Salenah Cartier made history last year when she became the youngest student to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston at age 17. Now 18, she has made history again as the university’s youngest Fall 2021 graduate. The university announced last week that she will graduate this fall with a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction.
Coming this far has however not been easy for Cartier. An early learner, she was always passionate about learning but other children bullied her at school due to her intelligence.
“I was picked on for being different. They would make fun of me for the way I talk and the way I articulate information. Eventually, I didn’t want to be smart anymore. What I wanted, so badly, was to be like everyone else,” she said.
As the bullying got worse, she began homeschooling where she connected with students who had similar stories. Through homeschooling, she was able to work at her own pace and ended up graduating from high school at the age of 14. At 16, she graduated from Lone Star College with an associate degree in science and biology.
Cartier is from a family that found it hard to make ends meet. And though they struggled financially, she did not let that impede her progress academically. While at Lone Star College, she found a way to pay for the chunk of her fees by retailing used textbooks on eBay she purchased for less in thrift stores and online.
One piece of advice from her mother kept her going and Cartier said that statement always pushed her to keep feeding her brains regardless of how tough life got. “My mom would always say you have to figure out what you want to do in life and how you want to make an impact on the world,” she said.
With that mantra plus a few life lessons on the importance of self-worth, she graduated from Lone Star College and headed to the University of Houston. By 17, she had graduated with a degree in psychology from the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. She also received a certificate in Corporate Entrepreneurship from C.T. Bauer College of Business.
Her dream is to help the less fortunate in society through what she knows best — education. Cartier aspires to be an educator, researcher and policymaker to help disadvantaged children in society go for gold.
Having earned a master’s degree, the 18-year-old is applying for doctoral programs and focusing on a project inspired by the challenges she faced while growing up.
“I am currently working on bullying research, which is very personal. I want other young students to know they can make it through, too,” she said. “My ultimate goal in life is to make a big contribution to the field of educational development. I would like to integrate psychological research into educational policy and create policies that nurture psychological wellbeing.”