A North Texas college is preparing students for success outside the traditional college setting.
Andrea Cruz, a senior majoring in health and wellness, is Ms. Paul Quinn College 2020-2021. She may wear a crown now, but she wasn't born with a silver spoon.
The youngest of seven siblings, her mom was a nurse and her dad did construction.
“We all lived in a trailer so we were very close,” Cruz said. “It’s been hard seeing my parents sacrifice so much just to provide for us. I rarely got to see them growing up because they were always working.”
Values her parents passed on.
At just 21 years old, Cruz now works for a Fortune 500 company and the biggest bank in the United States, part of a barrier-breaking paid internship program through the school she attends, southern-Dallas based Paul Quinn College.
“Talent is distributed equally. It was opportunity that wasn't,” said President Michael Sorrell.
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The program began four years ago when PQC became a federally designated ‘Work College,’ the only one in Texas, and one of nine nationwide.
It gives students of the historically Black college access to highly competitive internships.
“It’s doing exactly what it was designed to do and that is stand in the gap for people who did grow up with the resources of relationships,” said Sorrell.
Through the program, hundreds of students have received real-world work experience, many at Plano-based corporations like Toyota, NTT Data and JP Morgan Chase.
“It aligns nicely with our Advancing Black Pathways focus where we aspire to hire over 4,000 young students,” said JP Morgan Chase executive Angela Martin.
Mayor Harry Larosiliere said pairing students with big-name Plano companies is a good fit for the college's goals.
“Here's an opportunity for someone, like myself, who just needed a chance and maybe didn't have those opportunities available to them,” said Larosiliere.
Pay from the internships is used to offset tuition and fees. As a result, the college said it's lowered the average debt of its graduates by more than $30,000.
This semester, 25 students intern at JP Morgan Chase including senior Andrea Cruz.
“I'm one of my only siblings doing this especially in the corporate world,” said Cruz.
Click here to read more about the program.