This is inspiring. From 2015.
One Man’s Millions Turn a Community in Florida Around
Lizette Alvarez, New York Times, May 25, 2015
Harris Rosen visited a day care center for 3- and 4-year-olds in Tangelo Park, Fla., part of the education initiative he has spent the last two decades financing. Credit Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times.
ORLANDO, Fla. — Two decades ago, Harris Rosen, who grew up poor on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and became wealthy in the Florida hotel business, decided to shepherd part of his fortune into a troubled community with the melodious sounding name of Tangelo Park.
A quick snap from the city’s tourist engine, this neighborhood of small, once-charming houses seemed a world away from theme park pleasures as its leaders tried to beat back drugs, crime and too many shuttered homes. Nearly half its students had dropped out of school.
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 seniors graduate from high school, and most go on to college on full scholarships Mr. Rosen has financed.
Young children head for kindergarten primed for learning, or already reading, because of the free day care centers and a prekindergarten program Mr. Rosen provides. Property values have climbed. Houses and lawns, with few exceptions, are welcoming. Crime has plummeted.
“We are sitting on gold here now,” said Jeroline G. Adkinson, president of the Tangelo Park Civic Association and a longtime resident of the mostly black community. “It has helped change the community.”
Still, Tangelo Park’s progress raises as many questions as it answers. While heartwarming, can it be replicated? Or is it the singular story of a singular figure willing to donate not only his money but also his time?
Some elements of Tangelo Park’s success, like its focus on both early childhood education and college, are being used in other programs. And other individuals have played prominent roles in changing students’ lives elsewhere.
George Weiss created Say Yes to Education, which offers scholarships and helps high school students succeed, and Geoff Canada spearheaded the comprehensive Harlem Children’s Zone, which has enhanced the futures of thousands of children in Harlem who attend charter schools.
But Tangelo Park is perhaps hard to mimic in other ways.
The community is small — with only 3,000 people — and filled with homeowners, making it unusual for an urban area. Tangelo has determined leaders who were fighting the drug trade even before Mr. Rosen’s arrival. And it has had Mr. Rosen’s focus and financing over 21 years.
“It’s not inexpensive,” Mr. Rosen said. “You stay until the neighborhood no longer needs you.”
But, he added, there are a lot of wealthy people with the resources to do the same thing if they choose.
Credit Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times.
Sitting with his feet propped up on his old, weathered wooden desk, Mr. Rosen, 75, fit, trim and not given to formalities (his shelter dogs are known to wander about the room), said the program was rooted in an element absent in many American neighborhoods.
“Hope,” Mr. Rosen said.
Why devote countless hours to school if college, with its high cost, is out of reach?
“If you don’t have any hope,” he added, “then what’s the point?”
The Tangelo Park Program succeeds in large part because of its simplicity. There is no charter school for its children — about 900 under the age of 18 — no large bureaucracy, no hunt for money, no staff to speak of. It is run almost entirely by volunteers, mostly community leaders.
In all, Mr. Rosen now spends about $500,000 a year, less than when he began the program, he said.
Mr. Rosen’s plan gives no money directly to the schools, directing it instead to help preschool children and provide scholarships for high school graduates.
A details man, he prefers to show up: to every monthly board meeting but two for 21 years and to many scholarship and graduation ceremonies, including those for day cares, all while running seven hotels and carving out time for his four children.
“This program is drastically different from others because it wraps both arms around the community and says we are here to serve you and help you become the best person that you can be,” said Bernice King, the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the director of the King Center in Atlanta, which gave Mr. Rosen an award in January. “A lot of these programs, they have only one piece here and one piece there.”