Courtesy of Gabrielle Marquez
Many college students enjoy the leisure of driving to their local Starbucks, pulling out their laptop and quietly sipping a frappé while they check emails.
Unfortunately, college life was not so leisurely for Gabrielle Marquez. Without internet at her house, Marquez ended up having to drive 45 minutes from her house in Rosalia, Washington, to the nearest Starbucks in Spokane in order to complete her assignments for the last quarter of her senior year, thanks to COVID-19. And that wasn’t the biggest struggle of her college years.
Growing up in Rock Hills, South Carolina, Marquez felt extremely out of place when her family moved to Spokane when she was 16.
“I stuck out like a sore thumb, with a big, heavy accent,” Marquez said. “It was a culture shock to leave the Carolinas and come to Washington.”
Heading into college, Marquez had no idea what she wanted to major in. While in South Carolina, she was convinced she wanted to become a doctor or a nurse. After interning at a hospital, however, she realized that any career that had to do with blood was not a career for her.
“Going into college, I had no idea what I wanted to do or be,” said Marquez. “My freshman year, I took my very first political science class. I loved the challenge and my professor at the time had his J.D. I remember going home and asking my dad if he knew any lawyers I could talk to about their experience.”
“You have to wake up every day, get serious about what you want and take it.” – Gabrielle Marquez, EWU Senior
Marquez’s father, Tim Marquez, referred her to a prosecutor in Spokane, which led Marquez to over a two-year internship with the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office.
Now, four years later, Marquez will be graduating with 3.9 GPA and a degree in political science with a minor in criminal justice. She is also receiving a full-ride scholarship to the Gonzaga University School of Law.
Allison Butterfield, a close friend and colleague of Marquez, said Marquez is always willing to give any job 110% in order to get it done.
“She has worked so hard and accomplished a lot and will continue to accomplish a lot,” Butterfield said.
And working hard might be an understatement for how much effort Marquez put in to achieve her goals.
“Getting accepted [to college] was a great accomplishment,” Marquez said. “But the question ran across my mind, ‘Well, you got in. How are you going to pay for it?’ [That question is] daunting, but getting a college degree has always been a dream. So I went to work.”
Marquez was raised by her single dad.
“For all my life (he) hustled and worked his tail off,” she said. Seeing him constantly work so hard, Marquez quickly picked up his work ethic.
“I started my first job working 40 hours a week at the age of 17,” Marquez said. “And I have worked full-time ever since to put myself through school.”
For the past two years, Marquez has worked a regular job of 40+ hours a week, put in around 20 hours a week at her internship with the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office and somehow managed to keep up with school.
But Marquez does not wish to be looked at and admired.
“This is not a glorious life,” Marquez said. “I am not someone who you should be like, ‘Wow, I admire that.’ Having 60-70 hour work weeks is hard, and no one should have to do it if they don’t have to. I had to pour myself into my goals and really have tunnel vision.”
This strenuous work load caused Marquez to miss out on what she called “the infamous college experience.” She said she was a hot mess most of the time and rarely had any extra moments in her day for socializing or going to college parties.
But in her eyes, she did what she had to do to get where she wants to be. She doesn’t regret it.
“I don’t come from money,” Marquez said. “I don’t have any money. But I have a dream. I have goals, and I know that anything can happen if you put your head down and work hard.”
“She had big shoes to satisfy … and such little time,” said Alexandra Johnson, a close friend and coworker of Marquez.
Johnson said Marquez’s ability to balance such a busy schedule while also working on her own well-being proved just how resilient she is.
“Her pain yielded a clean slate upon which she can start law school fully prepared for any challenge,” Johnson said.
Marquez was understanding about senior commencement being cancelled, but her dad was disappointed about it.
“My dad was pretty excited to see me walk across the stage,” Marquez said. “Graduation is a big deal. I hope the seniors that are supposed to be walking in a couple weeks still feel proud of themselves for their accomplishments.”
Marquez offered some advice that may help her fellow graduates as they enter the quarantined world together.
“In life, nothing is just going to come to you,” Marquez said. “You have to wake up every day, get serious about what you want and go out and take it. The sky’s the limit.”
When asked if she could go back and give any advice to her freshman self, Marquez answered with a simple piece of encouragement for all the struggles she would soon face.
“Remember each hurdle you jump, or each challenge you face is only shaping you into who you are meant to become,” Marquez said. “Embrace it.”