Florida 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.

Hispanic Heritage Fund, Florida
Hispanic Heritage Scholarship Fund, Florida

We believe that education changes lives and strengthens communities.

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The Challenge

Currently, one out of four Floridians identifies as Hispanic, and one out of six identifies as African-American. The proportion of minorities under the age of 18 is even larger, with one-third of Florida children identifying as Hispanic and one out of five children identifying as African-American.1 The number of minority children in the state is expected to rise with Florida projected to reach majority-minority status by 2028.2 While Florida has been a national leader in improving student academic achievement, first-generation, low-income, and minority students still trail their more affluent and White peers in academic performance and degree completion. The cumulative effects of these gaps have limited Florida’s overall postsecondary degree attainment rate.

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

Our Approach

In light of the persistent academic achievement gaps in the state, Helios Education Foundation has launched the Florida Regional Student Success Initiative, deploying four key strategies in three metropolitan regions of the state — Miami, Orlando, and Tampa — which collectively represent the largest percentage of first-generation, low-income, and minority students. This initiative is being implemented through four key strategies to ensure more 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 being implemented across the education continuum, starting with our target area of Early Grade Success, continuing through College and Career Readiness and on to 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

By ensuring that all children benefit from high-quality early childhood systems, that early learning professionals are trained on emergent literacy and language acquisition skills and by bridging early childhood and K-3 education, 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 third grade. Early grade preparedness is essential, but that preparedness falls short unless students transition to middle and high school environments that foster a high-expectations, college-going culture, challenging 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 Florida Regional Student Success Initiative using both short- and long-term indicators, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, and the American College Testing (ACT) College Readiness in Reading and Mathematics scores. Our success will be measured by our ability to use our four key strategies to shrink the persistent academic achievement gaps between first-generation, low-income, and minority students and their more affluent and White peers across the education continuum. Our goals are to increase the number of first-generation, low-income, and minority students in Florida 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 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.