Elijah was always intrigued by his classmates who seemed to have their studies and degrees all planned out since elementary school. "I really commended that — it just wasn't me. I could never sit down and have a plan that distinct," he explains.
Being the first in his family to go to college didn't make the process any clearer since there was no one to advise him on how to do it. Yet he felt a drive to prove to them — and to himself — that he could do it.
Elijah found guidance in other places. His high school counselor offered support and pushed him to apply to college. But Elijah says it was a youth mentor of 15 years who most influenced his decision to go to community college, adding "he has his master's, so he puts a high value on higher education." Elijah decided to start on the required general-education courses while he kept his options open and figured out what would be best for him.
Elijah says that even if he didn't already have a mentor, he'd be looking for one now. "He's been everything to me — one person I could always count on... Having someone you can look up to and talk to about anything in life is really good support." Because his mentor shared his own work experiences as a probation officer, Elijah was inspired to pursue the same career.
Elijah was pleasantly surprised by the atmosphere at his community college. While his friends jokingly call it 13th grade because they all go home at the end of the day, he feels it goes way beyond an extension of high school. For starters, there's a lot more personal responsibility in balancing school with his two jobs and other activities.
Elijah is enjoying his time in college. In addition to academics, he's made friends and formed relationships with teachers who may one day serve as references. And he now has a plan to transfer to a four-year college and continue his education toward his chosen career.
Best of all, Elijah is in a position to make his family proud. "[My mother] never went to college, so she thought it was really good that I decided to become someone that my younger siblings can look up to."