Good Deed Gone Viral: Harris Rosen’s Tangelo Park Promise
Harris Rosen’s move to adopt a Florida neighborhood has gone viral, earning the entrepreneur well-deserved celebrity status.
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.
Building an Empire to Give Back
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%.
It wasn’t long before accolades started pouring in for Rosen. He was named Orlando Sentinel’s 2011 Central Floridian of the Year, and won the 2011 National Philanthropy Day Lifetime Achievement Award, among others.
Going Viral and Beyond
While the beginnings of Tangelo Park’s transformation took place two decades ago, the story of this neighborhood and its hero went viral on the internet after someone recently posted on Reddit an excerpt of an article published by Pegasus, UCF’s magazine. Within 24 hours it had received 2000 comments and went viral via several social media channels. Harris Rosen and his philanthropic initiatives have been Tweeted about, many more articles have been written and video interviews such as the one below were circulated.
Thanks to social media, this social good initiative has gained more recognition and is sure to attract more supporters.
If you want to join in to support Harris Rosen’s philanthropic initiatives and give back to the Tangelo Park community, here’s how you can help:
- Learn more about the Tangelo Park Program
- Donate to this program
- Share the story and spread the good word.