Investor Spotlight: Helios Education Foundation
July 27, 2020
Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to achieve a postsecondary education. The Foundation’s work is driven by four fundamental beliefs in Community, Investment, Equity, and Partnership. Helios invests in programs and initiatives across the full education continuum – from early grade success through postsecondary education. Since 2006, the Foundation has invested more than $233 million in education programs and initiatives in both states.
Paul Luna, President & CEO
Paul J. Luna is a nationally recognized leader in philanthropy, education, and community development. Since 2006, he has served as President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation, leading the foundation’s efforts to create opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education. Mr. Luna guides the strategic direction of the organization, cultivating strong community relationships, and initiating strategic partnerships in Arizona and Florida.
Talent recruitment is an important priority right now. Helios is a valued partner to many workforce development and postsecondary education attainment efforts. Why are these initiatives important for building our talent pool?
Education changes lives and strengthen communities. Connecting students, both traditional students and returning adult learners, to postsecondary opportunities that maximize their possibilities – while also meeting Tampa Bay’s workforce needs – benefits students, employers, and, ultimately, our community as a whole. Research affirms individuals with a postsecondary degree are more likely to remain employed during economic downturns, more likely to be civically engaged, and less reliant on social services.
Economic stability, civic engagement, low reliance on public assistance – all are hallmarks of a thriving community. And, all are achievable when our community invests in education.
What role do you see your organization playing in helping to shape our community’s future?
Helios Education Foundation’s work has been, and will continue to be, based on our fundamental beliefs of community, equity, investment, and partnership.
Helios invests in the transformational power of education because every child, regardless of zip code, deserves a high-quality education. Inequities all along the education continuum create education gaps that disproportionately impact minority students, leading them to underachieve in the K-12 system, suffer from underrepresentation in higher education, and, ultimately, be undercounted in the professional workforce.
Helios’ goal is to transform opportunity for all students, particularly first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of our diverse community.
What is the number one thing that you believe will impact Tampa Bay’s competitiveness in the coming decade?
In order for our community to grow economically and socially, we must come together as one united region to prioritize the wellbeing of each and every person in Tampa Bay regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic status.
Equitable access to high-quality early learning, K-12, and postsecondary education will give the Tampa Bay a measurable competitive advantage – an educated, diverse, and thriving workforce. Equity must be at the forefront of how the region readies children for kindergarten, ensures they read at grade level by the end of third grade, and prepares them to graduate high school prepared for college and career. If Tampa Bay is successful in doing that, it will be a huge differentiator for employers seeking the best talent.
We’ve all been staying at home much more the past few months due to COVID-19. Have you discovered any new hobbies or learned any new skills during this time?
Thanks to COVID-19, I have mastered the art of not only participating in, but also leading virtual meetings. I’ve finally settled on a backdrop and can now conquer the mute button masterfully. However, I do look forward to returning to an office environment and seeing my Helios colleagues in person.