Santa Barbara, CA – Marquis Quarles is living the American Dream, and he says education helped him break through the economic wall that separates poverty and prosperity.
“We were on Section 8, we were on Food Stamps, and we were on everything you can think of. When I was a kid it was really hard to have that positive mindset ‘that I can do anything.’ I didn’t see that around me, and I didn’t see people who had gone through hardship and broke through the barrier. Now, to see that I’ve done it, it really lets me know that I can do anything.”
Marquis, age 25, was born and raised in the Phoenix area and he graduated from McClintock High School in Tempe in 2010. He went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Arizona State University.
Marquis currently works as a credit analyst for the Santa Barbara, California-based Deckers Brands, a fashion and apparel company, which owns ‘UGG’ and other popular shoe brands, “I work with a bunch of wholesale businesses to try and maximize revenue, while reducing risk for the company. Basically, we will pull FICO scores, and business profiles, and use trade references to investigate companies to see if we can give them credit. We look for justification – so it’s a lot of analytical work – and if we can’t find the justification, we pretty much have to minimize the risk by declining the applicant.”
Marquis says living and working in Santa Barbara is a great experience, “Our office is about a ten-minute walk from the beach – so the culture of my job is very relaxed and very fun. They always say, ‘we wouldn’t hire you if you weren’t a great person, and we always strive to get great people who treat everybody with respect.’ Deckers Brands is a surf company, and UGG is actually a surf brand that started in Australia – so, we’re pretty much walking around in flip-flops and wearing casual clothes. We work in a very open space, so that we can talk and communicate with other people in other departments. So, it’s a really great company.”
The cost of living in Santa Barbara is high, but Marquis says his company, and others, work to help their employees, “It’s expensive living here, but the good thing about companies here is that they band together to create associations, which results in them helping pay some money towards your rent.”
Looking toward the future, Marquis says, “I see myself staying with Deckers Brands. I’ve been talking with the controller at the company about pursuing my CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), to lead more into the finance area. So, my goal is to pass the CFA within the next three years, so that I can become a successful person in finance.”
Meanwhile, looking back at college, Marquis says it helped to prepare him for the workforce, “College opened my eyes up to everything in life. When you’re in college, you’re learning to have different leadership habits. It’s just not having the skill, but also having the habits – such as getting up to go class every morning, is the same thing as getting up to go to work every day. You can also learn the habit of being honest, and doing your work in a faithful way, and also doing it correctly. So, a lot of the habits learned in college have made the transition to working a lot easier.”
Unlike many college graduates, Marquis is not saddled with years of having to pay down student debt. He credits the scholarship from College Success Arizona, which provides up to six-thousand dollars per year, with helping him avoid taking out students loans, “I will tell you right now that I would not be living here, and I wouldn’t have had the experiences that I’ve had with traveling, and some of the other hobbies that I have. It’s just been great being able to not have that debt. So, it was really helpful that they invested in me, which makes me feel extremely lucky, because I see how rare that is for people who go through school.”
The College Success Arizona scholarship also provides students with specialized mentoring services through ‘Success Advisers.’ Marquis says his success adviser, Myrna Cardenas, helped guide him through college, and remains in his life, “I think that Myrna has gone through tough times in her life and she’s had a lot of experience, and offered advice, which helped me to keep looking up and looking forward. She was always honest with me, and I would approach her with anything, and I felt safe doing that. She always just backed me up, no matter what I chose to do, she always supported me. Myrna was like my cheerleader, she’s the one that kept me going. We just had lunch the other day, and we still talk, to this day.”
Experiencing firsthand the value of mentoring, Marquis worked to pay it forward, “I was involved with a lot of different mentor-based programs, because I had had mentors all throughout college, and even in high school. It’s a great feeling for me to be able to turn around and help mentor others, because I can see how much of a positive effect it (mentoring) had on me. As I’ve mentored students I can see that it helps them, but I’ve felt at times that I learned a lot more from these students, and could see things from their perspective.”
We often hear that education can open doors of opportunity, and Marquis agrees, “By the time I graduated (from ASU) I had about six companies giving me offers, and so at that point I was sitting down and comparing the options to see which one would be the best choice for me. There were offers in financial advising, banking, accounting, and the insurance sector as well.”
Marquis has some advice for middle and high school students considering their own college options, “Read, definitely read books, which will help to open your mind. Also, get yourself around positive people who are striving for more. Get around people who inspire you, and be around that person and see the traits that they have to be successful, and learn from them.”