Helios Education Foundation: Grants for Science Education

OVERVIEW: Helios views STEM education as an essential ingredient for improving college preparedness and ensuring career success for young men and women in Arizona and Florida. Its STEM grants target grades 5-12. 

IP TAKE: For Helios, STEM education is a means to greater college readiness and career success for students in Arizona and Florida. 

KEY INFO: Established in 2004, the Helios Education Foundation seeks to "enrich the lives of individuals in Arizona and Florida by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education." The foundation was created with proceeds generated by the sale of Southwest Student Services Corporation, a company specializing in student loan services. Helios invests Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness, and Postsecondary Completion in Florida and Arizona. 

With two identical programs serving two separate states, Florida and Arizona, the Helios Education Foundation invests in elementary, middle, and high school math and science education. The Helios Foundation believes that academic environments marked by high expectations for middle and high school students will lead to better college and career preparation, including in the STEM fields. The foundation reports that nearly 70 percent of Arizona eighth graders are below proficiency in math, and nearly 80 percent are below proficient in science. In Florida, more than 70 percent of eighth graders scored below proficient levels in math and science. Among African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian students, the achievement gaps are even greater. Both programs take a broad approach to science funding and do no name specify grantmaking interests beyond an investment in STEM across K-12 and university.

Helios grants for STEM-related activities have ranged in size from $150,000 to more than $4 million. Grants mostly support larger and established organizations, particularly learning institutions and higher ed. Past grantees include Yuma Union High School District in Arizona for districtwide implementation of a new high-expectations, performance-based education model; and the University of South Florida Foundation for a STEM Middle School Residency Program designed to develop a teacher training pipeline to place 80 new STEM teachers in the Hillsborough County Public Schools. 

The Helios Foundation is especially interested in projects that encourage students to enroll in more rigorous STEM subjects, such as algebra II, chemistry, and physics. Students who complete these courses are up to three times more likely to be prepared for postsecondary success.

Organizations interested in receiving Helios funding should explore collaborations with these and similar networks to find a way on to the foundation’s radar, as Helios generally funds only solicited proposals.