Helios Education Foundation Gifts $1 Million to the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center

Posted on: September 30, 2008

Helios Education Foundation, the largest foundation in both Arizona and Florida focused solely on education, recently awarded the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) a $1 million Early Childhood Education grant. SARRC is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to autism research, education and resources for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and their families.

“Helios Education Foundation invests its resources and expertise in programs that help pave the way for students to succeed across the education continuum — from pre-K through postsecondary education,” said the Foundation’s Chairman Vince Roig. “Our partnership with SARRC will open doors to more training, resources and professional development for early childhood education professionals, focusing on intervention programs for young children.”

Of the total $1 million gift, $950,000 has been allocated to SARRC’s endowment to ensure that SARRC’s high-quality early intervention services and training programs continue to be available to children, families, educators, physicians and other professionals statewide. The funds will allow SARRC to innovate, replicate and build capacity in the early education field so more children, both with autism and without, are positively impacted.

“This funding is going to have an immeasurable long-term impact on building the sustainability of SARRC’s early intervention programs,” said Lisa Glow, president and CEO of SARRC. “Helios’ endowment provides SARRC a gift in perpetuity, which allows us to maintain and grow services that families desperately need, with a special emphasis on our early intervention and education/training programs.”

The remaining $50,000 will be utilized this year to help SARRC launch an early intervention school consultation program, named the Helios Early Intervention Initiative for Exceptional Children. The goal of the program is to work with toddler and preschool programs in Arizona to set up effective learning environments for children with ASDs and other behavioral challenges from birth to age 5.

Effective learning environments for these children take place in inclusive settings where peer role models without autism play an active role in the child’s education. Research has demonstrated that this experience not only benefits the child with autism or other behavioral challenges, but greatly enhances the leadership capabilities and compassion of typical peers.

“Early intervention programs that focus on behavioral, social and cognitive issues are an integral part of keeping children on a path that not only gets them ready to learn, but helps them succeed in elementary school,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “Our commitment to SARRC is in part a reflection of our overall vision to bolster professional development opportunities for early childhood educators and help equip them with the right tools needed to foster a successful learning environment in today’s classroom.”

Helios Education Foundation was created through the sale of Southwest Student Services Corporation, a student loan services company. Since its inception in 2004, the Foundation has invested more than $48 million in education-related programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida.

Category: Early Grade Success

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