basketball career at Oral Roberts University in 2014. I transfered to the College of Southern Idaho, where I received my Associates Degree. After I graduated I had an extra year to play at a 2 year college. So I came to Pima Community College to gain more experience. In the process i started volunteering at Higher Ground as a basketball coach in the summer program. I was hired as part time staff that upcoming school year. Towards the end of August I tore my ACL. Going through that whole process of surgery and therapy allowed me to be able to coach and teach the kids not only basketball but how to have grit, never quit, and to push through trials to reach their dreams. Outside of work I play basketball and I am currently working towards playing basketball overseas. I also like to play and write music. Fun Fact: I used to breakdance  

Hello, I am Christina Rupp and I am the basketball and a DAEP coach at Higher Ground. I teach social-emotional learning and life skills through basketball. I started my college basketball career at Oral Roberts University in 2014. I transfered to the College of Southern Idaho, where I received my Associates Degree. After I graduated I had an extra year to play at a 2 year college. So I came to Pima Community College to gain more experience. In the process i started volunteering at Higher Ground as a basketball coach in the summer program. I was hired as part time staff that upcoming school year. Towards the end of August I tore my ACL. Going through that whole process of surgery and therapy allowed me to be able to coach and teach the kids not only basketball but how to have grit, never quit, and to push through trials to reach their dreams.

Outside of work I play basketball and I am currently working towards playing basketball overseas. I also like to play and write music.

Fun Fact: I used to breakdance


 

Christina Rupp

DAEP Basketball Coach

Hi, my name is Celeste. I am currently a senior at the University of Arizona and will graduate in May 2018. I will be the first in my family to graduate from college. With my degree, I hope to work with South Tucson's at risk youth. I have always known I want to help others, especially in my community and Higher Ground has helped me do that! I started working at Higher Ground in 2013 through the Tucson Youth Development program. When the program ended, I loved being a part of such a life changing organization that I volunteered for two years before being hired as an Administrative Assistant. I have always enjoyed trying different beauty trends. Since I was in first grade I have experimented with various hair colors. Over the years  my hair has been every color of the rainbow! When I am not trying out new hair colors, I am experimenting with the latest makeup trends.  

Hi, my name is Celeste.

I am currently a senior at the University of Arizona and will graduate in May 2018. I will be the first in my family to graduate from college. With my degree, I hope to work with South Tucson's at risk youth. I have always known I want to help others, especially in my community and Higher Ground has helped me do that!

I started working at Higher Ground in 2013 through the Tucson Youth Development program. When the program ended, I loved being a part of such a life changing organization that I volunteered for two years before being hired as an Administrative Assistant.

I have always enjoyed trying different beauty trends. Since I was in first grade I have experimented with various hair colors. Over the years  my hair has been every color of the rainbow! When I am not trying out new hair colors, I am experimenting with the latest makeup trends.

 

Celeste Chacon

Administrative Assistant

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

Jessica Mendibles

Art Teacher

Juan Moore

Van Monitor

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

A fierce and handsome warrior with black hair and dreamy eyes. Who is this you might be asking, well here is my story. My journey begins in the village of Alamosa, Colorado born on a cold fall night. The moment I could speak I always spoke of becoming a great warrior, one who serves. During my journey, I have learned to be a warrior I must give up self in order to see others succeed. I started as a student at higher ground and knew one day I would be back to help kids in need. In high school I wanted to join the marines but instead I went to a institute called CFNI. I graduated from CFNI in 2016 and came back to higher ground to serve the kids in the community I grew up in because I had personally experienced the pain of my father leaving me. I knew I could make a difference so I joined Higher Grounds RTE Team. As a RTE member I am responsible to reach individuals needs by mentoring and walking step by step just like the warrior who took me in. Reach, Transform, Elevate is the warrior code I will live by for eternity.

