Tuesday, November 29, 2016

When there's hope, anything is possible

Meet Harris Rosen, a self-made hotel magnate in Orlando, who decided about 20 years ago that it was time to give back. Not far from one of his hotels he adopted the Orlando suburb of Tangelo Park. About 800 families, mostly African America, lived there amid drug-trafficking, prostitution and unsafe streets. The high school graduation rate was only 25%. Students saw no point in graduation since nobody could afford college, until Rosen arrived to deliver one simple gift -- hope.

Today, the graduation rate in Tangelo Park is 100%. Why? Because Rosen worked through community organizations to give every high school graduate a full scholarship to any school in the state, including tuition, room, board, books and travel. There are no hoops to jump through or promises to keep. If you graduate from high school and are accepted by any college, junior college or vocational school in Florida, it's a free ride, guaranteed. So far, over 200 students have received Rosen scholarships, and 75% graduated from college. Meanwhile, Tangelo Park property values are going up. People are moving in. Crime is down at least 50%, making it safer than some affluent suburbs. How long does Rosen plan to continue providing hope? He says, "I will be involved in the program until Tangelo Park is a gated community and the average home sells for $1 million. Then I'm gone."

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