Fresno State professor credits college with saving his life

Shayla Girardin Image
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
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A Fresno State professor is sharing his story on how he overcame all the odds and finished his education.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno State professor is sharing his story on how he overcame all the odds and finished his education. He credits his college education with saving his life and is now paying it forward.

Marcus Shaw said he never considered college as a kid.

"I grew up at 16 selling drugs like all these different things, really rough, I was in juvenile hall when I was 17," Shaw said.

Raised by missionary parents, he moved to Merced when he was young, after spending ten years outside the country.

The former street kid was nearly kicked out of school as a junior and landed in continuation school before getting a somber reality check.

"One of my best friends was murdered," Shaw said. "That made me really want to get my life together."

It was a financial aid application that made him consider college for the first time. Marcus was accepted into California State University, Stanislaus and turned his life around. He even mentored younger students in the community for one of his classes.

"That mentoring class changed me because I realized I could impact other people no matter how hard my background was," he said.

He graduated with a Bachelor's in sociology before going for his Master's at UC Merced, finally becoming the first student to graduate with a Doctorate in Sociology from the same university.

"I always tell people, college saved my life," Shaw said. "If I didn't get into college, it would have been totally different."

Now a criminology professor at Fresno State, he's teaching his students to do the same.

"Now, my students have to go out and mentor a kid in the community," he said. "It's good for my students. They start to take themselves seriously. They see they can help."

"To stay in school is often something they really have to commit to," said Dr. Emma Hughes, Criminology Chair at Fresno State. "Marcus shows that it's worth it. Whether they want to be professors or not, it shows that the power of education can transform a life and give it a new direction."