Derrius Quarles leans back in his seat and methodically debates Aristotle’s theory of truth during freshman honors English class at Morehouse College.
He strides across campus in a navy blue tailored suit and a bold red sweater handing out business cards that boast “Student/Entrepreneur/Leader.”
But behind the 19-year-old’s dauntless appearance is a past that few on campus know.
When Quarles was 5, the state took him away from his mother. He spent his childhood bouncing from home to home before ending up on his own at 17 in an apartment on Chicago’s South Side.
His arrival at a prestigious, historically African-American college — with more than $1 million in scholarship offers — is a story of inspiration and anguish. And it’s a testament to his determination to prove that he is better than his beginnings.
“You can’t go around thinking you are inferior just because you didn’t have parents,” he says. “For me, it’s about knowing where you are from and accepting it, but more important, knowing where you are going.”
Despite his polished veneer, sometimes there are glimpses into a more complicated young man.