The SIP: Season 2, Episode 1 Transcript

Ericka Jones (2011), Derrius Quarles (2009), and Chantelle George (2006)

Learn more about The SIP and its first episode of the second season, Financially empowering Black communities with Entrepreneur, Investor, and Million Dollar Scholar Derrius Quarles (2009), here.

[Intro music plays]

Ericka Jones:

Hi, Coke Scholar family and friends. Welcome to season two of The SIP. The podcast that shows a taste of the Coke Scholars around the world who are igniting positive change. My name is Ericka Jones and I’m a proud 2011 Coca-Cola Scholar originally from Los Angeles and now finishing my final year of ministry school in Northern California. I’m an actor, a poet, a storyteller, but most importantly, a lover of people. For those of you who are listening, and may not be a Coca-Cola Scholar, welcome. We’re glad you’re here. To give you a little background, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is the largest achievement-based and corporate-sponsored scholarship program in the country. Each year it awards $20,000 to 150 high school seniors across the country who share unique passion for service and leadership. It’s a competitive program to get into, but once you’re a Coke Scholar, the benefits go far beyond the money for college. You become integrated into this bigger family for life. If you want to learn more, you can visit their website at coca-colascholarsfoundation.org.

For episode one, you’re in for a treat. 2006 Coke Scholar Chantelle George will be interviewing 2009 Scholar Derrius Quarles about his book turned social enterprise, Million Dollar Scholar, and we’ll find out why the New York Times called him a financial prodigy. As the founder and CEO of Chantelle George Consulting, Chantelle brings more than 10 years of post-secondary experience in the areas of higher education, college and career readiness and nonprofit leadership. A champion for student choice and success, Chantelle began her professional career in higher education coaching and advising students through their journey to, and through, the college experience. To date, she’s built and maintained more than 30 strategic partnerships between K through 12 districts, institutions of higher education, and nonprofits, to improve and bridge the gaps that exist for underserved students transitioning and persisting from high school to post-secondary education.

Chantelle is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in higher education at LSU this fall. Now let’s learn a little about Derrius. Derrius was born on Chicago’s South side as the grandson of a Mississippi sharecropper and great migration participant. Derrius is a 13 year foster care survivor, traversing four foster homes, welfare and public housing through childhood. His first book, Million Dollar Scholar: Winning the Scholarship Race, has helped thousands of students across the globe increase their knowledge of how to make higher education more affordable. Derrius is the co-founder and co-CEO of BREAUX Capital, a financial technology company that’s helping black men pool their funds in community with one another to invest collectively and create intergenerational wealth. Across his BREAUX and company investment portfolio, his business ventures have collectively impacted the lives of over 25,000 marginalized families in America.

This conversation about scholarships and more is especially relevant since high school seniors can apply to be a Coke Scholar right now. 150 students are selected each year to receive this $20,000 college scholarship. The application is available at cokeurl.com\apply2020. And that application’s open until October 31st, 2020 at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. And now, here’s Chantelle and Derrius.

Chantelle George:

Derrius, how’s it going?

Derrius Quarles:

Going wonderful. How are you?

Chantelle George:

I’m doing well. Excited to have this conversation and chat with you today. Derrius, tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us a little bit about your hometown, your upbringing, and what year were you as a Coke Scholar?

Derrius Quarles:

Proud 2009 Coke Scholar. Originally from the South Side of Chicago. I was born and raised in the Bronzeville neighborhood in the Robert Taylor Project Homes. I am the grandson of a former sharecropper who was a great migration participant. So coming from sort of rural Mississippi during the, to my understanding mid to late 50s, migrating up with her children and building a better life, a different life for her children. She worked extremely hard, my grandmother, Katie Wright. So that’s sort of where in today’s context I begin the conversation is, it really does start with my grandmother, Katie Wright, who she was, what she represented, and how that sort of translates over to me carrying the torch today.

Chantelle George:

Yeah. Yeah. I’m so happy you mentioned grandmother. I also share the sentiment. My grandmother, born and raised in Louisiana. So I definitely have that rural connection with you. And she was monumental in my just journey to even understanding what education was. She went to Southern University when it was in the 19, late 40s and 50s, when that was the only institution that allowed black individuals to go to college. And her and my mom… I always tell folks, I kind of knew I was going to go to college, but I didn’t know where, and I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it.

