Friday, June 21, 2024

Paul Quinn grads are flying high after special gift from Southwest Airlines

By David Wilfong
NDG Contributing Writer

Paul Quinn College, the Dallas-based HBCU located just off IH-45 in the southern sector, held its graduation ceremony in the school chapel on Saturday morning. Family and friends gathered to congratulate the 76 undergraduate – and one master’s degree – recipients on the successful completion of a long-awaited goal.

The excitement of the occasion was amplified toward the end of the ceremony as the graduates were told to check beneath their chairs, where each one found an envelope with two free round-trip airfare tickets to anywhere Southwest Airlines flies.

It was an added “well done” from one of the school’s closest corporate partners.

 

Graduates from Paul Quinn College had more than just the satisfaction of earning their degrees on Saturday. Each graduate was also presented with free round-trip airfare to any Southwest Airlines destination. (NDG photo by David Wilfong)

Paul Quinn College (PQC) was the creator of the Urban Work College model and is the only minority-serving, federally recognized work college in America. In the Fall of 2022, PQC established a work-study relationship with Southwest Airlines, which is also the official airline of the Dallas HBCU. The program includes dedicated, paid internships specifically for students at the college along with ongoing educational and workforce development opportunities.

Paul Quinn’s Corporate Work Program allows students to significantly lower student loan costs, with students graduating with less than $10,000 in student loan debt.

Graduating senior Curtis Ferguson is the first student intern to accept a full-time position at Southwest following his participation in the Corporate Work Program. He is the first intern to go through Southwest’s program with PQC and was offered the opportuntiy following graduation.

“I was an intern for four months, from about August to November” Ferguson said following graduation. “As soon as I walked into the (Network Operations Center) and I saw the different lights, I said, ‘Oh, they’re doing the game a little different!’ So just seeing how differently they operate and how much they care about their cohorts. I knew I wanted to be there.”

The students were presented with their tickets by Laura Nieto, managing director of Corporate Responsibility For Southwest Airlines, who noted that the partnership with PQC and the internship program represented an investment in human capital.

“The hope is that eventually they have a love for aviation and fall in love with our company and maybe someday have a career with us,” Nieto said. “We are lucky to have Curtis as right after his internship we hired him full time to be an associate crew scheduler.”

PQC President Michael J. Sorrell Ed.D. also presented two honorary degrees during the commencement. Charles M. Ginsburg M.D. of UT Southwestern and Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett both received Doctorate of Humane Letters honors for their contributions to PQC.

(David Wilfong / NDG)

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