Elijah Falk: $1500 Second Place

Elijah Falk is a 2016 high school graduate who attends Pitzer College in Claremont, CA

He is looking forward to a future career in education.  His professor says, “Elijah has been a pleasure to have in my class because of thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion for others, maturity, analytical skills, and passion for social justice which will be an asset not only in his future career in education, but also to our society as a whole.”

As a high school junior Elijah became aware that the federal government had introduced a new mandatory standardized test for 11th grade students as part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  This 8 1/2 hour assessment was only available on computers and the testing time was spread out over a week, replacing core Language Arts and History classes.  The failure rate was estimated to be over 60%, and for those who did pass, the test didn’t offer many rewards.  This test was not required for graduation and was not significant in college acceptance. State employees were required, by law to administer the test, but students did not face the same obligations when it came to take the test.  As a member of the student senate at his high school, Elijah had access to detailed information about the test and was able to make careful, calculated decisions about how he felt about it.  This was not true for most of his classmates.  Many didn’t know what the test was, let alone that they had the option to refuse to take it.  By creating a class Facebook page and using flyers he succeeded in informing all of his peers to read about the test and decide for themselves whether or not to take it.  This resulted in 100% refusal rate by the students.  Instead of taking the test they all attended their Language Arts and History classes. 

Elijah has logged over 130 hours of volunteer work at Huerta del Valle, a food justice organization in California. 

He was also involved in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange course at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, CA where he sat in on a class composed of 12 Pitzer students, 12 prisoners and 1 Pitzer Professor. It was there that he was inspired by the revolutionary potential of empowering education and began to consider a career in education.

Elijah also worked at Jump-Start, an organization committed to closing the achievement gap that affects children from under-resourced communities and spent time abroad in Costa Rica and Ecuador where he taught English to 6th and 7th grade students.

We have no doubt that Elijah will “impact the world through his education” as he hopes.  Elijah is sponsored by his grandmother, Leta Weiss Marks ‘51.