Justin Susan isn’t your typical teenager. He’s already written an 80,000-word novel, but he could only find one word to describe the experience of winning a Live Más scholarship: hope.
"It gave me hope that my dreams are possible," he told Taco Bell. The company founded its Live Más scholarship program to provide new educational opportunities for the next generation of leaders. By awarding $1 million in scholarships to 220 selected youth, Taco Bell not only encourages these young innovators' wildest dreams but gives them the tools to go after them.
Susan aspires to become a published author, perhaps even with his current novel about a young man who lives in a world where choices are rare, but he chooses to find the answers.
Drawing on his roots in the White Mountain Apache tribe, he writes to inspire other Native American kids. If ever he begins to doubt himself and his dreams, Susan motivates himself by thinking about the young adult authors that have inspired him, such as J.K. Rowling and John Green.
Most importantly, he keeps writing.
But the young novelist wasn't always so prolific. Susan didn't even like reading, much less writing, until his sophomore year of high school. That's when he fell in love with a book that captured his imagination and transported him to a vivid, fictional world.
Reading became a welcome escape for Susan, who spent much of his childhood and adolescence in Peoria, Ariz., worrying about and trying to take care of his sisters.
He soon realized he didn't just want to experience the joy of entering another world, he wanted to create his own that would hopefully inspire others as well. He writes "for another lost girl or guy" who he hopes to help find their way toward the right path in life.
"That is the biggest reason why I do it," he said.
So one day, he picked up a pen. He's yet to put it down.
"There's nothing that's gonna stop me," he said. "There's nothing I fear."
Though he has faced plenty instances of failure in his life, Susan's never let that hold him back. A piece of paper near his desk reads, "Work hard and believe in yourself, even when nobody else believes in you." He takes those words to heart, remembering them whenever his dreams seem out of reach. He encourages others to do the same.
“Don’t ever be afraid to fail and to show the world who you are,” he said, “because we’re all special.”
His fearlessness and dedication to his craft has already paid off. The funds from Susan's Live Más scholarship will help him study creative film and media at Northern Arizona University, bringing him one step closer to his ultimate goal of becoming a published author. By providing financial assistance to promising, young innovators and creators, Taco Bell wants to become an integral part of the stories that shape the next generation's most promising members. The company hopes to see every recipient of a Live Más scholarship achieve their dreams — the bigger, the better.
Watch the video above to hear Justin tell a story that's even better than fiction — his own.