Kent State Student Making a Name For Herself After Years of Personal Struggles

Written by on May 10, 2018

Ya’el Courtney has finally found her place after years of struggling. After taking a gap year for personal reasons, she got a full ride to attend Kent State. Although Kent state does not offer a neuroscience undergraduate program but does have a master’s program.

“I was in foster care for a while, which puts me in a little bubble of disadvantaged students who get accepted into the minority student bubble,” Courtney said.

Ya’el has always been interested in the science of the nervous system and she has a great passion for research.

She spends a lot of time in the library, so it was only natural that we met there. With all the hustle and bustle of the library, she typically finds herself in a quiet study room.

Ya’el has an incredible work ethic and drive that has helped her get to this point. However, she had to develop this work ethic earlier than most. She wanted more for herself. She wanted to prove she could be successful.

“I went to five different high schools. At each one I was competing to be Valedictorian. I was just that kind of person. My parents were very strict. They basically said ‘you have to go into a STEM field or we won’t support you,” Courtney said.

Once Ya’el learned she could do and be anything she put her mind to, there was no stopping her. She was driven in a way that most high schoolers aren’t. She was determined to succeed and prove that she could do it all on her own.

“My dad was very abusive so I ended up moving out when I was 15. I went through an identity crisis where I thought “I could be whatever I want, they don’t support me no matter what. I don’t have to go into science.”

“I could be a wedding planner, or an artist. I played cello, what if I wanted to be a cello player, what if I want to sing, what if I want to act? I didn’t. Ended up working as a manager at Wendy’s for a year. I made a lot of money, learned a lot of things.”

It’s remarkable that at such a young age, she was so determined.

Even now, people recognize how brilliant she is. Her boyfriend, Logan Verehyan is inspired by her dedication to her studies. He admires her commitment to working towards her goals with everything else going on in her life.

“Its frankly kind of absurd. She’s always working on something. Even if she has a short break at work, she’ll pull out flashcards and start studying. She doesn’t really waste any time,” Verehyan said.

The two met at the summer program at Washington University in St. Louis two summers ago.

Knowing everything that Ya’el has been through at such a young age, Logan has become her support system.

“If she’s having an off day, I am always here to offer her relief. Trying to provide solutions or suggestions for what to do. She also reciprocates, if I am stressed or something, she’ll do the same for me. We’ve developed a system of mutual support for each other.”

Logan attends Washington University and is working towards a biomedical engineering degree. The two hope to attend graduate school in the same city or at least close to one another.

After attending a summer program at Washington University in St. Louis the past two summers, Ya’el realized she wanted to be challenged more. She applied to numerous programs and after a lot of waiting, she finally heard back from The Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT.

It was not her first choice, but she was still honored to be offered a spot of only 12 students out of the 800 that apply.

She will be committing to a 9-week research program. After her time in Kent State’s Neuroscience program, Ya’el hopes to continue on her road to success. With plans to apply to prestigious graduate schools like UC Davis, Harvard and Washington University

“Don’t let convention tell you you can’t do something.”

“If your past isn’t the one that frames you to be right for a role, that doesn’t matter. No one can tell you you can’t do something.”

“If you’re smart enough and you work hard enough, and you make those connections and you do it, you can do whatever you want,” Courtney said.

She is definitely one-of-a-kind and I look forward to seeing what her future holds. Once again, this is Lara Reinmann for Kent State University.


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