Dallas Salas graduated from Arizona State University at 18 years old. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience after experiencing challenges such as homelessness and leukemia.

Salas was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of five and recalled the experience as a “wrenching and heartbreaking experience.”

“I remember staying up at nights and just crying and just screaming,” he told Good Morning America.

The recent graduate is now in remission and used his experience as inspiration to pursue an education in the medical field.

“When you get into any aspect of biology or any aspect of medicine, you are deep-diving into the human systems,” he told the news outlet. “I definitely want to be a hands-on approach, helping other people deal with these issues and implement those systems that we learn about.”


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Salas also experienced homelessness after his family lost their home in Scottsdale, Arizona, because of arson.

“I was out in California because we were taking a family trip. And we came home, we actually knew about it, because some neighbors called us and [we] came home, everything was destroyed,” he said. “It was pretty intense.”

The 18-year-old points to his mother and coaches as a robust support system he could rely on to keep going.

“It’s things that you can do to keep them involved and, and keep them focused because they don’t necessarily have to be a part of what’s going on in their surroundings,” his mother said. “And they can be stress-free for a while, and then it’s beneficial in the long run.”

Salas was also mentored by Xavier Celaya, his supervisor and a doctoral student at ASU, during his studies.

“I feel like one of the biggest traits that are kind of indicative of a student’s success is their eagerness to learn and willingness to learn, not necessarily ease of learning, but just the amount of energy that they put into that type of process. From the get-go, Dallas was an exemplar of this trait,” he said.

“Whenever he didn’t understand something he would always ask for clarification, which is a trait not a lot of students have. And to have mastered it at such a young age, and so refined, is really something,” Celaya added.

Salas said his support system and finding inspiration within himself is what helped him keep going.

“If you’re going through a lot of chaotic experiences, life is only 10% what happens to you and 90% of what you make of it,” he said.