Indiana leaders visit Florida in search of more robust pre-K options for low-income families

The Tangelo Park Program in Orlando, Florida, has become a positive model for other communities, demonstrating that assistance to high-risk youth can yield an attractive, long-term return on investment for society through educational gains and community empowerment.

Editor’s note: This article appeared today on the Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Fort Wayne Community Schools is exploring options to expand a program unfunded by the state – pre-K.

“There are students who come to us in kindergarten that are two years to three years behind their peers,” FWCS Superintendent Mark Daniel said. “That has to change. That’s a gap that is way too wide.”

FWCS is looking to the Sunshine State for inspiration. A team of six, including Daniel, recently visited the Tangelo Park Program in Orlando, Florida.

Created in 1993 by Orlando hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen, the program provides free preschool for every 2-, 3- and 4-year-old living in the Tangelo Park neighborhood, among other offerings. It is funded through Rosen’s philanthropy, the Harris Rosen Foundation.

The program – which also includes full college and vocational school scholarships for high school graduates – has produced “unbelievable results,” Daniel said. He cited its almost 100% graduation rate and post-secondary successes, including how 77% of Tangelo Park Program alumni who attend four-year colleges earn a degree.

Previously, the predominantly Black neighborhood of about 1,000 homes faced overt drug problems, poor school attendance, declining test scores and high dropout rates, according to the Tangelo Park Program website.

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BY Special to NextSteps