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Board of directors

Joe Baldo - Executive Director

Joe Baldo has a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Loyola Marymount University. For 30 years, he owned and operated a video production company in Orange County serving major corporations. Since 2008 his passion has been mentoring youth through numerous area organizations such as Catholic Detention Ministry, Lives Worth Saving (Santa Ana), Angels Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, Violence Prevention Coalition of Orange County, Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Anaheim Gang Reduction Intervention Partnership.


Most recently, Joe made a life decision to pursue a full-time ministry supporting at-risk youth in the inner city. In 2012, he formed Higher Ground Youth & Family Services to create a safe place in troubled Orange County neighborhoods where kids can freely come to experience sports, tutoring, mentoring, and training during a critical time in their lives.

Joe Slowensky - Chairman of the Board

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.

Ken Clark - Vice Chairman

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 El Pollo Loco 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.

Kitty Juniper-Aust - Secretary

Kitty Juniper advises health care companies, providers and marketers, as a health care law attorney with Buchalter, A Professional Corporation.  Kitty’s diverse background in business, government, private practice and government relations helps her structure comprehensive and strategic solutions for her clients.


Kitty has served on various state and local boards and committees for the last 30 years.  She recently relocated to Old Towne Orange from San Diego where, among other things, she was on the board of the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, which provides pro bono legal services to vulnerable communities such as the homeless, domestic violence victims and veterans.  Kitty has also worked with other groups addressing issues concerning diversity, community conflict and equal rights.

Michael DeLuca - Treasurer

Michael DeLuca is a practicing Certified Public Accountant who specializes in nonprofit entities and is a member of the American Institute of CPAs, the AICPA Tax Section and Not-for-Profit Section.


Outside of work, Michael promotes amateur youth sports through various youth basketball organizations. He is also active in various high school booster clubs promoting youth sports.

Francisco Fonseca

Francisco Fonseca, born in Guadalajara Mexico, came to the United States at 8 years old, and was raised in Inglewood California. Francisco, experienced in running various companies, had his Automotive since 1985. He had an Honorable Discharge after his draft in the Vietnam War and a tour in Korea.


Aside from his involvement in several charities over the last 20 years, he has been a supporter of Eli Home for abused children and their mothers, where he received the great honor of man of the Year in 2013 by the Eli Home for his contributions.


His time on the Board of American Family Housing came to a conclusion after a few years, after which he was introduced to Joe Baldo. His long-standing dream of helping kids came to fruition when he was asked to be on the board of Higher Ground.

Lisa Gorciak

Lisa Gorciak holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies from Loyola Marymount University and a certificate as an EEG Neurofeedback therapist from the EEG Institute. She is a neurofeedback therapist, educator and volunteer, and she has taught and tutored for more than 30 years.


Lisa volunteered for eight years as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for abused children representing their best interests in the courtroom and other settings. She also served as a CASA Ambassador by representing the organization as a speaker and assisted in fundraising and gift collection for the CASA children. She also supports the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in their fundraising efforts. Lisa also worked as an adult fitness trainer where she promoted healthy lifestyles and motivated her clients to achieve their personal health and wellness goals. Lisa has a passion for helping at-risk children through mentoring, teaching and volunteering.

Tammie Ledesma

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 assignment 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.

Robert Pierce

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.

Rand Sperry

Rand Sperry  co-founded  Sperry Van Ness, a group of companies to create a commercial investment real estate firm with one key mission: to create unprecedented value for commercial associates and their clients. Between 2000- 2008 the firm became national in size. Rand Sperry is now the CEO of Sperry Equities and Sperry Commercial, investing in Commercial assets in 10 states.


Mr. Sperry is active in both church and community. He has been a member of numerous civic and religious boards and committees in Orange County California over the last 20+ years.

Yolanda Uzzell

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.

Al Valdez, Ph.D.

Al Valdez is a nationally recognized consultant in the areas of youth violence, gang sociology and behaviors, gang investigations /prosecutions, parent/teacher awareness issues, prevention/intervention models and occult/ritual crimes.


Al has been a consultant to the California and U.S. Departments of Justice, the U.S. Military, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and Customs and Border Patrol. 

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