The University of Central Florida (UCF) and Valencia College first began conversations with the Parramore community in 2015, meeting regularly to discuss the community’s needs. Both schools were aware of the tremendous history within the community and of the longtime socio-economic problems that have plagued it for centuries.
Though the schools were initially met with skepticism from long-term residents — many of whom were adversely affected by projects like the construction of I-4 — Eugene Jones, the executive dean of Valencia Downtown, said that the relationship is now seen as more symbiotic.
“Both Valencia and UCF share the concern of ‘What role can we play in the success of this community?’” he said.
From these community-wide meetings emerged the need for a viable platform to communicate concerns; thus, the Parramore Community Engagement Council was formed. Its 24 members include 12 Parramore residents, and it focuses on topics like jobs, health, safety, education and affordable housing.
In an interview with Jamie Giller, the Marketing Director of UCF Downtown, we asked what scholarship opportunities were being offered to incentivize Parramore youth to attend college. She shared with us a few different educational opportunities including:
- Harris Rosen: The Rosen organization committed to paying 100 percent of college expenses for students who began at OCPS ACE and graduated from Jones High School. To qualify, students must be admitted into a state university, community college or vocational school.
- UCF College of Medicine: Inspired by the action of Harris Rosen, UCF College of Medicine agreed to pay full tuition for any OCPS ACE School, Jones High School and UCF graduate who is admitted into the UCF College of Medicine.
- Valencia College Basic Construction Course: Valencia launched a short-term training program to help Parramore residents qualify for jobs on construction sites across our region. Scholarships are available through CareerSource Central Florida and Valencia College Foundation, and Jones said students are specifically recruited from the Parramore area.
Orange County Public Schools partnered with UCF, Orange Blossom Family Health, the Boys & Girls Club of Central Florida, Valencia College and the Rosen Foundation and in 2017, opened the first school in the neighborhood in almost 50 years; OCPS ACE School. The school is considered a community partnership school, providing health and dental care to children, their families and the community.
The Parramore Community Engagement Council also helped to inspire the Parramore Education and Innovation District Initiative (PEID), an organization focused on researching and developing solutions for the education of existing residents from Pre-K through Ph. D.
Like much of Central Florida, Parramore is experiencing an affordable housing crisis. And the arrival of UCF and Valencia downtown has proven problematic as land value in the Parramore postal code have increased four times the rate of other Orlando ZIP codes in the past year. Only one in five Parramore homes are occupied and less than 10 percent of those residents are homeowners.
Central Florida Foundation has partnered with other organizations in the community to form the Central Florida Land Trust; a nonprofit that purchases and holds land in a trust, and then sell it at an affordable rate to residents. “We’re making real estate affordable in the long term,” said Mark Brewer, the organization’s president. “Gentrification is not always a bad thing. It’s bad when you displace people in the neighborhood.”
What questions do you have for your community leaders regarding the potential effects of gentrification in your neighboring communities? Send us an email; we’d love to share your questions.
ICYMI: Check out our other installments from this week highlighting the Parramore community and the changes happening there.