“I feel like I was always that person in school that people would talk about and say, ‘Yeah, he’s a good kid. He’s kind of smart but he hangs around the wrong crowd. He’ll fall to the waist side one day.’ And I’ve been through a lot. I’m kind of a private person, so I don’t really like going into details or show pity on myself. But I came from a single parent home, with my mom and my little brother. Seeing some of the stuff my mom went through made me think, ‘How do you overcome that? Do you just stay down and feel sorry for yourself because of what you went through, or do you try to make a difference?’

And that’s what I strive to do every day: make a difference. I’ve lost so many friends to gun violence. So many people came to school but dropped out. But I always tell people to be the change they want to see. So I always strive to show the young kids in my neighborhood they can do something different.

And now I’m about to graduate, coming from Isola, Mississippi with a population of maybe 800 people, in one of the poorest regions – the Mississippi Delta. I’m about to be the first engineer in my family, and really, the first engineer that I know. And I was able to be involved at JSU in so many ways, from SGA to the NPHC. I was even a student-athlete, playing football for a few years. I mean, I did it all here.

Two things made me want to take a different route. One was my environment. The other was my mom being tough on me, I guess because she sees something in me. She’s always seen it, and my grandma did, too. She used to always tell me that I’m going to be something one day. She kept putting it in my head. My grandma is in heaven right now. I always look up and say, ‘I’m going to do it. I have to.’ She spoke that on me a long time ago. So I can’t help but to be something one day. I can’t let her down.”

– Marquis, senior electrical engineering major from Isola, Miss.