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Elevating Excellence to Close Degree Attainment Gaps

Elevating Excellence to Close Degree Attainment Gaps

By Paul Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation exists to support postsecondary attainment for low-income and under-represented communities in Arizona and Florida. Our commitment to educational equity guides us to back promising solutions to address achievement gaps for all students, particularly low-income and Black students in Florida.

Helios believes the actions we take to improve education systems in the next five years, will impact student outcomes for the next twenty-five years. To increase college graduation rates for all students—particularly low-income and Black students in Florida—we focus on three key drivers: ensure that students are reading by the third grade, increase college enrollments, and increase attainment of two- and four-year college degrees. Ultimately, Helios seeks to ensure that all children in Arizona and Florida have the full potential to succeed in an educational pathway that will take them where they want to go.

Informed by the 2018 Pinellas Community Indicator Report, Helios joined the Pinellas Education Foundation, Pinellas County Public Schools, and other community partners to launch Elevating Excellence, an initiative that seeks to increase college and career readiness among high school graduates. “Providing guidance and mentorship that prepares students for a postsecondary education is the first step in closing degree attainment gaps,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation. “Helios was proud to invest in Elevating Excellence to ensure studentsꟷparticularly low-income and underrepresented studentsꟷhave those supports and are prepared to pursue and complete a postsecondary degree”. Elevating Excellence engages students and their families on a personalized path to college success through individualized supports including pathway course progression, academic counseling and targeted support, peer collaboration experiences, college entrance test preparation, and college scholarship planning.

Providing a centralized location for these support services are school-based college and career centers that encourage all students, particularly under resourced students, to explore postsecondary education and degree attainment. The services provided by each college and career center inform students, starting their freshman year, on course selection and college access preparation activities while in high school, ultimately positioning each student to successfully engage in education after graduation that will lead to meaningful career options. To date, Elevating Excellence has supported over 4,800 students across 17 Pinellas County high schools.