Operation Graduation 2015: Elijah Hamilton (Chicago)

Be brave

For many Ombudsman students, the journey to receiving their diploma has been complicated. West Side native, 18-year-old Elijah Hamilton, stopped going to school twice and attributes a large portion of his success in overcoming life’s obstacles to the support system he found at Ombudsman.

“I initially dropped out because I was tired of all the negativity at my old high school,” said Hamilton. “I was in a really dark place at the time, thinking down on myself and feeling like I was not going to amount to anything in life.”

After learning about Ombudsman from a friend, Elijah re-enrolled in school and was working to get back-on-track; however, his progress was abruptly halted when he became an unintended victim of gun violence earlier this year.

“I got shot in the face with a bullet that wasn’t even for me,” said Hamilton. “In the hospital, all I could think about were the things I had not gotten a chance to do yet – getting my first job, earning my diploma, starting a family.”

After two months out of school, Elijah’s second comeback was eased by the support and personalized attention he received from the staff at Ombudsman.

“The teachers at Ombudsman really helped me catch up with the work, and they were always very thorough,” said Hamilton. “At my former high school they just gave us work and if you didn’t know it, then you just didn’t know it.”

Elijah stresses the important role school plays in success and survival. He expresses hope that other students who are faced with some of the challenges he has experienced will commit to their education.

“School is the most important thing you could ever do,” said Hamilton. “Even though times get dark, walk thru darkness and somewhere at end of the tunnel you will find light.”

After graduation, Elijah has his hopes set on going into the Army and studying architecture.