Founder Derrius Quarles
Derrius Quarles’ journey to attending and paying for college has been anything but simple. As a product of the Illinois foster care system and the south side of Chicago; higher education did not always seem to like a feasible possibility for him. More accessible at times were the fleeting opportunities of the urban streets. Facing the obstacles of his father’s murder in Chicago at the age of 4, being taken away from his mother’s custody at the age of 5, and traversing the foster care system for nine years; the challenges of the inner-city almost lead him down a path of crime and fast money. During his first year of high school, receiving an education was not a priority. That was until a biology teacher by the name of Nivedita Nutakki took him out into the hallway after he showed up twenty minutes late for class and told him “You have so much potential, and yet you choose to waste it”. From that day forward, he approached school differently. Mrs. Nutakki’s words provided an awakening of sorts. It provided him a type of motivation he had never received in his life before, a type of motivation that screamed, “of course you can do it”.
Over the next two years of high school, (while living in his own apartment) Derrius laid the foundation–work ethic, attitude, and vision–that would lead him to accumulating over 1.1 million dollars in scholarships and financial-aid. He is the first in his family to attend college and is proud to be a current Gates Millennium, Horatio Alger, Coca-Cola, Dell, Chicago, Nordstrom, and Gilman Scholar.
Million Dollar Scholar is the culmination of his eagerness to see other students succeed, especially those who face disadvantages that often act as barriers to a college education. It is Derrius’ hope that all students, no matter what their background, can realize that they are Million Dollar Scholars and that it is very possible to obtain the funds for a post-secondary education.
Message to Students
Dream. And when you dream–dream big, dream hard, dream wild. Allow your imagination to become the jet engine that propels you to places unseen, sounds unheard, knowledge unknown, and success unaccomplished. There will be people who do not understand your vision, there will be those who believe your dreams have no value. Why? Well, because of the simple fact that it is not easy to dream these days. Now, more than ever, the world needs people with wild imaginations and seemingly unachievable dreams. This is your hour and it will be the only hour you ever receive, do not waste your sixty minutes making small plans.”