HOUSTON — Whoever said youth is wasted on the young didn't know Salenah Cartier.
The 17-year-old Kingwood resident has an unwavering persistence, entrepreneurial wit, and now, she has two college degrees.
She is the youngest person to graduate from the University of Houston in 2020 after earning her bachelor's degree in psychology and a certification in corporate entrepreneurship from the C.T. Bauer College of Business.
The Houston native was able to earn her second degree within two and a half years. She has already applied for doctorate programs and will begin pursing her master's degree at the UH College of Education next month.
Cartier earned her associate's degree in biology at age 16 after completing the program at Lone Star College - Kingwood. She then transferred to UH.
"I know that this is only the beginning of my journey," Cartier said. "I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue higher education, and I am even more grateful for the opportunity to inspire others."
Her accomplishments didn't come without obstacles. The teen said because she didn't qualify for financial aid, she paid for the majority of her education out her own pocket.
"During my first semester of college, I was only able to afford the costs of two classes, and I was not able to afford all of the required textbooks," she said.
Cartier buckled down and worked hard until she saved up enough funds to attend college fulltime. She earned money reselling textbooks and tutoring students in grade school through college as well as professionals.
Tutoring is what helped Cartier realize she wanted to be an educator.
Cartier also had to adjust to remote learning through the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to take a toll on college students everywhere.
Eventhough she has always approached schooling at her own pace, Cartier said the underlying fear of a global pandemic, staying focused and motivated took an extra push.
She said the looming pandemic has been a reminder not to place your self-worth in grades or test scores. It's important to know who you are beyond your academic performance, she said.
"Believe and invest in yourself, and I guarantee that everything else will align," Cartier said. That's advice to take with you throughout life, she added.
Cartier isn't alone on her journey. The commitments she has made to herself and those around her feed her ambition. She also has a strong support system.
"I am grateful for all of my advisors and professors, as they have helped me grow into the independent knowledge seeker that I am today," she said. "I know that without the support of family, friends, and faculty members, this would not have been possible.
Cartier, who earned her high school diploma at age 14, said she was raised to fearlessly face challenges, including failure.
Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Mayor Sylvester Turner congratulated Cartier on her accomplishment, tweeting that her "future is bright and I wish her the best."
In the future, Cartier plans to get a doctoral degree in the field of cognitive and developmental neuroscience. She wants to research the impact of early life exposure to adversity on cognitive development.
She said her goal is to teach on the college level, become a research and to have a role in government. the teen even has her sights set on the White House.
"A long-term goal of mine is to become the President of the United States of America," she said.