Los Angeles

You Rock, E-Jayy: Compton Teen Accepted to Harvard Visits LA Schools

A teen from Compton, who once described lying on the floor to avoid gunfire as bullets flew by when he was a child, is now thriving during his freshmen year at Harvard, and is on a speaking tour to encourage others to do the same.

"I went from Compton to Harvard, and you can too," he said to a room full of students at Fremont High School in the Florence area of South Los Angeles.

NBC4 met Elijah "E-Jayy" Christopher DeVaughn in December 2016, right after the 17-year-old discovered his hard work and perseverance had paid off, and he was Harvard-bound.

The teen would commute 45 minutes to Palos Verdes to attend the Chadwick School on a scholarship.

Now, E-Jayy is on a speaking tour around Los Angeles, hoping to inspire other high school students to aspire to achieve their dreams, whether they be Harvard or something else - something more.

He grew up with a father incarcerated, and his mother at times struggling to scrape change together to buy him a chicken sandwich at McDonald's.

"Obviously growing up in poverty, those things aren't easy," he said. "But I think because of those very things, because of those struggles, how I leaned into that and how I loved those struggles was ultimately what empowered me to want more for myself, my family and for Compton."

E-Jayy said his story is, of course, from Compton to Harvard - but he doesn't want people to forget the "back to Compton again" part.

"As a black man in America and growing up as many black men do in America, I think what motivated me is I'm trying to change the narrative," he said.

As for the future, E-Jayy said he's interested in acting, and politics, as he surmises that's the area where he can give back most to his city.

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