The mighty Quinn
Iola High School senior Andre Quinn knows his worth.
He’s a resilient, versatile and industrious young man, raised by two strong women — his mother and grandmother — and surrounded by supportive friends and teachers.
And now, one of the most elite colleges in the country recognizes his value, too.
Grinnell College in Iowa recently awarded Quinn a four-year, full-ride scholarship through the QuestBridge program. QuestBridge provides opportunities for high-achieving, low-income students to attend some of the nation’s best colleges and universities.
Quinn becomes the second IHS student in two years to match with an elite colleges through QuestBridge. Jon Miller, IHS Class of 2019, is currently attending Bowdoin College in Maine.
Miller and his father, Paul Miller, who is a full-time substitute at IHS and a Grinnell alumnus, have worked with other students over the past two years to encourage them to explore their collegiate options.
“I never would have imagined going to a school outside Kansas,” Quinn said. “When I found out I matched with Grinnell, it didn’t really hit me right away just how much value this has to me.”
QUINN’S grandmother, Doris Cheney, raised him the first seven years of his life. As a nurse, she knew the value of a good education. An education equates to getting a good job and launching a rewarding career, she told Quinn.
His mother, Deanette Cheney, did not attend college but always made sure her son had everything he needed to be successful in school, including extracurricular activities like band, Scholars Bowl and forensics.
“She’s incredibly happy for me and proud of me, especially because she wasn’t able to go to college so I had to sort of figure out everything on my own,” Quinn said. “My grandma is happy for me, too, especially since I get to go somewhere I really want to go. She always had faith in me, but she was concerned whether I would go somewhere I was actually interested in or just because it was a good opportunity.”
SCHOOLWORK, especially math, has always interested Quinn.
In first grade, he started working on multiplication and division concepts, something that typically wasn’t introduced until second grade.
His teachers understood his need to challenge himself, and encouraged Quinn to work ahead.
“I was always big on trying new things and expanding my knowledge,” he said. “The schools were always good at allowing me to go beyond to test my limits and see how far I can actually push my skills.”
In high school, Quinn noticed how his teachers began to encourage students to share ideas on more in-depth topics.
That was especially true in science and English classes.
“We’re not expected to fully understand a topic the first time it’s presented to us,” he said. “We discuss it with our classmates and we have a slow process of uncovering each part of a scientific concept, and just exploring it and testing how it interacts with things we’re familiar with.”
So it’s not surprising that Quinn was drawn to the idea of attending a liberal arts college, where students are encouraged to focus on the process of learning rather than the outcome.
But that wasn’t something he’d learn until he got to know the Millers.
QUINN met the Paul Miller family during his sophomore year. As a junior, Quinn was one of several students that the Millers took under their wing to explain how the QuestBridge program works and the necessary steps to apply.
Quinn hadn’t given much thought to attending a school outside of Kansas. He knew he wanted to study astronomy and space, but assumed an elite college was out of question.
“That’s where Mr. Miller came in. I had no knowledge of what colleges offered, and what scholarships were available, and what kind of opportunities I had out in the world,” he said. “A lot of students say they don’t want to go out of state because of the cost of tuition, but at some of these bigger schools there’s financial aid available that can actually make the tuition lower than staying in Kansas.”
And even though Quinn knew he wanted to study science and astronomy, he soon learned that the best way to evaluate a college was not based on his major, but rather how a college challenges him to grow as a person.
Once he understood that basic concept, Quinn came to a very important realization:
“Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Wow. I have a lot of work to do. I have to do a lot of self-evaluating and self-promoting to propose myself to people I’ve never met.’”
Sure, he had the grades. But most students who apply to elite colleges have excellent grades and ACT scores.
“The most unique thing about you is the way you write and how you present yourself that can truly set you above others,” he said.
“Honing my ability to write played a significant part in being able to have any kind of opportunity.”
He learned to focus his college essays on the things that make him special.
“One thing I’ve always prided myself on is my adaptability, being able to throw myself into situations and work to find a solution, especially a solution I wouldn’t have ever thought about or agreed with,” he said.
He hopes other students will learn those same lessons.
“Work on your writing. Work on your self-evaluation. Understand your story. Understand what you are worth and learn how you can convey that worth to other people. That’s extremely important.”