A Natural Boost

“A thousand years ago, conventional wisdom was that the world was flat. That doesn’t mean it was true,” said Daniel Rose, chairman of real estate organization Rose Associates and founder of the acclaimed Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF). Rose’s approach to education, one rooted “not in teaching, which is what takes place on a blackboard, but on learning, which is what happens inside the mind of a young person” bucks most of the conventions of today’s classrooms, but Rose wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rose and his wife, Joanna, founded HEAF more than 20 years ago to change the lives of inner-city middle and high school students, setting them on a path for success through after-school, Saturday and summer enrichment activities. The program, which has nurtured the curiosity, encouraged high aspirations and built self-confidence in thousands of young people—most of them minorities—boasts extraordinary results: 100 percent of HEAF students graduate from high school, 94 percent graduate from college and more than a third go on to earn master’s degrees.

Now, the Rose family is poised to expand the success of HEAF through a partnership with NYU-Poly, pledging $600,000 to provide opportunities for HEAF students to attend the university through the Daniel and Joanna Rose STEM Scholarship Fund. For Rose, it’s a natural next step. “HEAF has done the heavy lifting—it’s like the first stage of a space shuttle launch. We’ve launched these kids up over the treetops, but now we’ve got to boost them the rest of the way,” he explained.

Over the next five years, NYU-Poly will name five Rose STEM Scholars, awarding full undergraduate scholarships to one HEAF graduate each year. The award will cover tuition, on-campus living expenses and participation in study abroad and internship programs. Rose STEM Scholars will also serve as mentors for HEAF students. Additionally, the funds will provide opportunities for NYU-Poly graduate students and faculty to conduct robotics lessons with HEAF staff and students throughout the year.

For Daniel Rose, who was awarded an honorary doctorate in engineering from NYU-Poly in 2007, investing in the education of future scientists and engineers is critical. “In the 21st century, science and technology are part of the world in a way that touches everyone. And for those students who hear the music of science, we want to provide them with every possible opportunity.”

He goes on to relay the story of the only graduating college class in history to turn out three Nobel laureates. “It was the City College of New York Class of 1937. The facilities were shabby. The classes were huge. The students came from mostly poor, immigrant families. But they were future-minded, and they valued education as a way to achieve their goals.”

As Rose looks to the future of programs like HEAF, he only sees growth—and he views partners like NYU-Poly as crucial to the process. “In the real world, you cannot count on equal results, but you can provide equality in opportunity so every child can grow to their fullest height,” he said. “And for those among us who have it within them to become sequoias, so be it.”