April 18, 2022
Helios Education Foundation and UCF Invest $3.25 Million in New Downtown Scholars Initiative for High School Seniors at Economically Disadvantaged Schools
ORLANDO—The number of students from Jones, Evans and Oak Ridge high schools in Orlando who earn diplomas from the University of Central Florida (UCF) may soon increase thanks to a $2 million grant from Helios Education Foundation. This philanthropic partnership between Helios and UCF will launch the UCF Downtown Scholars Initiative (UCF DSI) this summer to create new pathways to success at UCF for qualified students at the target schools. Inspired by Helios’ leadership and generosity, the university is also contributing funds to the new initiative, resulting in a combined investment of $3.25 million.
Initially, UCF DSI will benefit rising seniors at Jones High School who wish to attend UCF—with Evans and Oak Ridge high schools added in years three and four of the program. The initiative offers pre-collegiate programming and support, first-year student mentoring and a summer bridge program where students will live on-campus at UCF Downtown.
A high-quality education and a postsecondary degree should be accessible and achievable for every student. Through focused investments and partnership like that with UCF, we hope to create pathways where more Black students can reach success.
Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to enriching the lives of individuals in both Arizona and Florida by creating opportunities for success in postsecondary education. Fundamental beliefs in Community, Equity, Investment, and Partnership propel student supports and guide the foundation’s strategic investments.
While all students benefit from the transformational power of education, Helios focuses on serving first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students, thus addressing the education equity gap that often prevents these students from realizing their potential. Through our Black Student Success Strategy, Helios is helping Black students from the state’s large population centers—South Florida, Central Florida, and Tampa Bay—achieve a postsecondary education.
For more information or to request a visit by a UCF Foundation representative to talk about the ways to join UCF and Helios in this transformational work, please contact Lori Shuff, Assistant Vice President for Advancement, Corporate and Foundation Relations at 407.882.1256 or [email protected]
There are incredible lifelong and generational benefits to an education at a metropolitan research university like UCF. Through this partnership with Helios, we are opening educational pathways that unleash the potential of these students and empower them to pursue excellence, earn success and boost their upward mobility.
Grant funding secured from Helios Education Foundation covers tuition, housing, books, and related expenses for UCF Downtown Scholars Initiative (DSI) participants in the Summer Bridge program, the first semester at UCF.
In addition to the Downtown Scholars Initiative, the Helios Education Foundation continues its partnership with UCF in support of first-generation college students.
In 2017, Helios provided a planning grant to UCF to design an educational network that works collaboratively to improve educational access and success for residents in Parramore and in 2019, Helios provided additional grant funding to continue the work through the Parramore Education and Innovation District initiative.
TRANSITION TO COLLEGE
A 2021 survey of Black students in Florida conducted by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, and funded by Helios Education Foundation, found that the “gap between postsecondary intentions and enrollment rates — also known as ‘summer melt’ — disproportionately affects community college and Black students.” Concerns about family obligations, college affordability and lack of support navigating the enrollment and application process create additional barriers for Black college student applicants, according to the survey.
Navigating the application process and making the transition to college can be challenging for students, particularly those entering as first-generation college students. UCF has a history of providing access and working with the community to recruit and support students who might not otherwise consider college or successfully navigate their way to and through the application, admissions and enrollment processes.
SUMMER BRIDGE PROGRAM
Initially, UCF DSI is benefitting rising seniors at Jones High School who wish to attend UCF—with Evans and Oak Ridge high schools to be added in years three and four of the program. The initiative offers pre-collegiate programming and support, first-year student mentoring and a summer bridge program where students will live on-campus at UCF Downtown.
Coaches from UCF DSI will work one-on-one with students to support a seamless transition to college. Summer bridge programs have been shown to increase the first-year retention rate among economically and educationally disadvantaged college students.
LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR 13 COLLEGES