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Alumni Column

To cite: Aleksanyan, D. (2023). It's not about how much you can do, but how much you can growInternational Journal of Youth-Led Research, 3(1).


© Author(s) 2023. Re-use permitted under CC By-NC. 

No commercial re-use. 

See rights and permissions. Published by IJYLR.

Youth Research Vox, 

Los Angeles, CA, U.S.

From an inner-city high school to NYU and a full-ride scholarship:

It's not about how much you can do, but how much you can grow

          The story that I am about to tell started three years ago, when I just entered 10th grade in an inner-city high school. One day during break my classmates and I chatted about our plans for the future. I was excited to tell them that I wanted to go to a university overseas, meet people from all over the world, and study communications. The plan felt right to me. One of my classmates interrupted me and told me to “stop dreaming.” She said that such universities only accept students from fancy prep schools because students in those schools can speak, read and write multiple languages, solve advanced calculus problems, win international championships in science and debate competitions, and that no one in our school can do any of that. With everyone nodding in agreement, the conversation ended there.

       Fast forward to a few months ago when I opened my email and found an acceptance letter from New York University Abu Dhabi offering me not only admission but also a full-ride scholarship, tears stung my eyes. I had become the first student in my school to ever receive such an honor. A sense of pride filled my heart—I will be attending the university of my dreams, with the peace of mind that I will not be adding any financial burden to my family. I have made my dream come true.

          Lowerclassmen came to me asking how I did it. I thought about saying something nice and generic like “believe in yourself,” “work hard,” and “never give up.” While all those things are true, what I eventually told them was “it’s not about how much you can do, but how much you can grow.” When we compare ourselves with others, we often fail to see how far we have come, and because of that, we underestimate our potential. My 10th grade classmates were right: if I put myself next to other NYU applicants and measure how much each one of us can do, I may not stand out. But if we measure how much each one of us has grown during our high school years, I believe that I’d be a proud winner.

          When I first joined Youth Research Vox during my 10th grade year, I was excited to be selected as a youth researcher. My job was simply to learn, to grow, and to keep an open mind for opportunities. Two months later, I became a team leader guiding my teammates from Türkiye and Belarus. Six months later, I became a reporter and interviewer. Another three months later, I became the Chief Communications Officer of YRV's scholarly journal, the International Journal of Youth-Led Research. By keeping my focus on learning and growth, within two years, I was able to explore three distinctive fields: scholarly research, international leadership, and global communications. Above all, I gained countless new skills and grew so much! I know without doubt that what got me to NYU and the full scholarship was my ability to grow. And I know that my ability to grow will continue to be my biggest asset for life. It will help me in my four years at NYU, later in graduate school, in my future career, and everything else in life.

          As a YRV alum, I am honored to kick off this Alumni Column with my story. I am honored to say to you, the current and future YRV youth, readers everywhere in the world, that if you constantly feel that other people can do more than you can, I’d love for you to examine your journey and think how far you have come. When you have an answer, you’ll see with your own eyes your ability to grow. Awards and opportunities can be taken away by others; no one can take away your ability to grow. It is part of YOU. And that is why I say to you: being an amazing person is not about how much you can do, but how much you can grow!

Aleksanyan, D. JYLR Open 2023.

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