And so, what you just described resonated and I wanted to ask you as you were growing up with your grandmother who seemed like she was such an influence on you, how did that lead into you going to Morehouse? Where did that conversation of knowing, “I’m going to pursue higher education and I’m going to decide on Morehouse,” how was she, I guess, monumental in that conversation? And then who were some of the other individuals in your life that kind of put you on that path to go to college after high school?

Derrius Quarles:

Such a great question. And it’s fascinating even just hearing that aspect about your grandmother, because so many different light bulbs start to go off in my head around where the comparison and contrasts are, because my grandmother only obtained a sixth grade level education. This was a woman who had worked hours on hours on hours on end making 25 cents an hour, picking cotton; years, decades after slavery. It sort of quickly brings to my mind just a understanding that beyond the history of slavery, there were decades and decades of oppression beyond that. And just the social context around that within the South, it’s something worth us continuing to think about, and continuing to just not sort of think of it as, “Okay, slavery ended, and that was sort of that we were free at that moment,” but in terms of the opportunity of access to education, access to economic mobility, what did that actually look like for the average black family? And for my grandmother, to my understanding, they left the plantation and then it was something to where they went straight to share cropping, and sort of what does that mean?

So, yeah, even leaving and going up to Chicago, just represented access. It just represented, this is going to be a new opportunity to access different things. And without her making that decision, of course, we most likely would not be having this conversation. Me going off to Morehouse, getting a million dollars in scholarships, becoming a Coca-Cola Scholar as well as a scholar of various other prestigious scholarship organizations. And so, that’s sort of around education. That’s the first thing that I speak of, is that I was the first in my family to go on to graduate from college. And, my grandmother passed five months before I graduated from Morehouse. And that was just symbolic in and of itself as well, because walking across the stage, President Barack Obama spoke at our graduation and he was still president at that time.

Just what was the significance of that, what that meant, what receiving that degree, it was symbolic. It was so much more than just the formal receipt of this large sheet of paper. It was just spiritual in the sense that I had did this for my family. I had did this for her. I could specifically recall me asking her before I graduated high school, what do you want me to do with my life? She told me, “Do good. I want you to do good.” And I knew what that meant. I knew that that meant, living essentially a life worth living, a life of legacy, a life of impact, a life of doing good on to others.

Chantelle George:

Yeah. And you are. And I love the part, do good, because you’ve done incredibly well and have accomplished so many things at such a young age. And one thing I want to talk about of course, is your brain child around Million Dollar Scholar. And as both of us, both being Black Americans and African-Americans, and really trying to figure out how are we going to afford college? And it’s still the conversation for a lot of students of color, now, right? Even with the pandemic, it’s like, what does this mean for me? Am I going to be able to go? How am I going to be able to afford it? What scholarships are available?

And so this whole month being around affordability and the FAFSA just opened, and there are so many scholarships like Coca-Cola Scholars, and so many of the other ones that are open and that are going to end and have deadlines coming up soon. Tell us a little bit about your scholarship process. As you mentioned, you got one million dollars of scholarships. What was that process for you? And then how did that turn into creating your first business around the Million Dollar Scholar?

Derrius Quarles:

Was very much so a independent process and that was a result of being a foster youth. So I was a ward of the state of Illinois, which meant that technically the state’s attorney was my guardian at the time, and the last two years of my high school life, I spent that living in my own apartment. So my junior and senior year, I sort of played this very nuanced, dual role of I’m my own parent. I guess, I just, by default decided to be a very private person because all of those things were going on. It might’ve even been close friends who really didn’t even fully understand [crosstalk 00:10:42] in my house. They had never kind of fully seen like, “Wow, Derrius is living on his own.” And for a lot of people, that’s just a wild and unimaginable thing. I just tried to apply a very positive outlook on, I knew that it was temporary.

