Conversation with Marketa Coney

Marketa Coney is a freshman at Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Dallas, Texas. A graduate of Cristo Rey High School, she’s on the pre-med track and keeps herself busy in and out of class, studying and exploring her new city. KIPP Through College caught up with Marketa during her winter break, on December 20, 2017.

How has your first year at Paul Quinn been?

College is fun, I’ve always liked school so it’s just another step in school. I like my classes, all my teachers are really fun, they make learning fun. I didn’t get a lot of homework this semester but my friends did, so I’m like, it’s coming! It’ll get there sooner or later. I didn’t have to write any papers.

What classes are you taking?

I was taking 17 credits, about five classes. We can take up to 18 credits but if I get approval, I can start taking 21 credits and that’s probably what I’m gonna start doing sophomore year.

What drew you to the pre-med track?

I’ve always known I wanted to do something in the medical field. I didn’t know what at first; I was like, oh, I want to be a medical assistant like my mom! And then I was like no, I want to be a pharmacist. Then I shadowed a pharmacist for a day and I was like, this is so boring. Like, no. And then I talked to a couple of anaesthesiologists when I was at my job at Cristo Rey, at United Health Care. They had some anaesthesiologists come in and talk to me and I was like cool, I want to do this.

What classes did you take this semester?

I took Biology I, I took a career management class, which has been helping me with my portfolio, my resume, helping me get out there in the work field, and I took — what else did I take? It wasn’t that long ago! I took Health and Wellness, which is starting in pre-med, I took Spanish because I’m good at Spanish. I don’t speak Spanish but I know all the things. I took it for three years in high school. We never really talked, it was more on paper, so I know everything on paper, and... What else did I do? I had personal finance, which was a one credit class, so basically we talked about how to not die in college [laughs] by spending too much money and making sure you have insurance, making sure there’s health insurance, house insurance, car insurance, anything you own, what are your assets, what are your liabilities, things like that.

How did you like your professors?

I liked all my professors, they were all really cool. My biology professor, she was really cool. She actually taught high school and college at the same time so we met with her twice a week in a three-hour class at night, 6:30 to 9. It was something. But she was really cool. She reminded me a lot of one of my high school teachers, he was really chill and laid back but he got on us about making sure our homework was done.

Did you have any difficult or challenging classes?

My algebra class. There’s just so many different things to learn! Everything we went over, I’d already taken it, but it was two years ago, so I was like “I don’t need that anymore, throw that away!” So when it came back I was like — and I only had class once a week, so I had to figure it out. If I didn’t know it, I had to go to tutoring, get things done, ask questions and it was just harder because I didn’t have the teacher around the clock. She only came in once a week.

Do you know what you’re doing next semester?

I’m taking Biology II, I’m taking my next health and wellness class, I’m taking another math class, I forget what it’s called but I know it’s with a really hard teacher. Her name is Ms. Hodges, nobody likes her because they don’t pass. I think that’s it.

What’s been one of the most unexpected things you’ve learned or experienced at college?

No one’s there to hold your hand! You have to get up and go to class. If you miss one class, if you miss thirty minutes of class, you’re going to miss something that you needed that’s gonna help you. And I went to every single class, every day, but watching my friends, I have to make them go to class, like get up! And when they would come in and didn’t know what we were doing, and then we’d have a pop quiz, or test, they’d be so confused. You have to be there on time, every time! I’ve always been the mom friend, always.

Do you have anyone at Paul Quinn to support you like that?

It’s mostly on me, if I ever need a reminder. I’m pretty close to my teachers and they’re just an email away. I take notes, I write down things, or I’ll take a picture ‘cause I always have my phone on me, so taking notes or taking a picture -- you’ll be fine. And I can remind everybody else.

What’s your living situation like?

I got lucky, I’m in an apartment with three other students, they’re Presidential scholars, so we all have full rides and live in apartments, we have our own bathroom and two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. My roommates are cool; two are from Dallas, and the other one is from Chicago.

Are there any other Minnesotans on campus?

There’s like, four.

How big of a school is it?

We’re around 450 right now, I think.

Does it feel like a small campus?

I know it’s small, but I don’t know everybody. I know my whole class and I know a lot of upperclassmen, but anywhere in between that… no. It’s like high school, but we live with each other. High school for me was cool, but you know, there’s always drama and problems. Otherwise everything’s good.

What’s the adjustment to Texas been like?

It’s just different. I don’t know if it’s the weather, or the people… people are nice in Minnesota, not everybody is super nice, but not everybody is super nice in Texas. I feel like the aura is different. I knew when I was at KIPP, I do not want to be in Minnesota when I go to college, that’s not something I want to do. Even when I was visiting colleges around here, I was like, “oh this nice, but I’m not going here, I’m not going to be in Minnesota.” So when the president from Paul Quinn came, I was like, “This is my opportunity!”

What’s it been like being home for winter break?

I haven’t really been doing anything besides working. Wednesdays are my days off, so I run a couple errands and I sleep in. I’ve been running on three hours of sleep for a while. It’s not bad though. I just need — the college life, when you don’t have money, is not fun at all. It’s not. And I had — I was fine, but I saw other people and I was like, oh no, I can’t do that. I refuse.

If you had any advice for someone who wants to go to college but doesn’t know what to do, what would you say to them?

I know everybody doesn’t have a guidance counselor that they can talk to, but I always talked to my teachers, and they pushed me to go to college. If I never went to KIPP, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college. Because they were a college prep school. I’d say, talk to your teachers, because they definitely went to college, and they want to help you, they want their students go to college. I just got close with one teacher who always told us, “You’re gonna go to college, you’re gonna be something really cool.” When we were in eighth grade and we had Ms. Ruth-Jarmon for science, she was said, “You’re gonna do big things,” and I was just like, “You think so?” She was trying to get me into all types of programs, she was just making sure I kept on track. Then I got to another college prep school and it was the same: “Yeah, you’re going to college.” You being interested, your grades, and then your relationship with your teachers: that’s how I got my scholarship, my relationship with my teachers, they always said, “We know Marketa, she’s gonna do this, she’s gonna do that.” And after the president of Paul Quinn talked to the teachers, and talked to me, he was like, “We want her!”

Any last thoughts?

College is something everybody should experience. It’s a good feeling. You meet different people from everywhere, and then once you meet those different people, you know people everywhere and you can say, “Oh, there’s an internship here, and an internship here,” you get more opportunities. I feel like that’s what college is about: more opportunities. So I have people in Las Vegas, and Chicago, and California, everywhere. I could get a job here, I could go there. And I think it’s a learning experience, figuring out who you are and how you do things. Am I a morning person, am I a late night person? You’ll definitely meet your long-term, long-time friends that you’ll have forever. You learn how to be yourself, how to stand out.

jamie scherle