Saturday, November 15, 2014

Harris Rosen’s Tangelo Park Promise

Harris Rosen is a true hero.

Harris Rosen, the Orlando-based founder of Rosen Resorts and Hotels, recenlty went viral via Reddit, as the “Self-made millionaire who adopted a Florida neighborhood called Tangelo Park, cut the crime rate in half, and increased the high school graduation rate from 25 per cent to 100 per cent by giving everyone free daycare and all high school graduates scholarships.” While this sounds almost as over-the-top as the character portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man movies, this superhero isn’t fictional.

It all started when his bosses at Walt Disney World fired Harris Rosen because they weren’t convinced that he would “ever be a company man.” The rejection triggered Rosen's determined entrepreneurialism and lead to the purchase of his first hotel in 1974. This Orlando property, a Quality Inn on International Drive, marked the beginning of Rosen Hotels & Resorts, which has grown to include several landmark hotels in Orlando. What sets Harris Rosen’s career apart is his trait of giving back. Magazines and several articles tout him as the “man who spent the first half of his career making money and the second half giving it back.”

In the early 1990s, Harris Rosen adopted a “run-down, drug-infested section of Orlando called Tangelo Park.” Soon thereafter, Rosen provided the funds to enable free preschool education for all children prior to kindergarten and free college educations for all high school graduates. The program runs through the collaboration of four Tangelo community organizations: Tangelo Park Elementary School, the Tangelo Park YMCA, the Tangelo Baptist Church and the Tangelo Park Civic Association.

The results of the Tangelo Park program are astonishing: the Tangelo Park Elementary School has been an “A” rated Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test school for six of the past seven years, crime rates have declined steadily, student Grade Point Averages (GPAs) have risen dramatically– and are predicted to exceed 3.0 in the coming years, and as of 2012 the high school graduation rate is 100%.


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