Lifting the Tide: How Hazel Ortega Wants to Lift the Lives of One Billion Students by 2032


It is a story that sounds like one from a Hollywood movie. Growing up in poverty, surrounded by gangs, violence and even homicide. This is how Hazel Ortega overcame childhood traumas and turned it into a global impact. She wants to see a future where no children feel they need to hurt themselves or turn to suicide as a way of dealing with their situations.

Born into poverty and raised with her four sisters in a one-bedroom apartment in then-gritty Echo Park, L.A., Hazel grew up seeing her parents go in and out of the justice system and identified with the local gangs that ruled her block.  

There was no one to guide her education and growth; her family was focused solely on survival. Often left to take care of her younger siblings, Hazel was a product of her environment. This was the world she knew; this was her reality.

As she graduated from shoplifting art supplies as an elementary school student to accessories and jewelry as a teen. The ever-present threat of neighborhood violence came closer and closer—but when a childhood friend and a cousin were killed, she felt only numbness inside. But despite the bleak prospects around her, she always hoped she could be successful, and that life would not have to be so hopeless.

“I remember sitting at the top of the stairs in our apartment building when I was a kid and wondering where I would live and what kind of work I would do when I grew up. I knew my life would be different, and that I could grow up to be better than this,” Says Hazel.

Hazel was working in the Los Angeles court system when the judge who was her supervisor became the first of the “Pushy Angels”, whom she credits for inspiring her to achieve and encouraging her to complete her associate degree after completing and receiving her High School Diploma.


Later on, the attorney for whom she worked as a legal secretary helped inspire her to complete college and her master’s in psychology – earning Hazel the degree of M.ED PSY (Educational Psychologist).

“After getting injured at my workplace, it was difficult to navigate the system to get the help and support I needed. I saw a need to help others – especially people who may not be proficient in English, to navigate and make sure resources are available for them.” She decided to open Ortega Counseling Center from her home garage.

Seeing the powerful effect her business had on others (over 40,000 injured workers enrolled in training), ignited her passion to continue helping even more people. As she has people – Pushy Angels as she often refers to them – Hazel became determined to not only be a Pushy Angel herself for others to realize their potential but to create a network of like-minded people whose passion for helping others is bonding.

After being a successful Latina entrepreneur, her passion for education and empowerment led Hazel to found High TideGlobal- a nonprofit that focuses on making sure education is accessible to the poorest communities, by implementing “Secrets of Becoming a Superhero” a mindset and self-esteem program that will teach young children to empower themselves to break the cycle they are in, help them envision a better future for themselves and create this.

Never give up! There are moments things will look dark, these are the moments where you grow. Take a pause, look at what you are doing and WHY you are doing it – and keep going.

Written in partnership with IBH Media