Community Investments

Helios Education Foundation’s community investments reflect our unwavering commitment to ensuring that all students, regardless of zip code, have access to a high-quality education. Below is a summary of the Foundation’s 2019 community investments in education programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida.

Make Way for Books

The Cuéntame Collaborative

The Cuéntame Collaborative is a curriculum for children, families, and educators developed by the University of Arizona and Make Way for Books. The innovative model promotes culture, biculturalism, bilingualism, biliteracy, and authentic growth for home-based care providers, parents/families, and children. Young children develop emergent literacy and language skills, social emotional skills, and positive approaches to learning that are central to kindergarten readiness and future grade-level reading.

Central Arizona College Foundation

Arizona Student Success Center

The mission of the Arizona Student Success Center is to unify the Arizona community college’s statewide student success efforts to advance retention, persistence, and completion rates to meet the Arizona Community College’s Strategic Plan as well as to support the goals of Achieve60AZ. In order to meet the goal of 60% of Arizonans with a postsecondary credential by 2030, the Student Success Center will be instrumental in aligning current and future initiatives to the Strategic Plan and will enable the colleges to implement proven strategies likely to have the greatest impact on student success.

Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation

EXCEL Program Phase 2

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

University of Florida

Innovation Technologies in Early Learning

The UF Lastinger Center for Learning will build on previous Helios Education Foundation investments in Early Learning Florida in three innovative ways: 1) enhance the capacity of the Early Learning Florida system by integrating innovative technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), to more effectively personalize content for early childhood professionals, including coaches; 2) customize the place-based Early Learning Florida work for Pinellas County to build on the increased impact in Hillsborough County; and 3) expand the early language and literacy focus of Early Learning Florida courses with inclusion of the University of Florida’s Literacy Matrix.

Educate Tomorrow

Supporting Foster Youth in Postsecondary Education

Educate Tomorrow will act on the recommendations from its recent Helios-funded policy and program scan of postsecondary supports for foster youth in Florida, which ultimately produced the education brief, Creating Equitable Outcomes for Foster Youth. Recommendations from the brief focused on dedicated foster youth coaches on college campuses and creating and clarifying processes and data systems related to foster youth in postsecondary institutions.

Florida State University Foundation

Personalized Academic Social-Emotional Learning Program i3 Match

The Personalized Academic Social-Emotional Learning Program (PASL) is a school-based reform program in which administrators, guidance counselors, and teachers intentionally and deliberately attend to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. PASL better aligns student supports that lead to college and career readiness by identifying and organizing the way schools care about their students, and teaching those students to care about their schools. Simple techniques, such as regular check-ins and goal setting foster a culture of community that has led to participating high schools reporting improved outcomes in areas such as higher attendance, lower behavior referrals, and higher grades. This investment provided matching grant funding for Florida State University from the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) Program.

Northern Arizona University Foundation

Yuma Educational Success (YES) Program

Building on the achievements of Ready Now Yuma and, the Helios College Knowing & Going Initiative, the Yuma Educational Success (YES) Program, a collaboration between Northern Arizona University (NAU), Northern Arizona University-Yuma (NAU-Yuma), Arizona Western College (AWC), and the Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD), advances systemic change in post-secondary educational attainment in Yuma, Arizona, by increasing college retention, persistence, and baccalaureate degree completion rates of students, many of whom are diverse and first-generation students. The initiative will use best practices in academic and student support services.

Pinellas County Education Foundation

Elevating Excellence

Elevating Excellence, a comprehensive college preparatory initiative of Pinellas County Public Schools, in partnership with the Pinellas Education Foundation, is focused on assisting high-achieving, low-income, underrepresented students to maximize their ability to access postsecondary education through a combination of academic preparedness, support to gain financial assistance, and college access counseling.

