Meet our Board of Directors
We are so grateful to our coalition of community leaders, stakeholders, and entrepreneurs for their continued support and guidance of Higher Ground Youth & Family Services.
Founder & Executive Director, Higher Ground Youth & Family Services
After a successful career in corporate communications, Joe Baldo has spent the last 15 years advocating for underserved youth and their families. In 2012 he founded HGYFS as a mentoring program. Over the last several years, Higher Ground has grown into a prominent community resource and learning center for hundreds of youth every day. Currently, Higher Ground offers a wide variety of programs and services that positively impact the entire community. As an organization, the focus is on providing a strong and reliable foundation upon which youth and their families can explore purpose and possibility for their future. Joe currently serves on the CSEC Steering Committee (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children), the Human Trafficking Task Force, and the Child Abuse Prevention Council of OC.
Schilling Law Group, PC
Charity Gilbreth's practice focuses on providing outside general counsel services and representing plaintiffs and defendants in mediation, arbitration, and litigation. For almost 20 years, she has advised prominent individuals, public and private corporations, and non-profit organizations on a wide variety of matters involving business litigation, employment, insurance, real estate, and shareholder and partner disputes. Prior to joining Schilling Law Group, she practiced at Latham & Watkins LLP in the Litigation and Environmental departments. Charity received a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Chapman University and a Juris Doctor degree from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Charity is passionate about providing pro bono legal services through organizations such as the Public Law Center and Human Options. She is an active member of the Orange County Bar Association, serving as Co-Chair of the Education Committee and on the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee. Throughout her career, she has participated in a number of mentoring programs to assist young lawyers. Charity grew up in La Palma, and she continues to live in the community. Charity is a proud mom of three, with twin daughters and a son. She enjoys being involved in their school communities, especially chairing their school’s annual trunk-or-treat event.
Manger, Cal State Fullerton Titan Research Gateway
Yolanda Uzzell has more than 15 years of experience working in non-profit management and higher education. Her primary interests lie in organizational effectiveness and business process management with a focus on information and data management. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a Specialization in Business and Administration from UCLA, and her Masters in Leadership from the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California (USC). Her previous positions include management consulting, research development, operations and administration in a higher education setting, and business development and marketing for a start-up non-profit organization. She has also volunteered her time at several non-profits including Women In Film (WIF), Junior Achievement, the UCLA Anderson Riordan Programs Alumni Association (RPAA) Saturday Business Academy, and several domestic violence shelters in California.
Veronica Funaro Miller
Vice President Religious Client Services, Farmers & Merchants Bank
Veronica Funaro Miller has nearly 25 years of extensive banking experience at community-based Farmers and Merchants Bank. She brings her sense of commitment and bright positive attitude to everything she does. She truly cares about the community and has a strong desire to do whatever she can to help make it a better place.
Vice Provost, Chapman University
Joe Slowensky is the Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Faculty Affairs at Chapman University. He supervises the offices of Faculty Affairs, Institutional Research, Diversity and Inclusion, Accreditation and Assessment, and the Institute for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Before joining the Provost’s Office, Slowensky served as Chair of the Film Division in the Lawrence and Kristina Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, where he holds his appointment as Professor. A screenwriter and producer, Slowensky has written and produced projects for ABC, the Disney Channel, and CBS. He is an emeritus member of the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Writers Peer Group, where he’s a voting juror for the prime-time Emmy Awards. A native of Houston, Texas, Slowensky received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree from the University of Southern California.
Director of Human Resources, Anaheim Elementary School District
Tammie Ledesma has been involved in education for thirty years. She has completed twenty-three years in the Anaheim Elementary School District. Prior to becoming the director of AESD's human resources, Ledesma was able to serve as a principal of Lincoln Elementary School, vice principal, literacy coach, teacher on special assignments for at-risk students, mentor, activities coordinator, physical education lead teacher, and a K-6th grade teacher. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Child Development and a Masters in Educational Leadership. Tammie grew up in the city of Anaheim and she continues to live the community. She provided support through authoring non-profit applications for several organizations, coaching baseball for fifteen years, participating as a member on community committees, and volunteering for multiple organizations. Ledesma is a true believer in purpose. She knows that if each individual honors their personal purpose, together we can make a difference for our children, families, and community.
Director of Curriculum, Anaheim Unified School District
Carlos Hernández is the son of migrant parents from Jalisco, Mexico. He was born in Detroit, Michigan and moved to San Fernando Valley, California and then to Anaheim, California, where he had an impactful educational experience as a student in the Anaheim Union High School District. So much so that he was determined to return back to his community in order to help build further progress. In 1999, he returned to the Anaheim Union High School District after graduating from UCLA with a degree in Mathematics and was hired as a math teacher. From 1999 through 2005 he taught Math, facilitated the Mathematical Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA), and took on leadership roles such as the Title I Program Specialist at Sycamore Junior High School. He also coached baseball and football at Anaheim High School during those same years. Carlos was hired as an assistant principal at Savanna High School in November of 2005. Within the capacity as an assistant principal, he grew as an instructional leader and fostered his understanding of the critical role that relationships play with staff, students, parents and community members in order to improve student achievement. In May of 2011, Carlos was given the opportunity to become the principal at South Junior High School, where he served until June, 2015. He then continued serving his community as the principal of Savanna High School until December 2017. He was appointed as the Director of Guidance and Student Services which has since blended into his current position, Director of Curriculum and Instruction in the Anaheim Union High School District.
