Their Story – Vince Roig
This is the first installment in a series of articles featuring the Board of Directors of College Success Arizona.
College Success Arizona is a 501(c)3 educational foundation founded in 2005, to increase the number of bachelor’s degree holders in the state of Arizona by providing scholarships and College Success Services to high potential, low-income students. The vision of College Success Arizona is to create an educated workforce ready to take Arizona into the future.
These articles are designed to give a more personal insight into each of our Board Members, to give them the opportunity to share why they care so deeply about Arizona, college attainment, and the mission of College Success Arizona.
1. Please tell us a little about your background
“I was born and raised in Manhattan, New York City, on the lower east side, from Hispanic parents. Although my parents didn’t have a great education, they understood the value of it and always encouraged me to be better than they did… to be the best that I could be.
I received my Bachelor of Science degree in secondary education from Athens College and a Master of Science degree in secondary education from Richmond College of the City University of New York while working at Brooklyn College where I found a unique opportunity which became my lifelong career; I was able to help individuals learn how to finance their education.”
2. What does your organization do?
“Helios Education Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunities for individuals in Arizona and Florida to succeed in postsecondary education. Basically, it’s not good enough just to get people into college; you have to get them out, graduated with a degree that will enhance their quality of life. That’s why Helios is in such alignment with College Success Arizona, because of the intensive mentoring that we provide at College Success Arizona to low-income, high-potential students.
Helios is a collaborator that seeks out partners, and that’s who we work with, organizations that have great ideas and do the on the ground work. Our role is to help our partner organizations accomplish our mutual goals.
We strategically partner to ensure more students are academically prepared at every stage of the education continuum—from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education—and ultimately, graduate college and career ready.
We are committed to the success of all students, we are also working to embed a college-going culture across both states which emphasizes and facilitates the successful completion of a postsecondary license, certificate or degree for every student, leading to meaningful career opportunities and a high quality of life.
It’s a long process, which is why Helios expects to be here a long time, long after they have forgotten who founded it, we hope to be focused on still doing the right thing for all students.”
3. How did you come to be associated with College Success Arizona?
“Helios provided a $10 million grant to College Success Arizona for the purpose of endowing a scholarship fund, and they asked a member of Helios to join the board so there could be an ongoing connection. I am that person.”
4. What is your vision for the Arizona of the future?
“My vision, for a state that I absolutely love, is that we can raise the awareness and understanding that when we provide an opportunity to attain an education to all; we raise the boat of prosperity for everyone. I am a firm believer that the opportunity education provides every individual will make the state one of the best in the country, but we have a responsibility to all and it will require us to make some sacrifices.
Third grade reading scores are very important. They say you learn to read from grades 0 to 3, and after that you read to learn. So if you haven’t conquered the first part the second portion becomes much harder. The second thing that they do with third grade reading scores is determine how many prison beds will be needed in the future. Because, in general, they know that kids who can’t read will not become productive members of society. So I want less prison beds, and one way to do that is to have more kids that can read by the third grade.
In 8th grade we need to make sure that kids can do math. They don’t have to be mathematicians but they have to be able to think through a process and solve problems.”
5. Why do you feel increasing Arizona’s College Attainment Rates is so important?
“I’m 68-years-old so I am not, at this point in time, looking for a career or another job; I am happy where I am. But for the new generation who will be searching for employment, it’s been stated that 60% of every job that will be available by 2020 requires some level of post-secondary education. We are not producing an educated workforce to meet that demand. Unless we step it up all along the line and educate people who are critical thinkers… people who have degrees, we are not going to meet the demand for jobs. I frankly think the 60% number is low. Have you looked under the hood of your car lately?
The demographics of Arizona are changing. Very soon Hispanics will be the majority in Arizona. If we are not ensuring that the Latino population is well educated at all levels and in all fields, we will not have an economy able to sustain our way of life in Arizona. It will take a concentrated effort from business, government, philanthropy, education professionals and from the general public to ensure economic success for Arizona. “
6. What other projects, activities, groups, are you involved in?
“I am involved or have been involved in; Greater Phoenix Leadership, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix Aviation Advisory Board, Stand for Children Arizona Advisory Committee, Take Stock in Children and Valley of the Sun United Way. Nationally, I’m on the Teach for America board and also the Stand for Children board.”
7. What is your organization involved in?
“Early grade success – Strengthening early childhood systems to enable more Arizona and Florida children, birth through age eight, to enter kindergarten ready to succeed and be reading at grade level by the end of third grade.
College and career readiness – Facilitating rigorous high expectation academic environments, which help students successfully transition between the various stages of education, graduate prepared for college and career and foster the pursuit of postsecondary education.
Postsecondary completion – Providing academic supports critical to student persistence and aligning systems to improve postsecondary degree or certificate attainment.
8. If you had a message for a student just beginning their college career, what would that be?
“I would say, have fun. Because this is the most exciting time in your life; the opportunity and environment to grow and learn will never be like this again.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for help when you don’t understand something. But, most of all, be true to yourself. You might not know exactly what you want to do, that’s okay. You’ll figure that out as life goes on, but enjoy what you’re doing and enjoy the concept of learning because you’ll take that with you for the rest of your life.”
Elizabeth Parra Valenzuela is a Communication and Engagement Intern and attends the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.