Washington Monthly - September/October 2016 - 69

from their families to help pay for tuition. Two-thirds of them administrators have a relationship with Sorrell. She knew she hail from outside Texas, with high numbers coming from cities wanted to go to a historically black school, and ended up getlike Detroit, Chicago, and New York. Some have faced massive ting in everywhere she wanted to go. She picked Paul Quinn afroadblocks in their path to college-extreme poverty, broken ter receiving a full scholarship, and Sorrell surprised her with a homes, multiple deaths in the family-and nearly all will have call after she accepted and convinced her to come to Dallas early to work harder than they ever have before to succeed. for the summer program. Afterward, he stopped in San FrancisThat includes little things like basic time management and co for Sunday dinner with her family, who were nervous about academic skills, especially in preparation for the jobs to come. sending her off to Texas for good. "He got permission to watch Many have never paid attention for an entire multi-hour lecme, punish me, motivate me," Butler said. "I didn't have a relature before, have never really written a paper, have nothing but tionship with my dad, so he really stepped in and stepped up." anxiety at the prospect of tests that can make or break a grade. What's remarkable about these calls and visits is how unTo foster a sense of professionalism, Sorrell enforces a busiremarkable they seem as part of his larger recruitment strategy. ness-casual dress code in classes. For those who don't have the It's not uncommon for Sorrell and his staff to be on a first-name clothes, the school keeps a closet full of donated businesswear basis with students who are still in high school. The school esthat students can borrow from. Those who struggle despite timates that only 10 percent of incoming freshmen aren't rethe staff's hands-on approach can be put on the "Carrington cruited in some way by Paul Quinn. That closeness doesn't end plan"-they live together on the one dormitory's third floor and maintain a schedule of distraction-free study hall sessions. The program is named after former undergraduate Ryan Carrington, a promising student whom Sorrell ordered to work at a desk in his own office after a massive drop in grades following a fraternity pledge. Sorrell took Carrington's keys and cell phone and had him introduce himself to every visitor who came in. "He had never sat still long enough to learn," Sorrell says. Sure enough, the grades went back up. Starting fresh: When Sorrell took over as president, the campus had fifteen abandoned buildings. Sorrell (and the high Thanks to a million-dollar donation, he was able to have them all torn down. school administrators who like to send him names) makes a point to find students like Carrington who can bloswhen they get to campus. "I firmly believe that you meet stusom with that extra push that Paul Quinn can provide, who dents where they are, and you love them, and you lift them," have been dealt a difficult hand but have the potential to thrive Sorrell says. "I believe in authentic relationships." in a college that's meant to feel like a family. "There is this entrepreneurial spirit," Evans says. "A lot of us didn't realize we came orrell says he needs to put extra work into building trust here with that, but we had it brought out of us." They may use with students because his background isn't the same as "like" incorrectly at first, but they're willing to fight for themmany of theirs. He grew up upper middle class in Chicaselves when they get it right. go, where his father owned a barbecue restaurant and his mothAs Sorrell gets the class back on track following the great er ran a social work agency, and he attended St. Ignatius College "like" debate, Trezuer Butler smirks at the scene. Butler came Prep, one of the best schools in the city. He got an offer to play to the summer bridge program as an incoming freshman last basketball at Oberlin, but took a recruiting visit and hated it. "It year, taking her first-ever flight out of her native San Francisco. really was an uncomfortable place," he says. "People protest evNow she's a TA at the same bridge program, her work helping erything, they question everything. I wasn't a social outlier, so offset her tuition. Like many Paul Quinn students, the urban I became the outlier." work college model wasn't totally new to her-she came from a As it turned out, the decision wasn't really up to him. Sorwork high school, Immaculate Conception Academy, where the rell's mother decided that choosing a college was too important Courtesy of Paul Quinn College s Washington Monthly 69

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2016

Contents
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