I knew that I’m just going through this right now to transition on to something very great that will be a result of my own work and my own doing and just sort of me writing my own story. And that’s when I applied for my first scholarship. I knew that, okay, once I made the decision to say, “I want to continue my education,” and the reason it was very important for me to continue my education, and sort of when I made the concrete decision mentally that this is what I’m going to do, I really just broke it down in my mind of, my uncle didn’t go to college. As sort of, what did his life look like in adulthood? My cousins didn’t go. What did their lives look like? My mother didn’t go, father didn’t go. And just sort of analyzing it, it was like, I was kind of just doing the work of a sociologist and trying to sort of understand, what does education mean for one’s life outcome, one’s opportunities?

Of course, not necessarily guaranteeing anything or that one thing not deciding anything, but it became very clear to me that it’s something about this education thing. The first thing I did was start just… It’s always a financial thing, right? When you don’t have any money, let me go look at the numbers. What is going to be the potential cost of this thing? And even looking at the in-state schools and universities. First I looked at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. I’m like, how much would this cost for one year? And I’m seeing numbers that it literally took me back. I’m like, this is expensive. This is one year… This is a new Cadillac. Right?

Chantelle George:

Right. Exactly. Those tuition prices are nothing nice.

Derrius Quarles:

Yeah. And that’s sort of the, how I thought about it in that time. It’s like, this is the price of a new Cadillac. Cadillac, that’s a very expensive vehicle. So I knew that this was going to be an expensive endeavor, because my mind quickly multiplied that by four. And I knew that I was looking at minimum, even if I stay in state, this is going to be like a $120,000 endeavor. And that’s in 2007. So, we’re not even talking about 2020 numbers. Right? So I knew that, okay, the only way that I’ll have an opportunity to pursue this is if I put myself in position to afford it. And from that point forward, I sort of applied a reverse engineering type of mindset of, okay, if that’s my goal, what are the things that I need to do from hence forth to set myself up to do that?

And so, I had to make some major life decisions. One of them being just to focus in academically. I didn’t understand the importance of school at that time. I liked school, yes, but in terms of coming, showing up prepared, showing up ready to be respectful to teachers, and respectful to elders, or just being able to take any level of discipline in any way, shape or form was not something that I was in tune with at all. And so, of course those problems manifested themselves in bad grades or getting suspended multiple times. And sort of, once I made the decision to say, “I do want to go to college,” I kind of knew that I would have to set myself up and apply a different mindset. And so, it took years to sort of apply that discipline, to learn that discipline, and starting with of course, one step at a time.

Chantelle George:

Yeah. For the people who don’t know about Million Dollar Scholar, tell us a little bit about what the organization is, how can students access it?

Derrius Quarles:

Certainly. So Million Dollar Scholar is a social enterprise that assists high school students, mainly low income high school students in becoming more competitive in the scholarship application process. We’ve done this over the years because at this point Million Dollar Scholar will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary soon.

Chantelle George:

Yep, congrats, congrats.

Derrius Quarles:

Thank you so much. And it’s sort of the mindset around the model has transformed over the years and gone through multiple iterations. It started out, which I think this is an important part of the story, it really started out of me just going back home to Chicago while I was at Morehouse College during Thanksgiving break. The way I grew up, it very much so was a tale of two cities. And I was certainly on that bad side of the city. The under-resourced, under-invested in, side of the city, and my first real time getting exposed to everything else that the city had to offer was in actual adulthood. Coming back from getting exposed and just being able to compare Atlanta as a city and the Atlanta University Center where Morehouse is located within, to Chicago, I quickly came to realize, “Wow, every city don’t have this.”

Every city doesn’t have this amazing skyline. Every city doesn’t have a river running through it that’s so beautiful. And every city doesn’t have these magnificent avenues and magnificent hotels and things that I just wouldn’t have fully known that and understood that. And so, coming back to Chicago, I made the decision to just start hosting free workshops. Going back, it was like I had this success, I want to see other students do the same thing because I was actually shocked at how much I had to do alone in the process.

Chantelle George:

Right, right.

Derrius Quarles:

Not discounting anybody who did give me help during that time, because there were very specific people who poured into my cup. Even the original idea to start applying for a scholarship was not sort of just my own. It was the help of mentors who kind of just, I would just say, planted seeds. So how might I build upon what I did, the pouring into the cup that I received? How might I build upon that and then do that for others and potentially even add on to it and do it better.

