What We Do: Florida

Florida Regional 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

Currently, one out of four Floridians identifies as Latino, and one out of six identifies as African-American. The proportion of minorities under the age of 18 is even larger, with one-third of Florida children identifying as Latino and one out of five children identifying as African-American.1 The number of minority children in the state is expected to rise with Florida projected to reach majority-minority status by 2028.2 However, African-American and Latino students, when compared to their White peers, show significant differences in student academic achievement from the early grade years to and through postsecondary completion.

Minority Student Academic Achievement Gap

While Florida has been a national leader in improving student academic achievement, first-generation, low-income and minority students still trail their White peers in academic performance and degree completion. The cumulative effects of these gaps have limited Florida’s overall postsecondary degree achievement rate.

Our Approach

In light of the widening academic achievement gaps between White students and their African-American and Latino peers, Helios Education Foundation has launched the Florida Regional Student Success Initiative, deploying four key strategies in three metropolitan regions of the state — Miami, Orlando and Tampa — which collectively represent the largest percentage of first-generation, low-income and minority student populations. This initiative is being deployed through four key strategies to ensure more underrepresented 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 Florida Regional Student Success Initiative using a number of short- and long-term indicators, including tools such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and the American College Testing (ACT) College Readiness in Reading and Mathematics. Our success will be measured by our ability to use our four key strategies to shrink the widening academic achievement gaps between White students and their African-American and Latino peers across the education continuum. Our goal is to increase the number of first-generation, minority and underrepresented students in Florida 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. U.S. Census Bureau. (2015). 2015 American Community Survey 1-year estimate data.
  2. National Council of La Raza. (2016). Latinos in the sunshine state: Building a brighter economic future.
  3. National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The nation’s report card: 2015 state snapshot, Florida: 4th and 8th grade reading.
  4. ACT, Inc. (2016). Profile report-state: Graduating class 2016 Florida.
  5. U.S .Census Bureau. (2015). 2015 American Community Survey 1-year PUMS file.
  • 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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