In an effort to close the achievement gap, and boost college admission rates in Arizona, the Helios Education Foundation launched an initiative that will provide 145,000 students college application assistance and access to the ACT Test.

Over the next five years, the Helios Foundation, along with College Success Arizona, AzCAN and the ACT, will invest $5.1 million into 83 Arizona High Schools through its College Knowing and Going Initiative. The program will provide High School juniors access to the ACT Test, while paying for administration costs.

Many of the 18 school districts taking part in the initiative represent low-income latino student populations, and aims to boost the number of students getting a post-secondary education in a time when many careers require some sort of post-secondary education.

This program takes an additional step by assisting high school seniors with post-secondary education and college admission forms, along with assistance with completing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms, said Paul Luna, Helios Education Foundation president and CEO.

While providing students ACT Test access in the past, Helios found that some students were still disconnected, and not applying for college or post-secondary education despite their test scores, Luna said.

“This initiative was really kind of saying we need to take the next step, and enhance what we’re doing to lead towards better outcomes for students,” Luna said.

During a roundtable at the initiative’s announcement ceremony at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Phoenix, Arizona State University Student Luis Perez-Medina said how important his ACT Test scores were in convincing him to go to college.

He grew up with a low income background in the West Valley where many peers told him college wasn’t for him.

“But when I got the test results it reaffirmed I could succeed in college,” Perez-Medina said.