College and Career Readiness Highlights

Our Priority: Arizona and Florida high school graduates are prepared to enter the workforce or credit-bearing college courses without remediation.

While today’s globally-competitive economy demands a highly-skilled workforce with workers who have attained some form of postsecondary education, too few Arizona and Florida students are graduating high school fully prepared to succeed in college and career.

In fact, nearly 60 percent of Arizona students and 54.3 percent of Florida students require remediation upon entry into a two year college(2) and only 35.8 percent of Arizona’s and 37 percent of Florida’s working-age adults have completed an associate’s degree or higher.(3)

The Foundation focuses a majority of its annual community investments on College and Career Readiness initiatives that improve and advance academic rigor and relevance in the classroom, create and sustain highly-skilled teachers and effective school leaders and that embed a college-going and completing culture in communities supported by actively engaged families.

Bringing a focus to the educational success of Native Americans in Arizona and helping to raise the academic aspirations of underserved youth through the College for Every Student initiative reflect just a portion of the Foundation’s work in College and Career Readiness in 2013.

Empowering Native American Youth for Higher Education Success

Native American students in Arizona currently have the lowest high school and college graduation rates of any other population in the state(7). Additionally, 36 percent of Native Americans in Arizona live below the poverty level compared to 19.6 percent for all Arizonans. The average per-capita income of Native Americans in Arizona is the lowest of all racial groups(8).

To address this disparity, the Foundation is developing strategic partnerships to help increase student achievement within the Native American community.

Through a $667,000 partnership with the University of Arizona Foundation, the Native American SOAR (Student Outreach Access and Resiliency) project is being implemented.

Native SOAR incorporates two comprehensive, indigenous approaches:

  • The Family Education Model, which recognizes the inclusion of family in the college-going culture to enhance Native American students’ college success, and
  • The American Indian Well-Being Model, which uses a holistic approach for addressing the needs of Native American students.

Native SOAR is a three-year project that is empowering and preparing Native American youth living in Tucson and the surrounding Native American Reservation communities for higher education access and success. The goal is to increase the number of Native American students who pursue and complete high school and higher education.

A key component of the initiative is to increase college aspirations for high school students and their families and knowledge about the college search, application, financial aid and enrollment processes. It’s helping undergraduate students increase their understanding of long-term educational planning and improve their leadership skills, cultural awareness and self-efficacy.

Native SOAR incorporates a strategic mentoring and service learning model where Native American high school students are being mentored by Native American undergraduate students and Native American undergraduates are being mentored by Native American graduate students.

This program is an opportunity to address and improve the educational achievement for Native American students in Arizona, and it will also address the lack of research on Native American college access and success.

Helios is also partnering with the InterTribal Council of Arizona on an Indian Education Summit on Common Core in 2014. With participation from 22 federally-recognized tribes throughout Arizona, the Summit will discuss the state of Indian education in Arizona. In addition, the Summit will address Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards (Common Core) and how to successfully implement those Standards throughout Native American communities. The ultimate goal of the Summit is to develop best practices and create collaboration and knowledge-sharing among the tribes to increase student achievement and preparedness.

Native American SOAR Project Collaborative Partners

University Partners

  • Native American Student Affairs (NASA)
  • Executive Office of the President
  • Early Academic Outreach (EAO)

High Schools

  • Tucson Unified School District (Cholla High School, Pueblo High School, Tucson High School)
  • Ha:san Preparatory & Leadership School
  • Haiki High School
  • Baboquavari High School
  • Tohono O’odham High School

Tribal Partners

  • Tohono O’odham Nation, Education Division
  • Pascua Yaqui Nation, Education Division
  • Navajo Nation, Financial Aid and Scholarships Department

Advancing a College-Going and Completing Culture

As a gateway to intellectual growth and diverse careers, a postsecondary education — including certificates, licenses and college degrees — opens the door to opportunities for individuals, families and communities. A postsecondary education also provides the skills and knowledge that are vital to success in an economy that is looking for creators, innovators and critical thinkers who can solve complex challenges.

Despite the clear benefits of a postsecondary education, many full-time Arizona and Florida students fail to earn a credential. Currently, only 36 percent of working age adults in both states have an associate's degree or higher.(5)

Helios believes advancing a college-going and completing culture is a key component postsecondary success. The concept of a college-going culture refers to the environment and attitudes in schools and communities that encourage students to obtain the college knowledge and access to resources that lead to success in postsecondary education.

College for Every Student (CFES), a nonprofit organization committed to raising the academic aspirations and performance of underserved youth so that they can prepare for, gain access to and succeed in college, has been working for 22 years, helping low-income youth move toward college by emphasizing three core practices: mentoring, leadership through service and pathways to college. The partnership with Helios has expanded the pathways to college practice to include a specific focus on STEM careers.

Through an $800,000 investment from the Foundation, CFES is exposing students in four schools in Tampa Bay to the opportunities available in the STEM areas. The participants are involved in ongoing college exposure, regular service projects with a STEM focus, interaction with professionals working in STEM fields and are receiving leadership training.

CFES was recently evaluated by the University of Michigan and researchers found that the strategies employed, including early exposure to college, mentoring and community- service leadership, have a substantial impact on the college-going attitudes of disadvantaged students.

The Foundation’s partnership with CFES is helping raise the academic aspirations and performance of underserved youth, better preparing them for and helping them gain access to a postsecondary education.