Graduate Highlight: Turbo Qualls
Much of Eric (Turbo) Qualls’ life was spent searching—searching for place and searching for his identity. Raised in Orange County, California in predominantly Anglo culture with his own mixed ethnic heritage, Qualls’ efforts were geared toward trying to reconcile his identity culturally and ethnically. His father, a black entrepreneur, raised him with an almost primal need to pass on the narrative of a black man in America to protect his children. There was no Christianity in the home, just his Christian school used as a way to “pay a good nanny” for him. As a youth, Qualls had been drawn to the punk rock protest culture—and all the partying and drugs that came with it.
Then in 1997, Qualls had a Damascus Road experience. After being hooked on drugs, in and out of jail, and practicing in the occult, he began to see the spiritual darkness in his life and others and how it manifested itself. He woke up to, “This is not what I was meant to be.” His mother, as well, had come to Christ and helped him during his journey with Christ. As he continued to move forward in his journey, all the things he learned in protest culture began to come alive, but felt another heart shift within social justice, focusing more on the healing of the human person.
When Qualls came to Christ, he was about 8 months into his apprenticeship as a tattoo artist as a means of support for his family. Even within that culture, he grew in his faith. “My tattoo chair was my pulpit,” he says. He saw people come in for tattoos, but truly to talk with him because of his wisdom and advice. Many of those people came to Christ and turned away from their own destructive habits. He realized then that he may have had a lot of experience, but had very little formal education. From 2009-2011, he attended St. Steven’s Antiochian House of Studies Bible Program and then continued to finish at City Vision University. Qualls was able to get prior learning credit both from his Bible school and his extensive experience and training as a commercial tattoo artist.
Qualls sees his education at City Vision as more than simply formal training. He says, “City Vision positioned me to build off of life experiences and gifts God had already given me.” He credits his education as a launching pad to his future graduate work, giving him the vocabulary and other tools to work and excel. With the “practical, hands on, boots on the ground” approach, Qualls had the ability to work and take care of his family and to “really impact” the lives of those he services. Daily, he says, he witnessed the impact of everything he learned and applied to his life.
Post graduation with a degree in Addiction Studies, Qualls looks forward to obtaining his master’s degree in counseling. Currently he serves at the Therapy Program Assistant at Reconciliation Services in Kansas City, MO, where he leads case management for both men and women and also facilitates support therapy groups during the week. In the very near future, Qualls with continue to impact those around him and his reputation as an “armchair therapist.”