FUSE Program Reaches Milestone in Expanding Opportunities for Educational Attainment

Author: Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

Posted on: January 29, 2019

Helios Education Foundation releases $1 million in matching funds to scholarship supporting college success 

A major milestone has been reached in helping local students attain a bachelor’s degree. A total of $3 million has been raised to benefit the FUSE program, which helps first-generation, minority, and underrepresented students in educational attainment.  

The FUSE program is a strategic pillar for LEAP, Tampa Bay’s College Access Network, which is focused on increasing college access and attainment, with the goal of ensuring that Tampa Bay has a globally competitive workforce.

The scholarship fund for FUSE was started in 2017 by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay in partnership with the Helios Education Foundation and the USAmeriBank Foundation, now Valley Bank. The initial $1.5 million scholarship fund was seeded with a $500,000 gift from Valley Bank, which Helios matched with $1 million. 

At that time, Helios pledged another $1 million in 2-to-1 matching funds for dollars raised by other organizations. The additional $1 million from Helios is being released to the scholarship fund, now that the Community Foundation has successfully raised another $500,000 for FUSE. An anonymous donor directed a portion of his estate - $300,000 - to support funding educational opportunities, and the Community Foundation raised the remaining $200,000 from individual donors, organizations and businesses.

  “This is an exciting milestone for the FUSE program,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. “We believe that education is an investment and not an expense and are proud to support Fuse students as they pursue a postsecondary degree.”

Launched in 2017, the Fuse scholarship has been awarded to 93 students and they receive up to $5,500 as they earn credits. The students are following degree pathways that address critical workforce needs, and they are well on their way to receiving their bachelor’s degrees. 

“Educational attainment is one of the pillars of our region’s economic vitality,” said Marlene Spalten, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. “Generous donors in the community are supporting students in gaining degrees and achieving their dreams.”

Through FUSE, students seeking an associate degree at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) and St. Petersburg College, along with other regional institutions within the Florida College System (FCS), are given a “graduation pathway” to a bachelor’s degree at the University of South Florida

Students in the Fuse program receive scholarship allocations each semester as they work toward a degree. The scholarships help overcome financial hurdles, which accelerates the timeframe for earning a degree, reduces costs for students and gets them in the workforce more quickly.  

This unique partnership between the Community Foundation, Helios and Valley was created through the organizations’ shared work with LEAP, Tampa Bay’s Access Network. LEAP is a cross-sector regional network of leaders focused on increasing college access and attainment, with the goal of ensuring that Tampa Bay has a globally competitive workforce.  Fuse is also one of four strategic pillars for LEAP, and the Community Foundation is the backbone organization for LEAP. 

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to achieve a postsecondary education. Our work is driven by our four fundamental beliefs in Community, Equity, Investment, and Partnership, and we invest in initiatives across the full education continuum.  

In Arizona, where Latino students comprise the largest percentage of the K-12 public school population, the Foundation is implementing its Arizona Latino Student Success initiative focused on preparing all students — especially students in high poverty, underserved Latino communities — for success. Through our Florida Regional Student Success Initiative, Helios is helping first-generation, minority and underrepresented students from the state’s large population centers in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami achieve a postsecondary education. Since 2006, the Foundation has invested over $225 million in education programs and initiatives in both states. To learn more about our efforts, visit us online at 

About the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

Founded in 1990, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay (CFTB) connects donors, nonprofits, community and business leaders, professional advisors, volunteers and residents to make the maximum positive impact in the Tampa Bay region. For more than 25 years, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has been dedicated to making giving easy and meaningful for donors as a way to strengthen nonprofit organizations and build a better, more vibrant community. Since its inception, its donors have enabled the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay to award nearly $210 million in grants to nonprofit organizations across the country.  CFTB serves as the backbone organization for the LEAP College Access Network.

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