Cheif of Police, Anaheim Police Department
Jorge Cisneros is the 36th chief of the Anaheim Police Department. Chief Cisneros leads Orange County’s largest city police department and oversees nearly 600 employees, including more than 400 sworn personnel. He plays a leading role in connecting the Anaheim Police Department to the community it serves by working with the Chief's Advisory Board, Chief's Neighborhood Advisory Council and the Chief's Youth Advisory Council on issues of public safety and quality of life in Anaheim. Cisneros assumed the chief's role in August 2018. He has more than 30 years of experience, including over a decade serving as a police chief.
Retired President, Farmer Boys Restaurants
Ken was formerly President of Farmer Boys Food, Inc., a restaurant chain headquartered in Riverside, California, and continues working for them as a consultant. He was VP of Operations for the El Pollo Loco Corporation for 13 years and has been in the food industry for more than 25 years. Ken is an active member of St. Martin de Porres in Yorba Linda and currently serves on its Finance Committee. He is a member of the Orange Coast Legatus chapter and the Knights of Columbus. He currently serves on the Board of Heartbeat International.
Assistant Director, Cal State Fullerton Center for Internship and Community Engagement
Robert Pierce is an expatriate of the U.K., born in Sheffield, England. Community engagement has been part of his life since he joined the Scout Movement at 4 years old. Progressing through the entire Scouting experience to assistant leader at age 20, he spent countless hours in community service settings – from serving the elderly to clearing debris from rivers. Those early experiences taught him the value of community and the effort needed to be a contributing member of society. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Manchester in Media and Business and spent his twenties pursuing a career in the music business. After nearly a decade pursuing individual fulfillment he found himself seeking a more magnanimous direction. His role at California State University, Fullerton’s Center for Internships & Community Engagement includes training faculty through CSUF Faculty Development Center seminars and workshops to integrate service-learning into their curriculum. He also works to develop partnerships with myriad organizations serving diverse populations and addressing issues across the social spectrum facilitating meaningful service-projects for students.
For more than 45 years, Mr. Sperry has been a highly recognized and influential leader within the Southern California and national commercial real estate industry. Rand Sperry is a Chair and a Board member of five non-profits currently and past chair/member of four nonprofits and has been involved for over 25 years in philanthropy in Orange County. Rand Sperry is a principal of Sperry Commercial, Inc. and Sperry Equities, LLC, a real estate investment and property management organization and continues to grow these companies, as well as its global franchise brokerage business, Sperry Commercial Global Affiliates, with partners Burton Young, Jack Carroll, and Cornelius Mendez. Mr. Sperry resides in Orange County with his wife Rosemary and they have six grown children, 10 grandchildren and counting.
Chicano & Latino Studies,
Cal State Long Beach
Dr. Moreno is an Associate Professor of Latino Education & Policy Studies and past Chair of the Chicano & Latino Studies Department at California State University, Long Beach. Born in Guasave, Sinaloa, Mexico and raised in Oxnard, Ca, he is a graduate of UC Irvine and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr. Moreno is a widely published author in the field of educational access, equity and evaluation including an edited volume titled The Elusive Quest for Quality: 150 Years of Chicano/a Education published by the Harvard Education Review Publishing Group. He is a past Co-Chair of the Editorial Board of the Harvard Educational Review and researcher for the Harvard University Civil Rights Project. Dr. Moreno has served on various advisory councils including the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME); Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) Making Excellence Inclusive; and the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC) Student Success Task Force; and currently serves as a faculty member in the AAC&U Institute for General Education & Assessment, and faculty for the WASC Senior Colleges & Universities Assessment Leadership Academy. Dr. Moreno served on the drafting for the New Learning Compact: A Framework for Professional Learning and Educational Change and currently is Co-PI of the Caminos Project, a $2.7 U.S. Department of Education Title V: Hispanic Serving Institutions Development grant which seeks to increase the pipeline of Latinx teachers in K-12 schools as well as to build curricular capacities to prepare all teacher-education candidates for serving in Latinx communities. Recently, Dr. Moreno was appointed to serve on the CSULB Institutional Team to develop submission for campus- designation of the Seal of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education. Dr. Moreno served as a City Councilmember in Anaheim, CA from 2016 - 2022, having served as Mayor Pro Tem in 2018. Community and neighborhood engagement has been Dr. Moreno’s focus which include immigrant integration, youth & senior commissions, and promoting a culture of kindness. He served two terms on the Board of Education for the Anaheim City School District (ACSD), one of the largest elementary school districts in California. Jose formerly served on the Board of Directors for the Orange County Community Housing Corporation (OCCHC) which works to help extremely low-income families, with wages under $12 an hour, gain greater self-sufficiency and lead enriched lives and currently serves as President of Los Amigos of Orange County, a 45- year old grass-roots group that meets weekly to help people through the most difficult of situations. In 2018 Dr. Moreno was honored as the California State LULAC Man of the Year and in 2017 and recognized with a “New American Hero” award by the New American Leaders Project. A father of four beautifully intelligent girls/young women, Dr. Moreno and his wife, Lorena Moreno, an award-winning school principal, are among the founding parents of the Dual Language Immersion Program in the Anaheim Elementary School District.