Office of Education

Putting a Stake in the Ground for College and Career Readiness

by Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation
Friday, Apr. 22, 2016

College Knowing and Going
Currently, only 37 percent of Arizona’s adult population has an associate degree or higher, with that number dropping in half for the Latino population. With an estimated 68 percent of all jobs requiring a postsecondary education by 2020, it is an economic imperative for Arizona to close this Latino student attainment gap and improve postsecondary degree completion rates across the board. 

Helios Education Foundation is committed to ensuring that every individual in Arizona and Florida has the opportunity to attend and is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education. We care about all students but we have a particular interest in those who are traditionally underserved – first generation, minority and students from rural areas.  Ultimately, we believe that education will break the cycle of poverty for individuals and families and will unleash Arizona’s greatest talent potential, further ensuring the state is positioned to compete and thrive in a knowledge-based, global economy.  


With that in mind, Helios recently launched our newest initiative, College Knowing & Going, which is focused on ensuring more Arizona students are prepared for postsecondary success. Through this initiative, we are partnering with College Success Arizona, AzCAN, the Northern Arizona College Resource Center, the Metropolitan Education Commission and 18 school districts throughout the state. More than 145,000 students – many of whom are low-income and minority - will be impacted through this initiative in the next five years.    

The five-year, $5.1 million investment will provide high-school juniors and seniors at 83 schools across Arizona with access to and assistance with essential college-going practices, ultimately aiming to increase the number of students who complete a postsecondary education. As part of this initiative, all juniors will take the ACT exam during the school day and at no cost to the student.  In addition, seniors will receive assistance with postsecondary planning including filling out college applications and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 

This work is well underway and in fact, nearly 30,000 students took the ACT college entrance exam just this week as part of this initiative. We view the ACT exam as a critical step in helping students plan for postsecondary success. It provides students will individualized information around college and career readiness by subject.  And, it provides students with an opportunity to think about their career aspirations, consider postsecondary opportunities, and be eligible for need-based financial aid. 

This initiative also helps to foster college-going cultures with our partner school districts by putting the emphasis on college and career readiness and not just high school graduation as the end goal. We are grateful for the support and commitment of our partners in this work. These partner school districts are committed to their students’ success.  They are passionate, dedicated and tireless in their efforts to ensure students are prepared for success in college and career.      

College Knowing & Going is a statewide initiative. The partner districts represent schools in Maricopa, Santa Cruz, Coconino, Navajo, Apache, Gila, Mohave, Pima, Pinal and Yuma counties and include:

    Chandler Unified District #80 (Chandler, seven schools)

    Flagstaff Unified District (Flagstaff, three schools)

    Florence Unified School District (Florence, two schools)

    Flowing Wells Unified District (Tucson, one school)

    Glendale Union High School District (Glendale, nine schools)

    Globe Unified District (Globe, one school)

    Higley Unified School District (Gilbert, two schools)

    Lake Havasu Unified District (Lake Havasu, one school)

    Nogales Unified District (Nogales, one school)

    Peoria Unified School District (Peoria, eight schools)

    Phoenix Union High School District (Phoenix, 15 schools)

    Round Valley Unified District (Round Valley, one school)

    Sunnyside Unified District (Phoenix, two schools)

    Tolleson Union High School District (Tolleson, six schools)

    Tucson Unified District (Tucson, 11 schools)

    Vail Unified District (Vail, five schools)

    Winslow Unified District (Winslow, one school)

    Yuma Union High School District (Yuma, six schools)

In addition to the funding for the ACT exam and postsecondary planning activities, a portion of the $5.1 million will be used to conduct a comprehensive, multi-year research study focused on the college aspirations and readiness of Arizona students. This research will help inform future work around college and career readiness and postsecondary completion. I encourage you to learn more about our College Knowing & Going initiative and our other education programs by visiting us online at

Paul Luna


Paul Luna serves as President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. He is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the organization, cultivating strong community relationships and initiating strategic partnerships in Arizona and Florida for the Foundation.

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