SAR Board

Daniel SIlva

SAR President/Founder

Daniel is the founder of Self of Awareness & Recovery (SAR), a former inmate, and is a passionate reform and rehabilitation advocate. He was sentenced to state prison at 19 years old, and served 38 years; before being paroled. While serving time, he completed many rehab programs, but there was one program in particular that opened the doors to his second chance at life: Houses of Healing . This experience gave him the inspiration to create his own rehab program, and thus Self Awareness and Recovery was born. Had there been intervention and rehabilitation programs earlier in his development, Daniel believes that more of his years would have been spent on the outside helping others, as opposed to being locked-up on the inside - both figuratively and literally. It is his mission to fight for those who have no one to fight for them, by intervening before young people get stuck in the system, as well as advocating for the rehabilitation and healing of those who remain inside prison.

Mike Steffen

SAR, Vice President & Board Member

Mike is a member of the California State Bar and a licensed real estate broker. He was among the founding board members of Restoration House, a transition residence for parolees in Sacramento. Over the years, he has served as mentor to parolees, and facilitated personal growth workshops at Old Folsom and Mule Creek State Prisons. Mike met Daniel Silva and Henry Ortiz at Mule Creek in 2005 and there helped with the development of SAR in its early stages. In 2015, he assisted with SAR’s incorporation. A native of Fresno, Mike obtained undergraduate and law degrees from the University of San Francisco. He had a long career with the California State Automobile Association in San Francisco and in Sacramento, and is currently associated with Security Pacific Real Estate Brokerage in Fair Oaks.


SAR Board Member

Dr. Higuera has been in education for 27 years. She started her career as a K-12 bilingual teacher (Spanish) and then served in various roles as a School Psychologist, Special Education Program Specialist, Assistant Director of Special Education, and CSU Sacramento university-level Disability Management Counselor. Dr. Higuera is a Licensed Educational Psychologist and has completed her Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership, Social Justice. Her field experiences include a variety of settings: public schools, correctional settings (Department of California Youth Authority, CYA) for incarcerated youth, California Department of Education, and CSU Sacramento university-level adjunct professor.

Veronica Preciado

SAR Treasurer

Veronica Preciado brings both life experience as well as professional training in human services to the SAR board. As an immigrant, she moved to the US and experienced first hand the exploitation of the immigrant community. This motivated her to go to college, learn english, and obtain a human services degree in order to advocate for others. She started her volunteer work with the Coachella Valley’s Sexual Assault Services in Palm Springs, and continued on to the CASA Program which advocates for children in foster care. Se also worked with the Family Center for Solutions, where she facilitated anger management groups. In El Centro, CA she volunteered with the helpline Crisis Center. Because of her combination in human services and technical expertise she was recruited to work for CALPIA in Centinela where she supervised job training for inmates. She now resides in the Sacramento area and works for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation as well as a sponsoring incarcerated men and women’s Leisure Time Activity Groups program, where she helps inmates improve their opportunity for parole and reduce recidivism rates.

Albert Rivas

SAR President

Albert Rivas was appointed to Self Awareness & Recovery as President December 2021. His background includes serving as Program Manager III with the City Manager’s Office, City of Stockton where he has served since May 2019.

As an executive member, he provides the City Manager and two Executive Officers with management support of the City’s operations. Stockton is California’s 13th largest City with 330,000 residents and nearly 1,700 staff. His experience includes serving in an advisory and consultative role to the heads of Departments which include Information Technology, Fire, Police, Economic Development, Human Resources, Community Services (16 libraries, 60+ public facilities), Community Development, Municipal Utilities, Public Works, and the Office of Violence Prevention.

Prior to his role with the City, Albert was appointed by Governor Edmund G. Brown in 2016 as Chief, Office of External Affairs, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), where he also served as Deputy Chief since 2013. As Chief, he provided direct support to the head of CDCR, regular reporting with the Governor’s Office of External Affairs, interface with media teams, provided support to executive cabinet members (40+), and systemwide support with strategic communications. As the head of external affairs, he oversaw and lead the State’s public affairs and stakeholder relations which required domestic and international relations. The Department was comprised of a $12 billion budget, 33,000 staff, 180,000 offenders, 35 adult prisons, five Juvenile Justice Facilities, 42 fire campus, Board of Parole Hearings, Business and Economic Development programs, and regional parole unit offices. He has a proven track record of leading teams, and ability to handle multiple priorities, including managing and advising teams on highly sensitive and complex strategic statewide projects, policy planning and implementation, and program services. He worked his way up through the ranks, holding other positions during his 12 years with the Department, including staff services manager and associate governmental program analyst.

In 2019, Albert was awarded the Medal of Valor from the Secretary of CDCR for going above and beyond the call of duty and for his commitment to excellence when activating the Ventura Training Center Program in collaboration with the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection and California Conservation Corps. He received special recognition for collaborating with Delano Superior Court to implement a digital solution for courtroom appearances. The program eliminated costly travel for offenders and increased public safety by keeping offenders on prison grounds to maximize positive programming time, and reduced transportation time and costs for offenders to travel throughout California for court appearances in Delano. The innovative information technology project began in 2016 which saved the State more than one million dollars during the first year of operation. The successful program continues to be in operation today and Judge Wolf continues to share the program success with other national and international leaders as a highly successful project.

He served as Senior Field Representative for State Senator Deborah Ortiz in 2000. He was appointed Commissioner with the First 5 Sacramento County and Commissioner for Sacramento County Human Rights Fair Housing from 2005 to 2011. He founded Capitol consulting in 2005 where he provided strategic communications and program support to federal, state, local law enforcement, and community-based organizations. He continues to provide private consulting services to the State and Non-profit agencies for performance management, contract compliance, program development and implementation, administrative services, including professional development.

Albert is passionate about serving in local government. Throughout his career he has staffed issues concerning data analytics and performance management, foster youth and indigent services, K-12 and higher education, public safety, Smart City planning, environmental sustainability and emission reductions, mainstream and grassroots communications, social media tactics and training, fire safety and first responder training, economic development, small business advocacy, housing and homelessness, Indian affairs, behavioral health, Veteran affairs, local and statewide training, land use, and more.

He earned local governance certification and training from Stanford University and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree and Master of Education program from the University of California Davis.