Marquis Taylor | Coaching for Change | Shin Fujiyama Podcast | CNN Hero | Social Entrepreneur

Marquis Taylor, Founder of Coaching for Change

Social entrepreneur Marquis Taylor started Coaching for Change by racking up $15,000 in credit card debt. He believed in his mission that much.

Marquis Taylor grew up in a rough, gang-riddled neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles. For him, basketball was the only thing that mattered. Using his talent and dogged work ethic, Marquis got a scholarship to play NCAA basketball.

After college and a number of years in the real estate industry, Marquis took a giant leap of faith forward. He left it all to start Coaching for Change to help vulnerable students become college and career ready. Coaching for Change organizes business training, mentorship, and academic support through the one thing that he loves: basketball. The organization works with low-income, disengaged high school students who are on the verge of dropping out.

Marquis Taylor is an Echoing Green Fellow and CNN Hero.

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Show Notes & Summary

  • California is not all palm trees and sunshines as people may think
  • Marquis Taylor saw the worst and the best of humanity growing up
  • Marquis Taylor struggled through school, unable to read until the third or fourth grade
  • Basketball was his one escape, his “one and only motivator”
  • Marquis Taylor describes himself as a mid-range player who was like a “gnat”
  • Over the summer during high school, Marquis trained three times per day
  • He trained under Wayne Slappy at UCLA during the summers
  • Marquis noticed that the NBA players focused on the little things
  • He worked in the sub-prime mortgage industry, kind of like as Cristian Bale’s assistant in the movie The Big Short
  • After college, Marquis wanted to make a lot of money
  • When the industry collapsed, he moved to the Mississippi Delta for a new job.
  • Marquis felt like he was in the third world being in the Mississippi Delta seeing all the dirt roads and lack of opportunity
  • They call these areas Mail Box Communities because everyone is living off welfare
  • It was there that Marquis realized the importance of education and how privileged he was relative to the people there
  • Witnessing the poverty, Marquis decided to become an educator to help
  • He got a master’s degree in education but realized he didn’t want to be a teacher
  • He started Coaching for Change without much of a fallback plan
  • Marquis truly hustled to start Coaching for Change, from sleeping on couches and in his car to getting into credit card debt
  • “It’s not rocket science. It’s persistence and hard work.”
  • The program evolved from just training high school students to become basketball coaches
  • Coaching for Change then helps the students get jobs, graduate from schools, and mentor middle school students
  • “People label these kids we work with as the bad kids. I believe that they are just misunderstood.”
  • These kids have a lot of things to deal with at home, such as parents being in jail
  • “Through small successes, young people begin seeing that they CAN actually do this.”
  • Coaching for Change started with just 15 kids
  • Some of his high school students had never met a person who was in college
  • One of his high school students was struggling in school because he was dealing with his father being imprisoned for drug dealing. He overcame immense challenges and became a mentor to middle school students and is now attending college
  • His kids are required to organize sporting events, like 3v3 basketball tournaments and run them like businesses, selling t-shirts, running concession stands, charging entry tickets
  • The learn the elements of business through a fun process
  • Marquis racked up $15,000 in credit card debt to start Coaching for Change and to keep his promise
  • He won the Echoing Green Fellowship and $70,000 award by being honest
  • “When you put forth the work and effort, luck will follow.”
  • Principles, teachers, and parents have competing interests
  • Marquis stresses the importance of fighting for moments and embracing them
  • The public schools pulled out of Coaching for Change because they did not want the organization to start including charter schools in their program
  • Marquis hadn’t realize the dark side of politics behind education system until then
  • They had plans to impact 350 kids from 7 schools and all the public schools pulled out of the program just because Marquis wanted to also include charter schools in the program
  • There is intense competition for funding between public and charter schools
  • They had to shut down their programs as a result
  • Schools are able to custom design the programs like the Nike ID Lab
  • The students Coaching for Change works with have a 6,000-hour learning gap (equivalent to 5 years in the classroom by the time they are graduate due to a lack of extracurricular activities compared to students who enjoy them in higher-income neighborhood
  • He had to start all over again, going from seven schools to just one
  • Instead of working district by district, Coaching for Change started working with individual schools
  • Marquis was inspired by Geoffrey Canada, the founder of Harlem Children’s Zone
  • Geoffrey Canada has the ability to mesmerize a room through his story telling
  • People tried boycotting Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone whey it was first starting off due to its audacious nature
  • The secret to recruiting busy college students is to get them passionate about the project by having them meet and spend time with the kids in the program. They also get paid, which helps.