Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” No truer words could be used to describe Orlando Hotelier Harris Rosen who recently told WDBO that he’s going to pay “room, board, tuition, books and everything” for each 2017 Jones High School senior accepted to a trade school, community college or 4-year public Florida university. In this time of micro-measuring students with unproven education “reforms,” Rosen offers a positive gift of hope to students on the threshold of adulthood. The ripple effect means these scholarships give families hope, which gives the community hope.
From WDBO: It was a complete surprise, scholarship recipient Jenny Simon said. “Us seniors, we were at the point in time where we were like, ‘What college are we going to? How are we going to pay for college?’ and then, boom, this happens.”
The success of the scholarship program in the Tangelo Park area spurred a 50-percent increase in the graduation rate, and now Rosen plans to offer scholarships in the Parramore area as well.The Rosen Foundation has funded 10 preschools in the past 24 years, and starting young and then supporting students through their academic career is key, Rosen said. “You start when youngsters are 2 (years old) and you provide an opportunity for them to go to college, and now suddenly these youngsters have the same opportunities that youngsters from more affluent neighborhoods have,” he said.
When The New York Times profiled Rosen’s Tangelo Park Program in 2015, he had this to say, “Why devote countless hours to school, if college with its high cost is out of reach? If you don’t have any hope, then what’s the point?”
The Times article continues: The Tangelo Park Program succeeds because of its simplicity. There are no charter schools for its children – about 900 under the age of 18 – no large bureaucracy, no hunt for money, no staff to speak of, its run almost entirely by volunteers, mostly community leaders.
Twenty-one years later, with an infusion of $11 million of Mr. Rosen’s money so far, Tangelo Park is a striking success story. Nearly all its students graduate from high school, and most go on to college on full scholarships Mr. Rosen has financed. Young children head to kindergarten, primed for learning or already reading because of the free day cares and pre-K program Mr. Rosen provides. Property values have climbed. Houses and lawns, with few exceptions are welcoming. Crime has plummeted.
Rosen’s comments in a recent Philanthropy Round Table explain his vision: “If there was a program like Tangelo Park in every underserved neighborhood in America we would close prisons, build more colleges, and lift our economy in such a positive way that would be mind boggling. These new college grads would shop, create, invent, develop. It would change America.”
For decades, education-related philanthropists have ignored the hard work of addressing poverty and lack of opportunity, blaming teachers, parents and students instead. They’ve meddled in policy, focused on profit and promoted a judgmental social agenda that is haunted by failure.
In contrast, Harris Rosen’s philanthropy is at once inspirational and collaborative. It actively respects the community and celebrates lives regardless of circumstance. It tells students who work hard that he’s got their back. That hope is real. Imagine, what if others in Rosen’s position followed his lead, stripped their philanthropy of ego and dedicated their billions to helping children feel genuinely hopeful about their futures one child at a time?
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