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A Black scholar who made history last year as one of the youngest people to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston is continuing to break barriers at the institution. 18-year-old Salenah Cartier recently became the youngest person to earn a master’s degree from the Texas-based school.

This fall she will graduate with a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction. For Cartier, the road to academic success has been far from an easy feat. She says she always had a passion for learning, however, was often bullied in school due to her intelligence and talent. The difficult experiences she encountered led her to be homeschooled. Through homeschooling, she was able to learn at an accelerated pace and ended up graduating from high school at the age of 14. Two years later, she graduated from Lone Star College with an associate degree in science and biology.

“I was picked on for being different,” she said in a statement. “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. I was really sad during the bad time. Scared, too. But honestly, if that had not happened, I would not be on the path I’m on now.” She credits her family for keeping her centered and focused.

Inspired by the obstacles she faced while growing up, Cartier has plans to chart a career path in educational research. She strives to lead projects that merge educational policy and psychological research and is already taking steps towards obtaining a doctoral degree. Cartier hopes to empower youth to cultivate a strong sense of self-efficacy and embrace their differences. “Learn who you are and what makes you different. Different is another word for unique, and that’s a good thing,” she said.

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