Friday, February 19, 2010

Urban Hero - Paul Joseph Adams III

(winter leaves make me blue!)

Last night I attended the third of a series of four movies sponsored by State Farm at ICE Theatre commemorating Black History Month. The movie was about Paul Joseph Adams III and the phenomenal job he and his staff are doing at Providence St. Mel School. All of its students come from the inner city, communities plagued with poverty, drugs, crime, urban blight and neglect. They are placed in a safe and structured environment with competent and caring teachers who want to teach and the magic begins. The statistics speak for themselves: 100% of their students go on to college and 50% attend tier 1 colleges. All of them garner financial aid for college and many receive full scholarships.

The visionary responsible for the initial success is Paul J. Adams III. Paul was born September 14, 1940, He learned the value of education from his parents, Patsy Lois and Paul Adams, Jr., who enrolled him in private elementary and high schools in his hometown of Montgomery, Alabama. After receiving a B.A. from Alabama State University, Adams moved north to Chicago, where he worked in mental health education while earning his M.A. in psychology from Northeastern Illinois University.

In 1971, Adams was hired as director of guidance for Providence-St. Mel School, a private Catholic high school in Chicago. He became the school's principal a year later. When the Archdiocese of Chicago withdrew funding for the school in 1978, Adams spearheaded a national campaign to raise money for the school. In response to his publicity-seeking efforts and the support of the Providence-St. Mel students and community, the school received local and national media attention. Donations poured in from across the country, and Adams transitioned Providence-St. Mel into a not-for-profit independent school.

At Providence-St. Mel, Adams focused on developing a strong academic standard while enforcing strict disciplinary codes. To guarantee the safety of his students, he moved into the vacant convent inside the school to ward off thieves and vandals. His dedication became legendary and over the next three decades, Adams successfully transformed Providence-St. Mel into a premier learning institution for African American students.

Since 1996, Adams has served as president of Providence-St. Mel School, managing an annual budget in excess of $6 million. He is still very active in planning the curriculum for the school, which has expanded to include elementary and middle grades. Under Adams' leadership, every one of Providence-St. Mel's graduating seniors have been accepted to institutions of higher learning.

Adams has received numerous awards for his efforts, including the McDonald's Education Achievement Award, the African-American Male Image Award, the Rozell R. Nesbitt Community Education Award, and four honorary doctorates. Adams was named an American Hero in Education by Reader's Digest and was voted Man of the Year by the Chicago Urban League. The School was visited twice by former President Ronald Reagan and cited as a "shining star."

The school is renowned for its mission that is recited daily by all of its K through 12th grade students and staff and concludes with words that clearly are responsible in part for their success, "We either find a way or make a way."

Recently Providence St. Mel School spearheaded a charter school in a public school that had been closed because of poor performance. It improved students performance from 9% to 52%. The national average is 50%.

For more information about Paul J. Adams and his staffs amazing success, go to

(Source: This original article was written by The HistoryMakers® Video Oral History and edited by Qiyamah A. Rahman)

Question: What is the legacy you will leave your children and their children's children? What are you doing to improve the quality of life in your community?

Blessings! Rev. Qiyamah