Our success is not measured in numbers and statistics. It is measured in stories.
A Family Lost, A Family Found
When you look at this family, you will never realize the many struggles they have been through.
Each of the children are smiling, happy, engaged, and on track with many goals in their life. However, seven years ago, this was not the case. Their mom left five children, ages 2, 5, 6, 8, and 13 due to substance abuse and some issues with local law enforcement at the doorstep of their grandmother. That day grandma’s life was disrupted to now becoming the responsible guardian for five young children who were full of trauma, anger, and sadness. Grandma did not have anyone except for Higher Ground.
She immediately told Higher Ground the situation and received beds, clothing, basic needs, and other support for her grandchildren. Higher Ground engaged her and her family with different support systems to help them navigate the traumatic experience and the continuous emotional roller coaster that this sudden change in their life was going to bring.
Seven years later, the work continues and they have truly become part of the family at Higher Ground. The oldest grandchild is now a high school graduate with a full time job and living independently. The second oldest grandchild is now part of the High School Enterprise Program at Higher Ground, volunteering her time to mentor other students and help to run the office in the afternoon. The three other children are all engaged in competition judo and jujutsu classes, winning state championships and placing in national tournaments.
Grandma continues to be the guardian and has fully integrated into Higher Ground, volunteering her time for special events and helping advocate for Higher Ground.
**No names were mentioned to protect family’s identity and privacy.
Helping Others To Find the Right Path
By the age of 15, David had been expelled from school and in-and-out of drug treatment programs. His family moved him to Tucson to get him away from the environment in which he was quickly spiraling down. At first, David found it difficult adapting to his new home. He would run away, was often angry, and sometimes depressed.
Then David came to Higher Ground and joined the jiu jitsu program. It was there that he began to flourish. He began helping the younger students with their homework and their recreation activities. He began to say, “If I could just help one student stay away from drugs...” During his time at HG, he remained sober and served as a mentor to many of the younger kids and even began coaching jiu jitsu.
After three years at Higher Ground, David was the first in his family to graduate high school. Upon graduation, he was also the second-highest ranked officer of his high school’s JROTC program and was actively involved in other leadership opportunities in the community. He also received a scholarship to attend Pima Community College; another first for his family.
Today, David spends his days raising his daughter with his fiance, and works at the Juvenile Detention Center, where he applies what he has learned during his time at HG to help inspire young people to change their lives and make better decisions. In his free time, he visits Higher Ground and speaks to our current students, helping to steer them away from a life of drugs and other poor life decisions.
Finding Herself Through Serving Others
Andrea has been with Higher Ground since middle school, and was part of the original group of students during Higher Ground’s first years.
When she first came to Higher Ground, she was full of anger, loneliness, and felt isolated due to a life filled with radical ups and downs. Her father, who was incarcerated for 7 years, came back into her life, only to leave her and her family less than a year later to fend for themselves again. Her mother had to work two jobs just to earn enough to support Andrea and her two siblings. Andrea had to act like a second adult in the household, getting both her siblings ready for school every day.
Through Higher Ground, Andrea found strength, through her passion for dance, teaching, and mentoring. Despite the obstacles in her life, Andrea continually held herself to a higher standard, maintaining As and Bs, serving as a leader among her peers, and keeping herself out of trouble by spending the majority of her free time at Higher Ground and pursuing dance opportunities.
Andrea stayed with Higher Ground throughout high school, during which time she and her friend ran the dance program. In addition to teaching dance, she was also highly involved in the jiu jitsu program and won many state level jiu jitsu championships. Upon graduating, Andrea received a scholarship to Pima Community College through the combined efforts of Higher Ground and her Americorps service through Arizona Serve.
Today, Andrea is in her final year at Pima Community College, where she will graduate with a major in Dance and hopes to open her own dance studio one day. She continues to inspire her younger siblings, who currently volunteer as High School Enterprise students at Higher Ground during their free time.