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One (Rich) Man Can Change One (Small) Part of the World

May 28, 2015
Plain English Version

Harry Rosen visiting children at a day care center. Photo courtesy of Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times

Tangelo Park is a small community in Florida. It has a population of around 3,000, most of whom are homeowners. Most of the families are poor and black.

Nearly all of its high school students will graduate. Many will go on to college. Many will have full scholarships.

There is a reason.

Harry Rosen is the grandson of Jewish Ukrainian immigrants. He grew up in New York’s Lower East Side.  He worked hard and saved. As a young man he invested in Florida hotels and made a lot of money.

He thought about how hard it is for people to get out of communities that offered them so little. He decided to use his money to help one small area rise above its past.

Twenty-one years and $11 million later, Tangelo Park is a striking success story. Money well spent is how it happened.

Before Mr. Rosen became involved, the town had drugs, crime and shuttered homes. Nearly half of the students dropped out of school.

Now kids go to free day care centers and prekindergarten programs. They are ready for kindergarten. The houses are mostly spruced up. The police say it is a low crime area.

The Tangelo Park Program works because of its simplicity. There is no charter school, no large bureaucracy, no hunt for money and no staff. The Program is run by volunteers and community leaders.

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. Instead, he directs his money to helping preschool children and providing scholarships for high school graduates.

Why did it work?  “I gave the community Hope,” he said,  “If you don’t have any hope, then what’s the point?”

Source: The New York Times May 25, 2015

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