University of Central Florida Foundation

Parramore Education & Innovation District Implementation

Inspired by the development of a new, shared downtown campus with partner Valencia College, the University of Central Florida launched the Parramore Education and Innovation District (PEID) initiative, which will strengthen the educational ecosystem in the Parramore neighborhood of Orlando. The PEID initiative’s vision is that every individual in Parramore attains a postsecondary credential or degree.

Yavapai County Educational Services Agency

Arizona Student Opportunity Collaborative

This investment will connect Arizona’s rural students to the rigorous courses and qualified teachers they need by leveraging existing assets in rural schools through an online grassroots network. The Arizona Student Opportunity Collaborative is designed to eliminate geography as an instructional barrier, and create a comprehensive, rigorous and relevant learning environment for Arizona’s rural high school students. Students will take courses via hybrid classrooms utilizing commercially available services like Zoom or Skype, with highly qualified network teachers instructing students both online and physically present in their rooms.

Arizona State University Foundation

Decision Center for Educational Excellence Data Acceleration Project

This investment accelerates the Decision Center for Educational Excellence’s data acquisition and analysis efforts at the Arizona Department of Education. Additional researchers will enable faster review of existing data sources and the creation of databases that are usable for research studies, as well as enable the Decision Center to address a much larger number of research questions.

Isac Amaya Foundation

The Camino al Éxito (Back to School) Fair

The Camino al Éxito (Back to School) Fair brings resources to Latino families from across Arizona. At the fair, families listen to motivational speakers, and have access to a resource fair with dozens of organizations that provide needed services in the community. The fair also provides families with workshops on topics like early learning, parent engagement, student success, college readiness, financial aid, and paying for college.

Northern Arizona University Foundation

Arizona GEAR UP Senior Launch Guide

Arizona GEAR UP is a seven-year partnership between the U.S. Department of Education, Northern Arizona University (the Governor-designee for the state GEAR UP grant), and numerous local, state, and national partners that are committed to equity in educational opportunity and achieving Arizona’s Achieve60Az attainment goal. Helios’ partnership with AZ GEAR UP ensures more Arizona schools can provide their seniors with a copy of the “Senior Launch Guide” – a critical tool that informs and guides on the steps necessary to pursue an array of postsecondary options. In addition, teachers are provided with training and resources to integrate the Launch Guide into classroom activities, further helping to build a college-going culture in traditionally underserved schools.


Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable (3)

The Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable initiative, brings together mayors of Arizona’s larger cities, district superintendents, and their key staff to share data, evidence-based and promising practices, and programmatic strategies that can help address local challenges affecting students’ educational and career success. The Roundtable is convened by WestEd and funded with core support by Helios Education Foundation.

Arizona Community Foundation

Census 2020 Collaborative Fund

This investment supports the Census 2020 Collaborative Fund and the ¡HAGASE CONTAR! (Make Yourself Count) 2020 Census campaign, a comprehensive initiative to ensure an accurate count of the country’s Latino community, a population group that has historically experienced a significant undercount and is at a renewed risk of not being fully counted. The campaign will promote policies needed to ensure a fair and accurate Census, identify key messaging strategies, and target and motivate Latinos to participate in the 2020 Census.

United Way Suncoast

2020-22 Strategic Action Plan Development for Tampa Hillsborough EDC

The Tampa Bay Economic Partnership Foundation is engaged in the development of the Tampa Bay Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation’s (EDC) next three-year strategic action plan for 2020 – 2022. Its vision is to foster a region that is renowned for the overall economic and social well-being of its citizens. The EDC’s strategic action plan will address workforce development, business development, and community development to support Tampa Bay’s competitiveness.

NALEO Educational Fund

Florida Census 2020 Training & Arizona Expansion

NALEO Educational Fund will leverage its civic engagement infrastructure that includes a Census hotline staffed with live bilingual operators, a robust Census website that contains easy-to-understand information, and resources for community partners to increase the 2020 Census participation in Florida and Arizona. Activities include an effective train-the-trainer model, direct outreach targeting young Latino children and their families, resource and best practice sharing, and individualized technical assistance for key stakeholders.