TODAY   |  April 17, 2013

Florida millionaire helps kids go to college

Hotelier Harris Rosen, who grew up poor in New York City, is using his self-made success for good, providing free day care in a low-income neighborhood in Orlando, and offering free tuition to state colleges when the kids grow up. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> neighborhood that has seen a remarkable turnaround thanks in part to the efforts of one generous man. here's nbc's gabe gutierrez.

>> reporter: in the theme park capital of the world , hospitality means big business .

>> thank you so much. appreciate it.

>> reporter: but to harris rosen , it means much more.

>> thank you.

>> hospitality really is appreciating a fellow human being .

>> reporter: he grew up in the slums of new york, a family of immigrants. now he runs seven hotels in orlando , his self-made success would be remarkable on its own but that's not what he's most proud of.

>> came to the realization that i really had to now say thank you.

>> reporter: away from the theme parks there's a neighborhood in orlando called tangelo park and 20 years ago it was in need of some hospitality.

>> drug infested, people afraid to walk out, walk through the neighborhood. i was ready to move out.

>> reporter: but georgia gordon didn't move out, because harris rosen first decided to pay for day care for parents in tangelo park , a community of about 3,000 people. when the kids were older he offered free tuition to state colleges. gordon's daughter took advantage.

>> it's one thing to offer a scholarship to one person one time but to continuously for over 20 years to continue to provide this type of incentive for people to go to school i think is absolutely wonderful.

>> reporter: the incentive has paid off. university of central florida study says the crime rate here has been cut in half. some property values have quadrupled and the high school graduation rate is now approaching 100%. before it was just 25%. scholarship recipient camilla crawford is a freshman at the university of central florida . she wants to be a lawyer and --

>> make sure i show the world that with his gift that i was able to reach my maximum potential.

>> reporter: big dreams thanks to harris rosen 's big project, almost $10 million over two decades.

>> we've given these kids hope and given the families hope and hope is an amazing thing.

>> reporter: now he hopes other private donor also start similar scholarship programs in hard-hit communities across the country, spreading hospitality through education, one child at a time. for "today," gabe gutierrez, nbc news, orlando .

>> nice to have a few good stories.

>>> coming up, turning your home's klutt near cash but first