POPLARVILLE – ABC News reporter and anchor John Quiñones brought his personal story of the life-changing power of education to Pearl River Community College on Thursday, Oct. 9.
Quiñones grew up in a Mexican neighborhood of San Antonio, spoke no English when he went to first grade and spent part of his teenage years as a migrant farm worker but, through education, became an Emmy Award winner and host of the Primetime series What Would You Do?
His presentation at PRCC was part of the Honors Lecture series sponsored by the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation.
“Take that first step,” Quiñones said. “It doesn’t matter if you can’t see the whole staircase – take that first step.”
Although his family has been in Texas for seven generations, Quiñones grew up in a Spanish-speaking family and didn’t learn English until he was in school. When he was 13, his father lost his job and the family joined a caravan of migrant workers, picking cherries in Michigan and tomatoes in Ohio.
“I learned so much,” he said. “It was a good thing we had to work.”
After the family returned to San Antonio, Quiñones was accepted into the TRIO Upward Bound program which provided him with extra Saturday classes during high school.
“For me it was a helping hand,” he said. “It made it possible for me to go to college.”
Quiñones joined a drama class to help with losing his Spanish accent and worked on the school newspaper. Despite his plans to go to college and become a broadcaster, school counselors tried repeatedly to steer him towards a trade, he said.
“I had a dream – I wanted to be a reporter,” he said.
Quiñones’ life story resonated with PRCC students.
“John Quiñones’ Power of Education brought to light a new perspective on education as well as taking advantage of every opportunity that comes my way,” said PRCC student Gloria Murphy of Brandon. “He encouraged me to strive for dreams I thought were impossible.”
Quiñones earned a bachelor’s degree at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio while working at a radio station and taking broadcasting classes at San Antonio College, a junior college. He later earned a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism in New York City.
Quiñones joined ABC News in 1982 as a general assignment reporter in Miami, spending nearly a decade reporting in Central America. Despite repeatedly winning Emmy Awards for his work, he was unsuccessful in joining the 20/20 show for several years. But he kept trying.
“It took a lot of persistence,” he said. “Don’t ever give up on your dreams.”
He was named co-anchor of the ABC newsmagazine Primetime and is the host of What Would You Do?
“It’s kind of a laboratory of human behavior,” Quiñones said.
Before the presentation at PRCC’s Brownstone Center for the Arts, Quiñones met with students in the Honors Institute.
Pearl River Community College Honors Institute students Gage Butler, from left, Ashley Calcote and Kaitlin Cooper present John Quiñones, host of ABC’s What Would You Do?, with a gift following his presentation on Thursday, Oct. 9.
PRCC Public Relations photo
John Quiñones, host of ABC’s What Would You Do?, talks with students in the Pearl River Community College Honors Institute before his speech on Thursday, Oct. 9, as part of the Honors Lecture Series.
PRCC Public Relations photo