I quickly realized that there needs to be some formal resources for students to do this. The best way to do this is to go back to my neighborhood, go back to the people who I have this connection with, I know and love. And many of the students knew me at Kenwood Academy because they saw the success that I had Senior year. That sort of translated into, “Okay, he actually has some authority on this. He knows what he’s talking about, so we’re willing to listen because we kind of trust his word on this.” So I was just shocked at how much people were willing to actually listen to me, and just how popular these workshops got. They were free, and it’s a line out the door to kind of get in. It’s standing room only. So I’m just shocked by it. I’m like standing room only, at this time, I’m 18-19 years old. I’m extremely humbled by this. I’m like, “Wow, this is amazing.” I’m encouraged by this. And it quickly realized that, okay, there is a real need here-

Chantelle George:

And that’s so important, Derrius, giving back to the community, giving them those resources. Because even 10 years from when we graduated from college and high school, it is still the same thing. I’ve been in this college access and success space for 10 years as a professional. So on the other side and students are still going through the process and don’t have much help and need the Million Dollar Scholar to help them, and need the organizations and the mentors. And it is still a thing. It is still a big thing in many of our communities, especially the small rural communities as well, that really need that assistance and that support. So just what you’re speaking about is resonating, especially for those of us that are in the field and that are still trying to get resources out and going Instagram live to give some of that information out because so many students are now at home, it’s a whole virtual setting.

It’s a whole different ball game now with the pandemic and higher education. And I’m constantly telling parents and students like, “Keep your foot on the gas and continue to apply. And those applications are still going to be out. The FASFA is still going to be out. Higher education is still moving, it just may look different, but it’s moving.” And one thing about you as you… I’m going to refer to the, do good, piece from your grandmother, because I think it’s so important, is you speak a lot and are working a lot around this idea of financial health and wellness.

Which I think is so important for us as adults, right, for us as adults to be entrepreneurs and for our students, because one thing that I feel like I didn’t know going into college was I was… I understood financial aid and somewhat understood and loans and things like that, but paying back loans and just financial freedom and financial literacy and investing in real estate, and some of the things we’re learning now at 30 and 40 years old, which we wish we would’ve known back then that even some of our white colleagues knew and their parents knew.

And so, it’s really great and refreshing to know that you are focusing a lot of your efforts and a lot of your other businesses around financial health and wellness. So I’d love for you to chat a little bit about BREAUX Capital, shout out to the Louisiana Breaux spelling-

Derrius Quarles:

Indeed, indeed.

Chantelle George:

And just tell us a little about why financial health and wellness is so important from a student perspective, but then also for us as young adults?

Derrius Quarles:

Yeah. So answering that sort of as a bridge from the last question and topic of Million Dollar Scholar, and how does that sort of connect and evolve into BREAUX Capital, the second business that I was able to become a co-founder on. And it’s just that. Understanding that financial aid at the end of the day should be a driver, and it’s going to be a driver in the decision making. And it only amplifies when it is the case of a low income student. So, understand how important money is in the decision making process of attaining a higher education. And there are so many talented students out there who withdraw from wanting to pursue, just the desire to pursue higher education is obliterated because they look at the money and they don’t think it’s obtainable. So there’s a mental block and barrier, just put up just off the aspect of it costs so much.

I’m a believer in the fact that finances is one of the few areas for which you can say that is true. It’s like, if your money’s not right, it’s difficult to get your life right. And so, just understanding the connection between money and the school to prison pipeline, understanding the connection of money with higher education access, understanding the connection of money to mental health and wellness. It’s like, wow, it’s one of those things when we empower people to have financial wellness and improve their financial health, we’re in a lot of ways, indirectly allowing them to give time and attention to these other areas of their life.

Is it just about helping students get to college? No, it’s so much bigger, right? When you are able to access higher education and you’re aren’t mounted with this extreme amounts of debt, what that puts you in position to do is now have an entirely different decision-making process about what you’re going to do with your life henceforth. What are you going to do with your life post degree? Not making sort of what I’ll call deficit decisions off of that. You’re making decisions based off of, this is what I truly want. This is what I truly desire. Not, this is what I have to do, because this is the context that I’m sort of in. Yeah.

