Elijah Jasim James Dukes was born on March 8, 2000 to Sophia Ellard and Frank Dukes. He is the third of eight children born to the unmarried couple. As a child, Elijah had always lived with his mom as they and his other siblings moved around a lot. Regardless of his home situation, Elijah always had school. He was always told not to worry by his mom, but learned responsibility and determination as he helped with his younger siblings. He wanted to succeed and do better than his parents, so that he could help his mom like she helped him. Neither of his parents finished college; yet, his mom always worked hard, but his dad wasn’t as active in his life.
However, both of his parent were always very serious about education. He’ll never forget that his dad believed that “The word of the day is excellence” and that Elijah should always work towards it. As a result, Elijah has always done just that, but he was not the only one. His second oldest sister was the epitome of this word in her younger ages. She got a perfect standardized test score in elementary school. She was what they expected and she served as inspiration for Elijah to do the extraordinary.
In second grade, he got accepted into the JHU Center for Talented Youth program. In fifth grade, a teacher saw his potential and brought The Ingenuity Project to him. The transition to the program was rough. Elijah went from a poor, all black elementary school to a more diverse school in a rich, white area. To conquer these obstacles, Elijah stayed close to his family base and worked to further his education by joining different clubs like National Academic League and Science Bowl.
Elijah was accepted into the Ingenuity Project at BPI high school program and even took an extra course during his lunch period, JROTC. He was also accepted into (MS)2, Mathematics and Science for Minority Students, his freshman year. As a third year in the program, he co-wrote and directed a play about colorism in the black community as it pertains to women, tutored and connected to younger kids in the program, and graduated with High Honors in the majority of his classes.
Elijah wants to use all that he has learned and received to reach back to the people who surround him. He started as a junior with SQUAD, a mentoring program for underrepresented minorities in the Ingenuity Project and continued with attending a DACA/TPS rally in DC in support of the extension of these essential programs.