Helios Education Foundation: Grants for Early Childhood Education

OVERVIEW: This funder's agenda is to improve college access and success for students in Arizona and Florida. Helios concentrates its grantmaking in three main impact areas: early childhood education, grades 5-12, and post-secondary study. Its Early Grade Success program focuses on literacy and language acquisition to improve the number of students reading at grade level by 3rd grade.

IP TAKE: Nurturing a “college-going culture” is central to this funder’s approach: for Helios, that starts at the beginning of a child's educational life and continues throughout college. In order to be eligible for funding, grantseekers must be based in Arizona or Florida or have programs operating in these states. It is important to bear in mind that Helios does not accept unsolicited LOIs.

PROFILE: The Helios Foundation was created with proceeds from the sale of Southwest Student Services Corporation, a student loan services firm. Because large numbers of students in both states who enter college never complete a degree program, its goal is “the successful completion of a postsecondary license, certificate or degree for every student, leading to meaningful career opportunities and a high quality of life.”

A core element of achieving this goal is Helios' efforts to foster what it calls a “college-going culture” in Arizona and Florida. Since its beginning in 2004, the foundation has invested millions of dollars in three main areas: early childhood education, the "transition years" of grades 5 to 12, and post-secondary study.

Remember that this funder's grantmaking is limited to Arizona and Florida. The foundation has offices in both states. Organizations seeking funding from Helios should be based in Arizona or Florida or have programs operating in these states. 

Helios' early ed program, Early Grade Success, focuses on three main goals:

  • Foster Collaborative and Sustainable ECE Systems through "support and alignment for shared goals, collective processes, aligned measurement and reporting systems, and cross-sector coordination resulting in high-quality teachers and early learning environments."
  • Improve Access and Quality of Early Childhood Professional Development, which is "focused on emergent literacy and language acquisition skills and knowledge as well as classroom application by teachers, administrators and practitioners working with children birth through age eight."
  • Bridge Early Childhood and K-3 Education through collaboration and vertical curriculum alignment, "with an emphasis on emergent literacy and language acquisition."

In terms of College and Career Readiness (targeted at what Helios calls the “transition years”), the emphasis is on “the transition from middle to high school,” which it believes sets the stage for success in postsecondary education, with high priority on STEM and community involvement. After they leave high school, students can benefit from the Helios Postsecondary Completion program, which funds efforts in academic support, scholarship programs and career guidance.

Helios Foundation grants mostly support programs geared at low-income, at-risk students. The foundation helpfully provides an Investment History page that offers a searchable database of past giving and a pie chart that breaks down funding by giving area.

Organizations not known to the Helios Foundation may face barriers obtaining funding because it does not accept unsolicited proposals. Also worth noting is that the foundation “does not support capital campaigns, nor will it provide support to schools for general operating funds, teacher recruitment, professional development or classroom materials unless related to a specific program or initiative to be funded.”

PEOPLE:

  • Karen J. Ortiz, Ph.D., Vice President and Program Director, Early Grade Success

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