Chantelle George:

Yeah. And that is so true. Affordability isn’t one of the number one factors of why a student will choose to either pursue higher education or not. It’s also the number one factor around why students melt. As you mentioned, it’s not only about just obtaining a bachelor’s degree, it is all of the things that come with that. Folks that have a bachelor’s degree are more likely to vote, are more likely to have retirement accounts, are more likely to be healthy, as we talked about physical health and mental health. And so, it’s all of the things that come with having at least a bachelor’s degree in that advanced degrees, because it’s so much more than the actual earnings that are coming with that. It’s all of the whole package around just being a more well-rounded person by pursuing higher education.

And so I wanted to ask you, being an entrepreneur is just phenomenal. I’m always one that’s like, “Build your own brand,” right? If you can’t get into the rooms and the tables you want to be in, build your own table, open up your own rooms, bring some high achieving folks with you. What kind of advice would you give to individuals in our age range, right, that are now a lot… I think COVID has also opened the doors for people to think differently about, “Hey, let me think about…”

Derrius Quarles:

So glad, so glad.

Chantelle George:

Me too. So happy about it. Let me think about consulting. Let me think about a new business or a nonprofit. What kind of advice would you give those of us and myself included of starting your new business and things that you’ve learned along the way as you’ve opened several businesses throughout these past years?

Derrius Quarles:

First thing is, that if you have an ability to build a team from the very beginning and expand it beyond yourself from the jump, that if that’s an option for you, do it. If it’s an option. If it’s not an option, totally understood. Blaze the trail as much as you can independently yourself, and there’ll be those openings to potentially expand your team out from there. But I think I’ve had sort of the joy of doing both, sort of DIYing everything myself, and just going through the process independently, in comparison to having a team from day one.

Even from the ideation phase of the thing, being able to brainstorm around other people and throw ideas off folks. And I can certainly say that I’ve enjoyed the latter much more. The second thing is that I think in today’s world, a lot of young people are sort of taught that the only way to be successful in the world is to kind of look at the examples of some of the most prominent entrepreneurs or business folks in the world. Right? Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, et cetera. And I think for the average person, I would encourage them to not necessarily use those folks as the only inspiration.

Not saying that you can’t draw inspiration from those stories and narratives because you can, and you should, but to sort of use that as sort of the only standard or metric of success, you’re most likely setting yourself up for failure if you do that, because you do have to kind of understand the social context that a lot of those most successful prominent folks have. Most often they are white men. Most often they were extremely capitalized, over capitalized in fact. They have more money than they needed to do what they do. Whereas on average, the entrepreneur of color is going to start in the process and they’re going to be under-invested in. Right? You’re going to have to do more with less.

And what that brought me to was a, I’ll call it sort of a science and a art, around how to successfully build something with little resources. And so, that would be the next thing that I will offer up is to the extent that you can actually think of entrepreneurship as something you can practice. Just like you can go into the gym and build muscle and lose weight, entrepreneurship is something… It’s not innate. It’s not just something you have. It’s like, no. Talent is a part of it, but it certainly is your ability to get educated on what you’re doing. And so, that would be the other thing that I would encourage folks to sort of understand is ask yourself the question of, are you ready to do this for the rest of your life or not? And here’s what I would say to that is, if your reply to that is, no, you might want to ask yourself whether you want to do it at all?

Chantelle George:

[crosstalk 00:27:02] Because it’s really hard!

Derrius Quarles:

It really is.

Chantelle George:

And I’ve been talking to a lot of entrepreneurs and people like yourself who have gotten to the point of success and have a steady income. But they were like, “It was not glamorous the first year. It was not glamorous the first two or three years when I was out there bootstrapping before I had private investors and human capital and venturists and all this other things.” And it was just really difficult for them at the beginning. And I agree, and to your point around entrepreneurship is constantly evolving. You’re constantly learning something. Even those that have somewhat what you call make it, which I hate even saying the word, make it, because what does that even mean? Right?

Derrius Quarles:

Exactly.

Chantelle George:

Or constantly learning something every year, because the landscape continues to change. Right? With this pandemic entrepreneurs have had to think about things probably very differently than they have been in the past. And so, Derrius, we’ve talked a lot about all of the things you’ve done really well, the businesses you’ve started. What does Derrius do for fun?

