Axel-Ryan Nzi was born and raised in Queens, New York from two Ivorian-immigrant parents. He was very inquisitive growing up. One of his first memories is of his father telling this story about him: when Axel-Ryan was three years old, a plumber came to their apartment for repair work. Axel followed him all through the apartment wanting to know about everything he was doing.
Axel-Ryan’s parents wanted him to have the best education possible, so when he was of age to go to school, they enrolled him in a newly established charter school, Academy of the City, which proposed to use a progressive education model. By fifth grade, Axel-Ryan had reached a comfortable academic growth, performing above grade level. When it came to applying to middle school, his dad chose all gifted and talented schools. Unfortunately, he didn’t get an offer in any of them. Instead he enrolled in his zone middle school.
In sixth grade, Axel-Ryan made the decision to work very hard to prove to himself that he deserved a seat in a gifted and talented program. The same year, his father helped him apply to Prep for Prep, a New York City youth leadership development program that matriculates high academic achieving students of color in private independent day and boarding schools. He was accepted to the program as a boarding school bound. During his middle school years at IS 125, Axel-Ryan doubled up academically to stay in this rigorous and demanding program.
Meanwhile, in sixth grade, Axel-Ryan ran for student government historian, but he lost the race to a seventh grader. Axel-Ryan doesn’t get discouraged easily; he ran for historian again in seventh grade and won. In eighth grade, he ran for student government president and won that election, too. One of his greatest achievements as the student body president was to help create his first ever student-run newspaper, The Howler in the school’s over-one-hundred-year history.
After graduating from eighth grade, Axel-Ryan was admitted to his first-choice school as a member of the Hotchkiss School class of 2024. There, he is developing his passion to question and learn. In December of 2020, he created and hosted the first episode of Y?