KOKOMO, Ind. — As owners of the Park Place Apartments, the father and son team of Gabriel and Nicolai Naranjo have invested in Kokomo, renovating the complex — both in bricks and mortar and in public image — since purchasing it in 2005. Now, they prepare to invest in the Indiana University Kokomo students who call it home, founding a scholarship to benefit them.
“As a partner in this community, we bring talented students here and house them close to campus. We want to give back,” he said.
Gabriel left school to begin working at age 14, but emphasized that education is critical to success today. His son, Nicolai, received several scholarships while earning his degree in Massachusetts and knows how meaningful they are.
“The Kokomo community is incredible,” he said. “The students here play a big role in our success. Many of the students are the first in their family to go to college, as I was, the son of an immigrant.”
Their preference is that the scholarship be given to undergraduate or graduate students who live at Park Place, with donor intent for students with a minimum 3.5 grade point average.
Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke appreciates the scholarship support.
“These scholarships mean a tremendous amount to our students,” she said. “It changes their lives. They have more career options with an IU degree.”
Gabriel, who lives in New Jersey, invested in security, more lighting, renovating, landscaping, and cleaning the property, making it the high quality complex he believed it could be, and attracting quality residents, including IU Kokomo students.
Planning for the Park Place Apartments Scholarship began before the August 24 tornadoes that heavily damaged the complex, but Gabriel is committed to giving the award despite the tribulation.
The week of the tornado, their local manager had just notified them the complex’s 250 apartments were all rented, for the first time since they purchased it. Shortly after clean up began, Nicolai and Gabriel came to inspect the damage, and make plans to rebuild.
Gabriel appreciates the volunteers who came to help residents move and clean up, including crew from other complexes, and the public safety officials who helped immediately after the tornadoes.
“We are going to continue our plans, and even increase our scholarship as the business grows again,” he said. “At this moment, we are in the mud, but we have a tendency to come back. We will come back, and we will come back stronger than we were.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.