Derrius Quarles:

I truly do enjoy building businesses. I wake up every day with joy in my heart and mind because as much as this can be straining and burdensome and so many challenges in it, I can’t say that I don’t find real joy in this. I feel like I’m really doing what I’m here on earth to do, which is show the world that business can be a center of ethics. It can be a center of empathy. It can be a center of, how do we make impact? How do we improve lives and not just around, how do we make more money? How do we increase profits? Right?

The second thing is that I truly do enjoy the life partner who I’m with. She’s such a wonderful woman and the pandemic, I think this quarantine has only sort of brought us closer and just showed, we’ve been together five years now. And as much as the world is in sort of disarray and there’s a lot of challenges going on, and even just being in such tight quarters with someone for so many hours, brings its own set of challenges. I wouldn’t want to be doing this with anybody else.

Next piece, beyond that, I enjoy my friends and my business partners and what we’re building together. And just how so many of my best relationships it’s not just sort of a friendship, but that’s how it’s sort of worked out. And some of the things that I do to recharge and sort of just fill my battery pack back up is big into meditating, big into prayer. Those sort of spiritual things that I think recharge me. So, I’m a big advocate for if you’re going to jump into entrepreneurship, make sure you have that element ready.

That’s one of the things I encourage entrepreneurs to have, is that sort of spiritual aspect, whatever your belief around faith is, or your faith-based connection, explore that and make sure you’re resolute in that, and just expanding yourself spiritually, how much that can put you in better position to be ready for the challenges of entrepreneurship and the success of entrepreneurship. Right? Because I think experiencing success comes with its own set of challenges.

Chantelle George:

Right. Exactly.

Derrius Quarles:

How do you not let that go to your head? How do you remain humble in that process? And those different things. And then beyond that, I make music. I’m soon to be releasing, and this is sort of secret and kind of private. [crosstalk 00:30:27].

Chantelle George:

Oh! Broadcasting now!

Derrius Quarles:

I love it, broadcasting now. I’ll actually be releasing my first album later in November. So I’m extremely excited about that because for me, I’ve been creating poetry and art since I was 13 years old, but I never thought that it was something I could do, make money off this. That was such a far-fetched idea for a young, poor boy growing up in public housing, foster care. It’s like, I can’t make a living off of this, but not having any limiting beliefs around that today, I understand that it’s so much bigger than just the money aspect of it. So this is something I’ve been, this is a project I’ve been working on for two years professionally, and now I’m going to actually be able to release it to the world, share it with others.

Chantelle George:

Well, congratulations on your album. That is exciting and new news that has just dropped here with us on this interview. So again, congratulations on that.

Derrius Quarles:

Thank you.

Chantelle George:

And you mentioned just the importance of having a solid team around you and a solid partner, and for folks just to be your support system and to channel self-care, which is so important. And I’m a big advocate of the Headspace App. That’s what I’ve been using, which I think is just so important for us to continue to have that health, right? The mental health we talked about, the financial health, and the people around you. So, to wrap us up, I’m going to engage us in what we call the Fast Five. It is a series of questions that I am just going to pose to you. And I want you just to answer what comes to mind, right, whenever you hear these questions. So, the first question is, what are two apps or websites you can’t live without?

Derrius Quarles:

Starting at the top, Evernote, business, all things life, you got to be able to document it all and remember it all. So shout out to Evernote. And then, Google Chrome. I’m on Google Chrome all day, so I got to give a shout out to the Google team for creating a great browser.

Chantelle George:

All right. Number two is, if I looked at the music on your iPhone are iPod right now, what would most surprise me?

Derrius Quarles:

The diversity of it. Just how expansive the soundscape, the different types of genres and different types of messages. And it’s pretty much some, I got a playlist, literally curated playlist, pretty much for every mood, every zone that you… At least that I might be in. Maybe not for everybody, but that I might be in.

Chantelle George:

What kind of artists would surprise us? Do you have like William Boone, Taylor Swift, or Ariana Grande? What would it be something that would be surprising on your songlist?

