With all the data around the impact of the pandemic on our youth’s education and mental health, is there a way to come back stronger and support our schools in lower socio-economic neighborhoods? Restart SMART uses a community schools' strategy for organizing school and community resources around student and family success. We support the students' and families' holistic wellness by providing wrap-around services and addressing all the non-academic needs that impact the school. Our data shows up to 80% improvement in student attendance, a significant reduction in negative student behaviors, higher parent engagement, and increased resource referral success rates from 10% to over 70% in school sites. Nationally, studies have found that for every dollar spent on community schools strategy, $7 to $13 dollars of support are returned to the community. Combined with Higher Ground's unique approach to youth and family engagement, each Restart SMART site is fully responsive to every unique needs and enhances existing resources in the community while bridging current gaps. Finally, each site is locally empowered through a community steering committee that is supported as they learn to perform continuous needs analysis, quality improvements, and partnership recruitment and management to ensure each site becomes self-sustaining.
Jansen Azarias-Suzumoto ~ Biography
Jansen Azarias-Suzumoto was born and raised in the Philippines and left for the United States when he was 18 years old. With an understanding of living through trauma, 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, he 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 2500+ youth, 800+ families, and 300+ educators annually and is an established Non-Profit in our community. 
His leadership has helped drive the Community Schools Initiative for our city in partnership with our local school districts, La Frontera, and other community leaders. His childhood informs the deep connection that he feels to the youth that Higher Ground serves. 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.
He is currently doing Professional Development for school districts and other organizations about fostering healthy choices, creating social relationships, encouraging values, building life skills, coping with compassion fatigue, and high-quality youth methods. He also acts as an advisor for school districts and Community Schools Forward, a national organization working with the White House and the Department of Education to increase the impact of Community Schools around the United States.
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
2021 White Riley Peterson Fellow
2017 Next Generation in After-school Leadership Honoree
2017 Mentor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy
2016 Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce 40 under 40
2015 Child Abuse Prevention Award
2014 Youth Leader Award
2013 FBI Community Service Award
2013 Community Leadership Award
Judo (Brown Belt) Jiujitsu (Brown 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