In a football-mad state, a college that boots the sport out of its offerings is taking a big risk. But that is exactly what Dallas-based Paul Quinn College did in 2007, and the gamble is paying off.
When Michael Sorrell took over the presidency of the only Black college in Dallas, the institution was struggling. With only a few hundred students, Sorrell could not justify spending $600,000 on football so he closed the program.
Reaction was quick and loud, but Sorrell made protesters an offer. If they raised $2 million to support football, he would match it. They didn’t, and the field sat empty while Sorrell made other improvements to the derelict campus, including putting it on solid financial footing and improving academic standards.
A convenience store was the only food store within walking distance for students, most of whom were from low-income families. Understanding the health and academic consequences of a poor diet, the college partnered with PepsiCo’s Food for Good program, whose mission is “to make nutritious foods more accessible in inner city communities.”
In 2010 the two acres that had been the site of the football program became the WE Over ME Farm. The college recruited students to plant fruits, vegetables and herbs, tend bees and chickens and create a thriving market garden.
The results have been astounding. In addition to feeding the campus community, the farm donates 10% of its produce to charitable organizations. The remainder is sold to restaurants and grocers around Dallas. Since March 2010, WE Over ME Farm has produced over 15,000 pounds of organic produce.
If the farm were the only unusual thing happening at Paul Quinn, the college would inspire me. Instead, the farm is just one more way in which Michael Sorrell has turned a downtrodden institution into a place where those who study or work there gain a sense of pride and accomplishment. Check out some of the links above, and you will understand why this little college gives me hope.