By Ann Gill (M.A., ’76)
When he was eight years old, Kareem Rosser (B.A., ’16) began a journey that would take him, one of six children raised by a single mother, out of a community plagued by violence and crime to faraway places and extraordinary achievements. The journey involved polo horses as well as Rosser’s own talent, intelligence, and determination.
The starting point was a non-profit Philadelphia organization, Work to Ride. It teaches low-income children to ride horses and play polo in exchange for their help with chores in the stable. Participants must keep their grades up; tutors help them achieve academic success in a classroom at the stable. Rosser excelled. In eighth grade, he received a polo scholarship to attend Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania. He explains: “It was a life-changing experience that gave me structure and made me a better leader.” During this stretch of his journey, he was a member of the first all-African-American team to win the National Interscholastic Polo Championship. He was named the Polo Training Foundation’s Polo Player of the Year.
Accepted to Colorado State University, Rosser decided to spend his first year at a community college. He then transferred to play polo for the Rams. At CSU, polo is a highly competitive club sport. Rosser was a starter on the varsity team his first year, and they made it to the national finals. His second year was a rebuilding one for the team, as two outstanding seniors had graduated. In 2015, however, the CSU polo team won the national title, and Rosser was named U.S. Polo Association’s Intercollegiate Player of the Year.
After graduation, he parlayed his CSU economics degree into a career as a financial analyst, currently with Reath and Company in Philadelphia. Rosser also continued to play polo. Invitations to compete in tournaments have taken him to Europe, Africa, and Asia. He says, “Although riding horses is the same everywhere, it has been wonderful to embrace other cultures and see other places.” He has become a celebrity, featured on 60 Minutes, EPSN, and other outlets.
He serves as executive director of Friends of Work to Ride, raising funds for the program to enable it to expand and help more at-risk youth. Ralph Lauren supports Work to Ride with a fund providing collegiate scholarships for the students, and he has an advertising campaign featuring Rosser and other Work to Ride alumni modeling his clothing line.
Rosser also works with current Work to Ride students. He talks to them about next steps, “motivating them to graduate from high school and prepare for college.” He says, “I wake up every day excited to give someone purpose and to serve as living proof that, no matter where you come from, there is always hope.”
Rosser “fell in love with Fort Collins” and found the CSU community “very accepting.” He says it was an experience he “would relive if I had the opportunity to do so.” For now, this articulate, impressive, humble young man continues to work in finance, play outstanding polo, and help other West Philadelphia youngsters ride toward their own extraordinary achievements.