Derrius Quarles:

Yeah. Maybe not that specifically, but even from the music that I enjoy when I was 12, 13, that alternative phase that Fall Out Boy. Just even being able to take it back to there. So even something like that, you might not know that I’m big fan of The Fray for instance, and have been since they’re very-

Chantelle George:

Love The Fray.

Derrius Quarles:

[crosstalk 00:33:46] album. To now just liking a lot of instrumental-based music where it’s just purely instruments, just purely piano, to even taking it to the classical.

Chantelle George:

Cool. All right. So number three, favorite book or piece of music or art that has helped or inspired you in your life?

Derrius Quarles:

I have to actually take it back to today, what I’m working on now, the thing that I’ve been working on for the past two years, and it is a shameless plug. It’s my soon to be released album EP, it’s called Fostered Child. Fostered, as in past tense. This has been the thing that I think has opened me up and made me so much more self-aware about who I am as a human being, what my purpose here is on earth, what I have to offer uniquely. And it’s also the double entendre of not just being a foster child, but all of the people who poured into my cup and made me the person I am. They literally fostered me through this life and to who I am today.

Chantelle George:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Got it. All right. Number four. What quote or motto do you live your life by?

Derrius Quarles:

That’s a good one. She said the first thing that comes to mind, I think I already shared the one about doing good for my grandmother. That’s the story that I constantly refer back to and tell. But another one that I constantly refer back to is a mentor of mine who is now my legal father, Desmond. I was 16 years old thinking about life and what I wanted to do in the world and I gave him this rundown, all these different things that I wanted to do. I want to travel the world. I want to make music, I want to do… At 16 I just knew all these things that I wanted to do with my life.

And then he asked me, “Okay, so what are you doing today to achieve that tomorrow?” And so, I didn’t have an answer for him at that moment in time. I was flabbergasted by him asking me that, and I was just stumped. And since then, I’ve always sort of reminded myself of that, of these things that I want for myself tomorrow, what am I doing today to get what I want tomorrow? To get what I desire for myself long-term? And even in the midst of COVID-19, I think that’s something that I refer back to is, so post COVID or mid COVID, what do you want your life to look like after we as a society come out of this time?

Chantelle George:

Yeah. Yep. I’m curious to see what society will look like. I often refer to, “Oh, are we going to go back to the new normal?” I’m like, at this point, the normal, what is normal? And I think a lot of, I call them chapportunities, challenges and opportunities will come out of this new pandemic.

Derrius Quarles:

I like that.

Chantelle George:

So the last question we have for you is what makes the Coke Scholars program or network unique?

Derrius Quarles:

I think without a doubt, particularly being someone who’s a part of, many of these communities, is just a level of attention that has went into keeping us connected. Even the opportunity to do this today is unique. And it’s sort of, to be honest, it’s kind of like the gold standard. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sets the gold standard for scholarship programs. And I don’t say that lightly at all. So, it’s a great privilege to be a part of it for that reason. And then beyond that, I think just how impressive my scholar community actually is, and how much it really is something where it’s so motivating to know that without a doubt, I am not the only one out here committing my entire life to making impact, bettering the world, sort of breaking through barriers, setting an example, creating a legacy that others can be inspired by, live by. Just how inspirational and aspirational this group really is, truly creating impact across the entire globe, not just the United States, but creating an impact across the globe. It’s constantly inspiring and unique to this community.

Chantelle George:

For sure. What a great way to cap us off with that impact piece. Thank you so much for your time. It has been a great hour getting to know you and I look forward to connecting.

Derrius Quarles:

Thank you so much. Wonderful.

Ericka Jones:

We hope you enjoyed this first episode of season two of The SIP, featuring Chantelle George and Derrius Quarles. For links to Chantelle George Consulting, BREAUX Capital, and other things they discussed, check out our show notes or coca-colacholarsfoundation.org. If you have an extra minute, we’d love for you to rate the show or leave us a review.

Tune in for episode two in two weeks, when 1992 Scholar, Sue Suh will interview 2008 Scholar, Steven Olikara, founder of the Millennial Action Project, a nonprofit that activates millennial policymakers to create post-partisan political cooperation. With election day coming up, this will be timely and interesting. I’m looking forward to it. See you next time on The SIP.