Behind the Numbers

Message from our President and CEO

Those of us who work in education are bombarded on a daily basis with statistics, percentages, charts, and graphs on achievement gains and losses in classrooms across America. We spend the majority of our problem-solving discussions analyzing trends, measuring proficiency, and examining indicators of success as we look for ways to ensure that every student is prepared to succeed across all levels of his or her academic journey.

We must never forget that each statistic we review represents students who are navigating their way through an education system that may or may not be preparing them adequately for a demanding, globalized economy. We must remember that surrounding those students are individuals who care and are working diligently, often behind the scenes, to bring about change.

That’s why the title and theme of Helios Education Foundation’s 2016 annual report is Behind the Numbers. As we present the work of the Foundation and its partners, it’s important to feature committed students and some of the people behind the education programs who are making a positive impact across the PreK-16 education continuum in Arizona and Florida.

I encourage you to watch the short videos we produced about these individuals, their academic journeys, and their impact through initiatives such as College Knowing and Going, Helios Scholars at TGen, Take Stock in Children, Dual Language Learning, College Success Arizona, and more. We are privileged to work with passionate people and committed students who help make these and other programs a success.

Paul Luna
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Working to Close the Achievement Gap

In Florida, significant academic performance and degree completion gaps exist between first-generation, low-income, and minority students and their more affluent and White peers.

Helios works with its partners to shrink these achievement gaps and create a culture where more students pursue and complete a postsecondary education. In 2016, we invested over $17.4 million in Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness, Postsecondary Completion, and Innovative Initiatives, as well as other education-related charitable contributions in Arizona and Florida, and we are proud of the work already begun as a result of these investments.

Highlights in Community Impact

Although you will find a full list of Helios’ 2016 community investments in the Community Impact section of this report, I want to provide a high-level summary of three of our investments in Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness, and Postsecondary Completion in 2016.

Early Grade Success

Research affirms that bilingual ability in the early grades enhances students’ literacy skills. To that end, we are supporting dual language learning programs in both Arizona and Florida as part of our Early Grade Success strategy. In partnership with Arizona State University (ASU) researchers, we are investigating a professional development approach designed to improve young children’s dual-language comprehension and fluency through creative drama.

Last year in Florida, we awarded $1.6 million to the Orlando Repertory Theatre, which, in partnership with Orange County Public Schools, will work with preschool teachers in 11 Orlando-area Voluntary Pre-K classrooms. ASU researchers are conducting similar work in Arizona, where our investment of $720,000 in 2015 is being used to support two-way, English-Spanish immersion for 300 preschoolers in the Osborn Elementary School District in Phoenix.

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College and Career Readiness

In our College and Career Readiness area of focus, we invested $2 million in the Florida College Access Network (Florida C.A.N.), a statewide organization that focuses on making sure students traditionally underrepresented in higher education have greater opportunities to access and complete college. Our investment will support Florida C.A.N.’s work in research, communications, and developing more local networks around the state.

Postsecondary Completion

In Florida, we awarded $3.5 million to Take Stock in Children, which will allow the organization to scale up its services throughout Osceola and Orange counties. For over 20 years, Take Stock in Children has offered college scholarships and delivered a model in which students are paired with volunteer mentors and receive services that begin in middle school and continue through their transition into college.

These community impact highlights provide a snapshot into the Foundation’s work to better prepare students to succeed. They demonstrate our focus on investing across the full education continuum, a strategy we believe will ensure that more students are prepared academically as they transition through each step of their academic journey.

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Highlights in Policy, Research and Evaluation

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Although investing in education is a key component to igniting social change, advocating for education reform through effective public policy is just as critical. We understand philanthropy’s role in influencing federal, state, and local education policy, and Helios is actively engaged at every level on issues that can and will impact the education communities we serve. Through the work of our public policy committee and staff, we have crystalized those key education policy issues that we will champion, collaborate on with our partners, or monitor for better understanding.

While we were engaged in a variety of issues in 2016 that are elaborated on in the Policy, Research, and Evaluation section of this report, I want to share a few specific areas where we saw and are seeing significant traction. We supported and publicly advocated for the successful passage of Arizona’s Proposition 123, which is expected to yield $3.5 billion in additional revenue for Arizona’s school system over the next 10 years.

In addition, the Foundation worked alongside our state leaders, education advocates, and other philanthropic organizations to ensure the adoption of a state attainment goal in Arizona and the development of an attainment goal in Florida. Having an agreed-upon goal for the level of attainment of postsecondary credentials and degrees in our states is an important component in creating a college-going culture in our communities and helping more students pursue, persist, and complete a postsecondary education.

Our work in public policy has just begun, and we will remain engaged in the issues that can bring about broad education reform in the best interest of our students.

Building the Helios Education Foundation Education Campus

Finally, 2016 marked a point of expansion for our organization. We are excited about moving to a new, larger office space in Tampa and about building a permanent home in Phoenix called the Helios Education Foundation Education Campus.

Both spaces will create an environment where we can work more collaboratively, both internally and externally, and provide capacity support for our nonprofit, education-focused partners. When completed in 2018, our Education Campus in Phoenix will consist of a three-acre site, incorporating Helios’ offices, space for our strategic partners, and community convening space. Our new Tampa office will be completed in mid-2017 and will provide an additional 3,000 square feet of space, taking our footprint from 6,000 to 9,000 square feet.

Although building a permanent home in Phoenix and moving to a larger office space in Tampa both reflect the burgeoning state of our Foundation, we know that the work we do and the impact of that work are not bound by brick and mortar buildings. What has mattered to Helios in everything we do are the people whose lives and communities are changing for the better through education.

In this report, you will learn more about some of those people behind the numbers — including students — who are energized about student success in communities across both states.

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Community Impact

To change lives and strengthen communities through education, Helios Education Foundation views its role as much more than a grant-making organization.

View community impact