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California Teen Goes From Compton To Harvard To Oxford As A Rhodes Scholar

California Teen Goes From Compton To Harvard To Oxford As A Rhodes Scholar

He's continuing on his path to greatness.

Three years ago, Elijah C. DeVaughn Jr. of Compton, California, made headlines when he was accepted to Harvard. Now, he's in the news again, this time for being selected as a Rhodes scholar, one of the 32 chosen virtually. He will study at Oxford University in England.

The senior grew up in a single-parent household, his mother, a teacher and his father in prison, serving 13 years away from his family. Although this was hard on him, DeVaughn said seeing his mother work hard and learning from his father's mistakes pushed him to create a new narrative for himself.  

"When I pray to God at night, I say, 'I don't thank you for placing my dad in jail, but I thank you for the life you've given me, even if that's a part of it,'" he told ABC News. "Because it ignites that fire, you know? It pushes you to wanna achieve more, wanna do more."

For DeVaughn getting into Harvard, one of the most challenging universities in the country, proved to him that hard work did pay off. He's overcome adversity and continued his journey of excellence throughout his time at Harvard. He has founded EJayyTalks, a lecture series in Compton to inspire youth and has gained many campus accolades. According to the university's website, he is "Co-Chair of the Fellows Study Group program at Harvard's Institute of Politics, where he has hosted Mayor Andrew Gillum, Ambassador Cathy Russel, and Senator Heidi Heitkamp––to name a few. He is one of Harvard college's Public Service Representatives where he plans house-wide, public-service-oriented events for students," it says. "Additionally, he is a legal intern at Harvard's Legal Aid Bureau, where he assists burgeoning lawyers in pro-bono legal work for Boston residents. In addition to the Presidential Public Service Fellowship, Elijah is one of Harvard's ten Mellon Mays Fellows. In summer 2018, Elijah served as a legislative intern for Senator Kamala Harris in Washington D.C."

The senior is currently studying History and Literature. He told the Harvard Crimson newspaper that he hopes to use his time at Oxford to further explore his interest in criminal justice reform by studying the respective journeys of Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X to the UK in the 19th and 20th centuries.

"I understand criminal justice to be the civil rights issue of this generation, and so it only makes sense to me that I follow in the footsteps of Douglass and X and journey to the UK, DeVaughn said. "Both to study how they built transnational coalitions in their time, but also how I can do that in my life."

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Photo Credit: Elijah C. DeVaughn Jr/GoFundMe