Collaboration and Innovation Uplift Parramore Residents in Orlando

Author: Helios Education Foundation

December 19, 2019

In the Parramore neighborhood of Orlando musical legends Ella Fitzgerald and BB King were regulars at the South Street Casino and felt at home at the Wells’ Built Hotel. In the 1920’s Parramore was a prideful, thriving African-American community whose residents owned businesses, engaged in civic activities, and took delight in making history. To this day, generations of residents still take pride in Parramore’s heritage.

In the second half of the 20th century, Parramore experienced a downturn; a downturn that was both social and economic. Through the years, community support for revitalization of the Parramore neighborhood has experienced peaks and valleys, leading residents to question how a once thriving community had, over the years, fallen short of its glory. “In the 1920’s and 30’s Parramore was a thriving community of 20,000 residents, now there are approximately 6,000 residents”, explained Sissi Carroll, Ed.D., Dean of the College of Community Innovation and Education at the University of Central Florida. “The decline in population equated to a decline in the quality of life.”  Not deterred, resilient residents and community leaders are mapping a path to ensure Parramore overcomes its current challenges and continue to build momentum toward becoming a thriving community with social and economic potential for all residents.  

Working alongside Parramore community leaders, and with funding from Helios Education Foundation in 2017, the University of Central Florida with partners including Valencia College, Orange County Public Schools, Kresge Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and The Harris Rosen Foundation, invested in the process to design and create a collaborative infrastructure to enhance the cradle to career education ecosystem for Parramore residents.

“In the spirit of partnership, Helios Education Foundation proudly invested in the Parramore education ecosystem because every child deserves to connect his talent to unlimited potential by leveraging the power of education,” said Paul J. Luna, President and CEO, Helios Education Foundation. “We believe that education changes lives and strengthens communities.”

Over the course of months, partners conducted an asset and needs assessment, identified and collected baseline data on key metrics, identified gaps in the areas of PK-16 academic achievement along with postsecondary access, persistence and completion gaps—all focused on the education continuum in Parramore. The resulting community engagement, alignment of resources, and support from both public and private organizations led to the creation of a strategic plan intended to not only engage current residents in pursuing an education, but inspire future generations to embrace continued education, from cradle to career.

Complementary to the Helios’ funded Parramore Education and Innovation District is the Parramore Kidz Zone, a long-standing investment by the City of Orlando to ensure residents have access to early childhood education, youth development programs for teens, and college access assistance, among other opportunities. While targeting community resources to Parramore residents was important, anchoring a traditional public school in the Parramore neighborhood was critical. Building on the City’s leadership, and with the broader community’s focus on Parramore, Orange County Public Schools opened the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) K-8 school in 2017, the first traditional public school to open in Parramore in 48 years. Having overcome initial challenges that centered on student discipline and administration turnover, the school now embraces its role as a community center, hosting an Orange Blossom Health clinic and a Boys & Girls Club on the education campus. Most recently extending the presence of education partners is the joint Valencia College/University of Central Florida downtown campus, located within walking distance of Parramore. 

Building upon this community momentum, Helios Education Foundation supported implementation of the broader Parramore Education and Innovation District plan with a second investment in 2019.

Slowly, methodically, and with respect for the generations of community leaders engaged, Helios Education Foundation, the University of Central Florida, Valencia College, Orange County Public Schools, the City of Orlando, Kresge Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and The Harris Rosen Foundation are supporting Parramore residents as they lift their community, honor their brilliance, and use the transformative power of education to picture a future that shines every more brightly for all. “The community is beginning to see that we are here for the long run while addressing some of the immediate needs they’ve expressed to us” concluded Carroll.


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