Georgia State University’s Youngest Graduate Discusses His Growth Mindset

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“I have a growth mindset. My mom taught me to grow through things, not go through things.” – David Gaines

Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, David Gaines, an endlessly curious child knew from very early that he was built for greatness. During the third grade, he tackled 5th-grade assignments with ease. Gaines noted during a conversation with The Center for the Advancement of Students and Alumni (CASA) at Georgia State University, “I would finish my work by 12 o’clock.” Unchallenged and unable to move up a grade, his mother, who raised him by herself, met with their districts’ Superintendent who recommended homeschooling.

A new approach, Gaines and his mother tested the waters. To their surprise, Gaines fell in love with the structured pace, the option to take a break if needed, and the ability to explore a range of topics that filled his learning gaps. Ecstatic about working closely with his mother, who he considers to be his “biggest inspiration,” Gaines knew his days within the public school system were over. To most, homeschooling is a complex process which requires a great deal of time, commitment, and flexibility. Before COVID-19, most parents never thought to explore the option. However, Gaines and his mother were ahead of the curve. Homeschooling created a pathway to Georgia State University, which is located in the heart of Atlanta.

Not far from his residence, Gaines heard about the small student-to-faculty ratio and intimate collegiate space known as Perimeter College, which is a part of Georgia State University’s unique portfolio. Above his years intellectually, Gaines entered the dynamic and diverse campus at 14. Determined to beat the odds, Gaines graduated with both an Associates’ and Bachelors’ degree in Biological Sciences by 17. Currently, a first-year dual-degree student pursuing a Juris Doctor and Master’s in Public Health, Gaines, now 18 years old, also plans to incorporate medicine, with a focus on neurosurgery and neurology into his career path. Inspired by his pediatrician, Dr. Roytesa Savage, Gaines recalls watching her console a crying baby and parent when he was just five years old.

Gaines stresses that his academic and professional journey hasn’t been an easy one. There are been roadblocks, especially around volunteer opportunities and the elephant in the room – ageism. According to Gaines, “people believe that because of my age, I am not fit for certain jobs or meant to have certain roles.” To Gaines, those views are unfound. His ability to persevere during his elementary years mirrors where he is today. During his tenure at Georgia State University Gaines has accomplished much. With law school and medical school in his crosshairs, Gaines is clear that his growth mindset will allow him to do so much more.

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