Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Helios Education Foundation?  

Helios Education Foundation (Helios) is a public charity focused exclusively on Arizona and Florida. Helios was founded on four fundamental beliefs (community, equity, investment, partnership) and with one purpose: To create opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to succeed in postsecondary education. For nearly 20 years, we have never wavered in our commitment to educational excellence for all students, and especially to closing the achievement gaps for those underrepresented in education success.  

What are the Foundation’s priorities?  

Through 2026, we are focused on improving outcomes for low-income and Latino students in Arizona and low-income and Black students in Florida. To increase college graduation rates for these students—and use what we learn to increase achievement for all students—we believe the following three key drivers are essential to getting these subpopulations on track for college attainment:  

  • Ensure that students are reading by the third grade   
  • Increase college enrollments   
  • Increase attainment of two- and four-year college degrees  

We are focusing on these three drivers because we believe they provide the best leverage for ensuring that students are prepared for and on the path to a college degree. Ultimately, we seek to ensure that all children in Arizona and Florida have the full potential to succeed in an educational pathway that will take them where they want to go.    

  1. Learn more about our five-year vision 

Who works at Helios?

Paul J. Luna has been Helios’ president & CEO for the existence of our organization. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Barbara Ryan Thompson, and Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Michael Chesin also serve in Executive Leadership roles. 

There are seven teams at Helios that span to Arizona and Florida including Leadership, Arizona Community Engagement, Florida Community Engagement, Finance and Accounting, Communications and Technology (IT). 

How was Helios created?  

Helios was created in 2004 through the conversion and sale of Southwest Student Services Corporation, a student loan products and services company. Southwest had affiliates in Arizona and Florida, and the Foundation’s founding board wanted to give back to those states by creating Helios Education Foundation. Since its inception, Helios has invested about $350 million across Arizona and Florida to improve students’ success and their long-term quality of life. 

Why the name “Helios”?  

Helios Education Foundation was named after the Greek mythological God of the Sun, Helios. The name was recommended by one of our founding board members because Helios serves Arizona and Florida – two of our nation’s sunshine states.

Why does the Foundation serve only Arizona and Florida? 

Helios Education Foundation was created through the conversion and sale of Southwest Student Services Corporation, a student loan products and services company. Southwest had affiliates in Arizona and Florida, and the Foundation’s founding board wanted to give back to those states. 

How does Helios fund its investments?  

Helios does not actively fundraise but has a substantial endowment funding our efforts. Designed to exist in perpetuity, Helios uses interest income from the endowment to fund our organization and community impact strategies. 

How do you get funding from Helios?  

Helios Education Foundation only accepts solicited requests for funding. Our staff actively seeks potential partners and investment opportunities. We encourage you to explore this site to learn more about our impact priorities and to determine whether your organization’s work aligns to them.  

How much money does Helios invest each year? 

Helios Education Foundation does not have a set figure to be invested annually. The performance of our endowment’s investment portfolio, our Board of Directors, and other business-planning activities determine our investment amount.

  1. Learn more about Helios