Helios Education Foundation’s work in Arizona is built on strong partnerships that reflect our fundamental beliefs in Community, Equity, Investment, and Partnership. Each investment is framed in the fact that the long-term prosperity of Arizona and its residents depends on a quality education system that effectively prepares students for success in college, career, and life.

Arizona has one of the largest and fastest-growing Latino student populations in the nation, yet our Latino students trail their state and national peers in academic performance and degree completion. In light of the widening academic achievement gaps between Latino students and their White peers, Helios Education Foundation continues to implement its 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, public and political will building, and collaborating and convening. These strategies are being implemented across the education continuum.

We have put a stake in the ground that more Latino students will graduate from high school prepared for college and career and the number of Latino students completing a postsecondary degree will increase annually. The following three investments are examples of how we are partnering with others to provide more opportunities for Latino students.

Jumpstart Arizona

There are approximately 800,000 children in Arizona who are under nine years of age and many of them do not have the opportunity to access programs and services that provide the foundation for social emotional and cognitive growth – factors contributing to a child entering school with the skills needed to be successful. Without the opportunity to access high-quality early learning activities and programs, many students enter kindergarten without the language acquisition and emergent literacy skills necessary to communicate emotional needs and understand classroom early learning content.

In fact, the Arizona Education Progress Meter tells us that only 24 percent of Arizona 3 and 4 year-olds are in quality early learning settings. As a result, many of our children are not entering school ready to succeed and continue to fall behind.

Helios believes that by strengthening early childhood systems to promote language acquisition and emergent literacy for children, more children will enter kindergarten ready to succeed and be reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

One of our Early Grade Success partners, JumpStart Arizona, provides professional development in early childhood education theory and best practices to teachers in preschools with limited resources serving children from low-income communities. This program is designed to increase early language, literacy, and social-emotional skills for young children. In addition, Jumpstart partners with the Maricopa County Community College District to provide postsecondary pathways for teachers to earn college credit and further their education. Ultimately, Jumpstart is working to improve the quality of early childhood education in targeted, high-need communities.

“Jumpstart Arizona is a unique program that helps to increase language and literacy skills of young children, while also providing professional development opportunities for early childhood educators.”

– Dr. Karen Ortiz, Vice President, Early Grade Success Initiatives, Helios Education Foundation

Postsecondary Matriculation Project

Despite the clear benefits of postsecondary education, too many Arizona students do not successfully matriculate from high school into a postsecondary course of study. In fact, currently in Arizona, only about 53 percent of high school graduates enroll in college after graduation. Helios is committed to helping more Arizona students graduate from high school ready for college and career. To do this, we facilitate rigorous, high-expectation, academic environments and promote the development of a college-going culture.

The Postsecondary Matriculation Project is a program of Be a Leader Foundation that provides a comprehensive matriculation curriculum that supports students from the beginning of their senior year through postsecondary enrollment the following semester. The 12-month curriculum focuses on providing students with information and support to complete tasks that are critical to ensuring matriculation.

“The Postsecondary Matriculation Project is showing great promise at creating systemic changes that will ensure more students have the supports they need to graduate from high school and enter postsecondary education.”

– Vince Yanez, Senior Vice President, Arizona Community Engagement, Helios Education Foundation


Many first generation and low-income students face barriers when working to complete a postsecondary education. However, with some additional support, advice, and guidance many of these barriers can be overcome and students can complete a postsecondary degree.

Excel is an intensive success program for first generation and/or low-income students at Estrella Mountain Community College and Glendale Community College. The initiative assists students with academic preparation and practices intrusive advising and intensive peer mentoring. The EXCEL program assists with academic planning, transfer processes, and provides holistic support services in an effort to minimize or completely remove cultural, academic, and/or financial barriers that would impede a student’s academic and personal success.


Arizona has set a goal to increase our postsecondary degree attainment to 60 percent by the year 2030. This goal represents what is necessary in education and workforce alignment for Arizona to have a thriving economy for future generations. The Achieve60AZ alliance will advance postsecondary attainment by acting as a statewide catalyst to:

  • Increase public support of the value of the postsecondary attainment goal
  • Build awareness and support actions on key strategies that improve attainment
  • Provide informed data and reporting to maintain momentum and progress toward the goal
  • Educate and empower decision makers on strategies to achieve the attainment goal

The work that the Excel project is doing is directly aligned to the Achieve60AZ goal and Helios is proud to support Achieve60AZ and align our investment activity to help increase our statewide attainment goal.

“Sometimes, the only thing standing in the way between a student and a degree is a little bit of additional support and guidance. We are proud to partner with the Maricopa County Community College District to provide that support.”

– Grace Smith Kaus, Program Director, Helios Education Foundation