What We Do: Arizona

Arizona Latino Student Success

Theory of Action

Organizational Vision:
Every individual in Arizona and Florida has the opportunity to attend and is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education

Helios Education Foundation believes that education changes lives and strengthens communities. As a result, we strategically partner and invest our knowledge, expertise and resources to create opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to succeed in postsecondary education. By fostering a college-going culture and advancing the academic preparedness of all students from early childhood through postsecondary education, the Foundation seeks to increase the number of young adults graduating from high school prepared to succeed in college, career and life.

The Challenge

The Latino population is the fastest-growing population in Arizona1 and Latino students make up the largest racial/ethnic demographic group in the state’s K-12 public schools.2 Latino students lag behind their White peers in academic achievement across the K-12 education system, however, and are underrepresented in postsecondary degree achievement. As early as elementary school, many Latino students begin to fall behind in math and reading while White students are more likely to reach proficiency. Unfortunately, the story that develops in elementary and middle school remains consistent throughout high school with Latino students trailing behind their White peers in college readiness.

The cumulative effects of these gaps in educational achievement have limited Arizona’s overall postsecondary degree numbers. Nationally, 43 percent of the working-age population has an associate degree or higher, compared with 38 percent in Arizona.6 The biggest reason for this discrepancy can be attributed to the large degree achievement gap for Arizona’s Latino students.

Our Approach

In light of the widening academic achievement gaps between Latino students and their White peers, Helios Education Foundation has launched the 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, starting with Early Grade Success, continuing through College and Career Readiness and on to Postsecondary Completion.

A Focus on the Continuum

By ensuring that all children benefit from high-quality early childhood systems, that early learning professionals are trained on emergent literacy and language acquisition skills and by bridging early childhood and K-3 education, Helios is working to ensure that more children transition from preschool to the K-12 environment prepared to succeed and are reading at grade level by the end of third grade. Early grade preparedness is essential, but that preparedness falls short unless students transition to middle and high school environments that foster a high-expectations, college-going culture, challenging them with academic rigor and relevance. Helios’ work on the postsecondary end of the continuum includes a focus on systemic supports, guidance and scholarships toward persistence and degree completion.

Our Impact

The Foundation measures its impact within the Arizona Latino Student Success Initiative using a number of short- and long-term indicators. Our success will be measured by our ability to use our four key strategies to shrink the academic achievement and degree completion gaps between Latino students and their peers across the education continuum. Our goal is to increase the number of Latino students in Arizona completing two- and four-year degrees and entering the workforce with the skills necessary to obtain high-demand, high-paying jobs, stimulating and growing the state’s economy and helping meet the state’s workforce talent demands.

Internal and external expertise, best practices, practical experience, research and evaluation all inform the Foundation’s work. To achieve the greatest impact, we work collaboratively with local and national partners, including public and private institutions, businesses, nonprofits and other foundations to increase opportunities for every individual to achieve a postsecondary education

  1. Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. (2015). Datos: The state of Arizona’s Hispanic market.
  2. Arizona Department of Education. (2016). Arizona October 1 enrollment figures 2015-2016 school year.
  3. U.S. Census Bureau. (2015). 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS file.
  4. National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The nation’s report card: 2015 state snapshot, Arizona: 4th and 8th grade reading.
  5. ACT, Inc. (2016). Profile report-state: Graduating class 2016 Arizona.
  6. U.S. Census Bureau. (2015). 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS file.
  7. Arizona Department of Education. (2014) four-year grad rate data. 
  • Early Grade Success

    Strengthening early childhood systems to enable more Arizona and Florida children, birth through age eight, to enter kindergarten ready to succeed and be reading at grade level by the end of third grade.

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  • College & Career Readiness

    Facilitating rigorous high expectation academic environments, which help students successfully transition between the various stages of education, graduate prepared for college and career and foster the pursuit of postsecondary education.

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  • Postsecondary Completion

    Providing academic supports critical to student persistence and aligning systems to improve postsecondary degree or certificate attainment.

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Our Mission

To enrich the lives of individuals in Arizona and Florida by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education.

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