Restart S.M.A.R.T. is a program run by the nonprofit Higher Ground, with the goal to serve specific non-academic needs of students and families.
Now, the organization will use a $1 million grant to help improve wages for its staff and fill up positions to provide better services for students and families.
Higher Ground CEO Jansen Azarias-Suzumoto says they are partnered with eight Title I schools (5 in TUSD, 1 in SUSD, and 1 charter school) where administrators will flag students with problematic behavior and tardiness. Those are K-8, elementary, and middle schools.
Then, the nonprofit’s on-site staff will arrange a meeting, and they’ll perform a comprehensive review of what a student and their family may need. That is all completely voluntary, and not required by the school.
Once the review is complete, the Restart S.M.A.R.T. program follows Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. That means making sure they have every basic need met like water, food, and shelter.
While Higher Ground doesn’t directly provide every resource, it connects students and families with partners that do organizations like the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, El Rio Health, Tucson Medical Center, and La Frontera.
Azarias-Suzumoto said Restart S.M.A.R.T. also hosts after-school programs like Judo and Jiu-jitzo, teaching kids resilience, self-control and anger management.
Azarias-Suzumoto said through the Restart S.M.A.R.T. program, they’ve worked with city and school officials to make walking to school safer by repairing sidewalks and working with Tucson Police to reduce vandalism in neighborhoods. He emphasized not every school they work at has safety issues, and once again said the support they provide is dependent on the situation.