OVERVIEW: This funder sees 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. If your organization can engage more students in math and science, get to know this funder.
KEY INFO: The Helios Education Foundation emphasizes STEM education as part of its Transition Years area of emphasis. This Helios initiative targets grades 5-12 and aims to ensure students have the science and math skills necessary for success in college and the workplace. The Transition Years initiative also targets those who deliver instruction, supporting efforts to recruit and retain talented teachers in the STEM subjects.
The Helios Education Foundation has headquarters in Arizona and Florida, and strives to improve student academic success and college access in both states. The foundation was created with proceeds generated by the sale of Southwest Student Services Corporation, a company specializing in student loan services.
This funder limits its grant-making activities to its home states of Arizona and Florida. Organizations seeking funding for STEM education initiatives must be based in the Grand Canyon or Sunshine states, or have programs operating in these states, to be eligible for Helios Foundation grant funds.
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 reported 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.
The Arizona STEM Network is one of the Helios Foundation’s major initiatives in its STEM grant activities. The STEM network selects schools across the state to receive funds and technical support to integrate quality science, technology, and math instruction into classrooms. Helios has invested more than $4.35 million in the Arizona STEM network.
Other significant STEM-related grants from this funder have included:
- $3.9 million to the Yuma Union High School District in Arizona for districtwide implementation of a new high-expectations, performance-based education model.
- $2.7 million to 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.
- $1 million to SRI International to develop a Center for Digital Learning to create a portfolio of digital learning projects to enhance student achievement in math, science, and technology subjects.
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.
Helios grants for STEM-related activities have ranged in size from $150,000 to more than $4 million. For all of its grant-making, including STEM, this funder mostly works with large collaborative organizations, such as the Arizona STEM network and the Florida College Access Network. 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.