Vonya Quarles

Vonya Quarles

Executive Director

Starting Over, Inc.

Corona, CA USA

The only place to go is forward.


By Roadtrip Nation

Vonya Quarles


My road in life has taken me all over.
I grew up poor, moved around a lot, and spent time in foster care while my mother struggled with alcoholism, addiction, and incarceration.
I dropped out of middle school and began struggling with substance abuse myself.
I first entered the juvenile justice system when I was 11 years old and spent about 15 years in the criminal justice system overall.
I was paroled in 1990 and was able to get a job at an oil refinery by hiding my background.
While my job at the oil refinery changed my economic trajectory, I eventually realized that I was more so checked out and hiding rather than thriving.
I started going to school at night and ultimately earned my bachelor’s degree as well as a law degree.
I attended a Women Organizing for Justice and Opportunity training that completely changed my mindset about the work that needed to be done and the role I could play if I applied my whole self.
In 2009, I co-founded Starting Over, Inc., an organization focused on helping people overcome homelessness through transitional housing, harm reduction, and supportive services.
Keep following my journey


Business, General
University of Phoenix
Pacific Coast University of Law


Executive Director

I help people overcome homelessness through transitional housing and other supportive services.

Career Roadmap

My work combines:
My work combines:
Non-Profit Organizations
Helping People

Day to Day

My daily work consists of fundraising, supporting staff, policy work, public speaking, looking for ways to improve our community, connecting people, and advocating.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for college students

My law degree has helped me in my role but there are a lot of really great executive directors who do not have a law degree. I think that if you are really interested in law, then you should pursue that law degree. However, if you are interested in another educational path, then that is the path for you. I believe there are many paths to a role like this.


The Noise I Shed

From Teachers:

"You can't come to our school because of your criminal background. You'll never practice law in the state of California with your background."

Challenges I Overcame

Foster Child
Drugs / Addiction
Formerly Incarcerated

Interviewed By

Being Free

Being Free

Formerly incarcerated people find purpose