On Saturday, Orange County Public Schools broke ground on the new PS8 School, a first-of-its-kind community school that will address the needs of preschool through middle school students on one campus. The new school, set to open in Fall 2017, will be built adjacent to the proposed UCF Downtown campus in Creative Village.
At Saturday’s ceremony, UCF Provost and Vice President Dale Whittaker announced that the university would provide full scholarships to the medical school to any students at the new community school who go on to graduate from Jones High School and UCF and who then are offered admission to the medical school.
“At UCF, our motto is ‘reach for the stars,’” Whittaker told the crowd of community leaders, school officials, parents and students. “Today, we announce a new opportunity for Parramore-area families and their children to pursue their dreams.”
The medical school scholarships could be the culmination of eight years of full scholarships for the Parramore students. Hotelier and philanthropist Harris Rosen’s foundation will cover the cost of their undergraduate degrees if they choose to attend UCF either for four years or for two years after they earn an associate’s degree at Valencia College.
UCF’s College of Medicine has a longstanding commitment to students of Orlando’s Jones High. In 2011, the college launched the Health Leaders pipeline program at Jones, designed to increase the diversity of healthcare providers in the area. Last spring, each of the 12 inaugural students in the program graduated from Jones and enrolled in college – all with majors in health-related studies. The program has since expanded to Memorial Middle School near Parramore and is called Health Explorers and Leaders (HEAL).
“To me it’s all about giving back,” said Dr. Deborah German, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the UCF College of Medicine.
German, who received a full scholarship to Harvard Medical School, was the first in her family to graduate college and could not have afforded medical school without the scholarship. She called the Parramore scholarship a way of “paying forward” the gift given to her. “During the announcement, I saw a 2-year-old child standing where the new Parramore school will be built,” she said. “I wanted to pick him up and say, ‘You can be a doctor. And we will pay for it. You just have to work incredibly hard. Dream big. You can do this.’ ”
Also at Saturday’s announcement, Rosen said his foundation would establish early childhood care at the new school and a scholarship program to pay for vocational, two-year and four-year degrees for graduates from PS8 and Parramore-area high schools. This mirrors the successful program Rosen started in the Tangelo Park neighborhood more than 20 years ago, where 280 students have received scholarships to college and technical or career training schools.
“We will change America one community at a time,” Rosen told supporters at Saturday’s event.
Orange County Public Schools leaders called the new school a “beacon of hope” for a community that for decades has been sending its children to different schools throughout the county.
“What an incredible blessing for the children and families of Parramore,” said Orange County Public Schools Board Vice Chair Kathleen “Kat” Gordon, whose district includes Parramore. “Having the school right in the neighborhood increases the opportunity for parents to be involved in their children’s education. I’m thrilled for these families and can’t wait for the first day of school.”
School leaders also said the school and scholarships wouldn’t be possible without support from the community and many project partners, including and after-school youth development program from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida.
“This unique partnership will transform the lives of hundreds of children,” said Orange County Public Schools Chairman Bill Sublette. “The involvement of these community and educational institutions demonstrates their commitment to the children and families of the Parramore neighborhood. We expect real change in children’s lives as a result.”
For a video version of this story, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjI6sUe5B3A&feature=youtu.be