A fierce and handsome warrior with black hair and dreamy eyes. Who is this you might be asking, well here is my story. My journey begins in the village of Alamosa, Colorado born on a cold fall night. The moment I could speak I always spoke of becoming a great warrior, one who serves. During my journey, I have learned to be a warrior I must give up self in order to see others succeed. I started as a student at higher ground and knew one day I would be back to help kids in need. In high school I wanted to join the marines but instead I went to a institute called CFNI. I graduated from CFNI in 2016 and came back to higher ground to serve the kids in the community I grew up in because I had personally experienced the pain of my father leaving me. I knew I could make a difference so I joined Higher Grounds RTE Team. As a RTE member I am responsible to reach individuals needs by mentoring and walking step by step just like the warrior who took me in. Reach, Transform, Elevate is the warrior code I will live by for eternity.

Timothy Herrera

Child and Family Advocate

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

It takes a village to raise a child… Imagine, growing up in a secluded area in your city playing every game imaginable from sunrise to midnight and not worrying about strangers coming to your neighborhood, only family. . . I did not have two parents as a kid, I had eight. You did wrong and the first adult that witnessed it was the one to take action. Born in the city of Carson, California and moving to Tucson when I was two was one of the best decisions that my parents ever made.  Being the youngest of two, I really had the chance to grow and experience what it is to be a part of an extended family.  One of my fondest memories as a kid was playing outside with my cousins and we all stopped what we were doing because we heard the ice cream truck nearby.  The next day, we planned that the fastest runner would be the one to go up the hill and get the truck down to the barrio.  After a couple hours, we heard the music playing from a distance and my cousin ran to get his attention.  In no time, we were all eating ice cream under the Palo Verde tree. I grew up near Cholla High School and was a part of the class of 1987.  After graduating from New Mexico State University, with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, I had my son Christopher and I realized what a mother’s pride was really about.   I found my love for the community when I worked for the local Head Start program as a Family Educator for early childhood development. This fueled my love and passion to work with parents and children.  After realizing that I wanted to spend more time with my son during his high school years and not missing any of his baseball moments, I took time off to be a “baseball mom”.  During this time, I taught myself how to be a nail technician and recognized that not having natural talent does not mean that you cannot accomplish a goal. After my son graduated from high school, I realized that I wanted to serve in the community once again.  That is when I joined the Higher Ground Family. Working as a child advocate, I get to serve students, kinder through 12th by helping them with their behaviors and trauma. I believe that because I had what we called the “barrio San Juan” (San Juan neighborhood) growing up, I am able to come alongside the students and their families to give them hope, support, and the resources needed to create their own family memories.  

It takes a village to raise a child…

Imagine, growing up in a secluded area in your city playing every game imaginable from sunrise to midnight and not worrying about strangers coming to your neighborhood, only family. . . I did not have two parents as a kid, I had eight. You did wrong and the first adult that witnessed it was the one to take action.

Born in the city of Carson, California and moving to Tucson when I was two was one of the best decisions that my parents ever made.  Being the youngest of two, I really had the chance to grow and experience what it is to be a part of an extended family.  One of my fondest memories as a kid was playing outside with my cousins and we all stopped what we were doing because we heard the ice cream truck nearby.  The next day, we planned that the fastest runner would be the one to go up the hill and get the truck down to the barrio.  After a couple hours, we heard the music playing from a distance and my cousin ran to get his attention.  In no time, we were all eating ice cream under the Palo Verde tree.

I grew up near Cholla High School and was a part of the class of 1987.  After graduating from New Mexico State University, with a Bachelor’s in Social Work, I had my son Christopher and I realized what a mother’s pride was really about.  

I found my love for the community when I worked for the local Head Start program as a Family Educator for early childhood development. This fueled my love and passion to work with parents and children.  After realizing that I wanted to spend more time with my son during his high school years and not missing any of his baseball moments, I took time off to be a “baseball mom”.  During this time, I taught myself how to be a nail technician and recognized that not having natural talent does not mean that you cannot accomplish a goal. After my son graduated from high school, I realized that I wanted to serve in the community once again.  That is when I joined the Higher Ground Family. Working as a child advocate, I get to serve students, kinder through 12th by helping them with their behaviors and trauma.

I believe that because I had what we called the “barrio San Juan” (San Juan neighborhood) growing up, I am able to come alongside the students and their families to give them hope, support, and the resources needed to create their own family memories.

 

Elvia Obregon

Child and Family Advocate

Mary Ann Angulo

Rec Coach

Cheryl Lopez

Parent engagement Liason