Thursday, June 21, 2018

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Marcus Bush Marcus Bush

The Man with a Plan

With help from SDSU's Compact for Success, Marcus Bush got on track for a successful future.
By Tobin Vaughn

Although National City is Marcus Bush’s ('10) hometown, you might say he’s really from SimCity.

At least it’s reasonable to argue that the fictional locale played a large a role in his life.

In third grade, Bush couldn’t get enough of SimCity, a video game in which players plan and develop all aspects of cities from buildings to budgets. “Basically, the whole premise is to build your own world and deal with the different challenges,” he said.

These days Bush, 26, deals with actual challenges as a community planner and the youngest person ever appointed to chair the National City Planning Commission. He traces his attraction to urban and city planning to SimCity.

“I would spend hours on that,” he recalled. “It was just really fascinating determining where to put the homes or commercial zones. Even though it's at a very simple video game level it really influenced me and started my interest in urban planning issues."

Compact for Success

A planner seemingly by nature, Bush said by middle school certain local events captured his imagination, such as where to build a new Chargers stadium or where to move Lindbergh Field, San Diego’s congested airport. “There were a lot of regional issues going on at the time that I was just fascinated with," he remembered.

Also at the time, San Diego State University began an innovative new partnership with the Sweetwater Union High School District called the Compact for Success. It guaranteed admission to SDSU for all students in the district who met certain benchmarks from seventh grade through high school graduation.

Bush was among the first class of seventh graders to sign up for the program. He liked the idea of having clear guidelines to follow in order to get to college. 

“We had a plan set, and as long as we met those requirements we were guaranteed admission to SDSU,” he said. “That guaranteed admission was huge. I think the Compact for Success program was probably the biggest factor of me being at San Diego State.”

Just different

The type of student who would likely succeed on any college campus, Bush said his experiences with other schools left him certain SDSU was the right place for him. “There's something about SDSU,” he said. “It's just the people. There's life and vitality and energy — it's just different.”

Once on campus, Bush became a Compact Scholar — the postsecondary component of the Compact program  — studying city planning and public administration along with Spanish. It was a lot to take on, but the program provided support and scholarships to help students succeed.

"Compact Scholars pushed us to really challenge ourselves and graduate in four years rather than five or six,” Bush said, “I decided to double major and I did it in four-and-a-half years.”

Bush was one of 201 students to enroll in 2006 as the first cohort of Compact Scholars at SDSU. Since then, more than 3,000 have been admitted, with 533 enrolled in the fall of 2014.

Pride in achieving

Janet Abbott was a founding director of the Compact for Success and presently serves as SDSU Compact Scholars program director. She remembers Bush as one of her program’s earliest success stories.

“He’s fantastic,” she observed. “He really valued the promise (of the program). He didn't take it for granted. He had a lot of pride in achieving, not just being admitted to SDSU, but graduating from SDSU.”

Many of the Compact Scholars are considered “at-risk” students for whom a college education is not assumed. A third of them are low-income, half are first-generation students and almost 90 percent are students of color.

Yet Compact Scholars succeed at the same levels as the SDSU student population at large. Graduation rates are the same as are both four and six-year completion rates.

Abbott remembered how Bush would volunteer to talk with prospective students about the program and encourage their participation. “He has always had a lot of enthusiasm for helping,” she said.

A-plus performer

That enthusiasm for helping now shows up in Bush’s involvement in his profession and his community.

He is a member of the Urban Land Institute, American Planning Association and the San Diego Housing Federation. He is also on the board of directors for the National City Chamber of Commerce and president-elect of the Rotary Club.

Passion and community involvement were just two of the things Brian Mooney (’75), AICP, was looking for in an associate when he hired Bush six months ago. He said he wanted someone to work with and mentor who has “next-generation kind of forward thinking in community planning" that he believes Bush exhibits.

“Marcus is a bright, intelligent individual who has analytical skills, good communication skills and the desire to make a difference in the world," said Mooney, who is managing principal of Mooney Planning Collaborative, a San Diego-based community and environmental planning firm. “What I have seen (in him) is nothing but an A-plus performer in all categories."

A solid foundation

Bush has a sister, Adriana (’14) who was also a Compact Scholar. He credits the values of their parents with laying a solid foundation for their achievements.

Their mom, Julia, comes from a small farming town in Eastern Oregon. Their dad, Roscoe, is a Marine Corps veteran who grew up in a mostly rural community in Southern Georgia.

“They definitely encouraged us and they pushed us,” He said. “We had a home, we had a stable environment, we had food — those things are so important.”

It’s the kind of environment he tries to maintain for his own children, four-year-old daughter, Leticia, and son, Julian, who turns two in March. They live in a house Bush bought in National City not far from where he grew up.

"It was just a goal I had set for myself a really long time ago to be able to buy a house,” he says when asked about becoming a homeowner at what many might consider a relatively early age. “I think the difference between me and maybe some other people is I actually had that goal. I had it on paper. I had it written down, so I had it already in my mind.

“I think setting goals for yourself — planning your life as best you can — is important."

Bush remembers an assignment from his high school days. A teacher asked him and his classmates to write down where they envisioned themselves in a year, in five years, and then in ten.

"I still save that as part of, like, a little scrapbook that we did as part of our senior project and I look back on it,” he says. “It's actually pretty cool because (I’ve done) a lot of those things I said I was going to do in my personal life like buying a home and starting a family.”

Everything according to plan.