College wasn’t on Elijah Daniel’s personal radar screen in 2018.
He certainly did not expect not only his collegiate future, but the entire trajectory of his life, to change, as well. But that is exactly what happened. DRDFS would help Elijah grow as an individual and as a student, helping him develop and refine the tools that would enable him to make the most of his natural charisma by becoming a skilled communicator and a college-ready student.
“Three years ago? I was not remotely ready. Today I’m a very different person—and DRDFS has a lot to do with that.”
It’s a sign of just how much DRDFS has made an impact on Elijah that he has trouble deciding on his favorite part of the program. Two things he circles back to, however, are the sophisticated SAT preparation assistance and etiquette and communications training: both elements of the DRDFS program that he sees as vital and practical skills for an aspiring college student.
“Knowing how to speak to and engage with not just your peers, but with professionals and people in college and beyond is so important. There are programs to help you with that in college, but DRDFS gave me an invaluable head start. The practical skills I learned and developed through DRDFS are already helping me build and maintain long-lasting relationships.”
His DRDFS experiences sparked a passion for communication that continues with Elijah today. A self-described quiet kid who never used to talk, Elijah is a buoyant and compelling communicator who knows how to connect with a listener and engage an audience. His enthusiasm is obvious, and the clarity of his answers does justice to the depth of his keen insights.
Clarity is a consistent theme for Elijah, who was able to tell almost immediately on a DRDFS-sponsored tour of Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing that it was where he wanted to go to college.
“I’m big on energy. If I get a good feeling and the energy is right, I’m all in. MSU was our first college tour. I remember just feeling so happy. It truly felt like I was home. My friends would joke with me about it and my response was always the same: I’m going here. I made a vow to myself that the next time I came back to MSU it would be for an orientation as a new student. And then I went to work.”
Sure enough, Elijah applied for early admission and was accepted to MSU.
“That wasn’t the only college I got into, but it was the only one for me. It felt like it was meant to be.”
He not only applied early, he enrolled early, with a scholarship that allowed him to start taking summer classes—and he remains ahead of schedule, slated to graduate from MSU a semester early.
When he had a chance to apply to be a DRDFS intern, Elijah was similarly decisive in seizing the opportunity.
“I think about one of my heroes and fellow Spartans, Magic Johnson. Magic obviously started off as a basketball player, then moved to the front office and became a business owner. As an alumnus, I will always be a part of the DRDFS program. And my experience there was so positive that I was actively looking for ways to stay involved. So, when the internship program presented itself, I jumped at the chance to apply.”
That internship gave Elijah the chance to expand and refine his communication skills, to work in a professional environment and to connect with people of different backgrounds and perspectives. It gave him new tools and new opportunities to challenge himself and broaden his personal and professional toolkit in ways that continue to open doors for him.
And now he wants to do the same for others.
“When you get into any program, or any school, the first thing I tell young people is how important it is to know what you want. No one can tell you what you want or figure it out for you. Once you take that critical first step on your own, there are people and programs that can help you go from there and get you started walking the path to achieve your goals.”
Elijah says he is committed to educating other kids like him who might want this opportunity—or who might not even know it exists. He encourages students to believe in themselves and to align themselves with a program—and people—that believes in them. Elijah knows firsthand how a little belief and support can have a life-altering impact.
“This program and the people around it have had such a profound influence on me. DRDFS hasn’t just changed my outlook—it’s changed my life.”