Arizona Theory of Action

Helios Education Foundation believes that education changes lives and strengthens communities. As a result, we strategically partner and invest our knowledge, expertise, and resources to create opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to succeed in postsecondary education. By fostering a college-going culture and advancing the academic preparedness of all students from early childhood through postsecondary education, we seek to increase the number of young adults graduating from high school prepared to succeed in college, career, and life.

Excel Project, Arizona
Excel Project, Arizona

We believe that education changes lives and strengthens communities.

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The Challenge

The Latino population is the fastest-growing population in Arizona,1 and Latino students make up the largest racial/ethnic demographic group in the state’s K-12 public schools.2 Latino students lag behind their White peers in academic achievement across the K-12 education system, and are underrepresented in postsecondary degree achievement. As early as elementary school, many Latino students begin to fall behind in math and reading while White students are more likely to reach proficiency. Unfortunately, the story that develops in elementary and middle school remains consistent throughout high school, with Latino students trailing behind their White peers in college readiness.

The cumulative effects of these gaps in educational achievement have limited Arizona’s overall postsecondary degree attainment rate. Nationally, 43 percent of the working-age population has an associate degree or higher, compared with 38 percent in Arizona.5 The biggest reason for this discrepancy can be attributed to the large degree achievement gap for Arizona’s Latino students.

We believe that education is an investment, not an expense.

Our Approach

In light of the persistent academic achievement gaps between Latino students and their White peers, Helios Education Foundation has launched the Arizona Latino Student Success Initiative, deploying four key strategies to ensure more Latino students are prepared to pursue and complete a postsecondary education and acquire the skills necessary to obtain high-demand, high-paying jobs. Those strategies are strategic investing, building and reforming systems, building public and political will and collaborating and convening. Our work is implemented across the education continuum, starting with our target area of Early Grade Success, continuing through College and Career Readiness and Postsecondary Completion.

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We believe that every student, regardless of zip code, deserves a high-quality education.

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A Focus on the Continuum

Helios is working to ensure that more children transition from preschool to the K-12 environment prepared to succeed and are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. We are working to ensure that all children benefit from high-quality early childhood systems, that early learning professionals are trained on emergent literacy and language acquisition skills, and we are working to bridge early childhood and K-3 education systems. Early grade preparedness is essential, but that preparedness falls short unless students transition to middle and high school environments that foster high -expectations, provide a college-going culture, and challenge them with academic rigor and relevance. Helios’ work on the postsecondary end of the continuum includes a focus on systemic supports, guidance, and scholarships toward persistence and degree completion.

We believe that we will achieve our mission through partnership and collaboration.

Our Impact

The Foundation measures its impact within the Arizona Latino Student Success Initiative using both short- and long-term indicators. Our success will be measured by our ability to use our four key strategies to shrink the academic achievement and degree completion gaps between Latino students and their peers across the education continuum. Our goals are to increase the number of Latino students in Arizona completing two- and four-year degrees and entering the workforce with the skills necessary to obtain high-demand, high-paying jobs, to stimulate and grow the state’s economy and to help meet the state’s workforce talent demands.

Internal and external expertise, best practices, practical experience, research, and evaluation all inform the Foundation’s work. To achieve the greatest impact, we work collaboratively with local and national partners, including public and private institutions, businesses, nonprofits, and other foundations to increase opportunities for every individual to achieve a postsecondary education.