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Young man overcomes abuse, gets 10K scholarship

Posted at 3:19 PM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-10 17:23:20-04

A young man overcame abuse and neglect as a child and is now giving back to his community in droves.

It got the attention of the Salvation Army, and Tuesday he and eight other Nebraska students will receive the Salvation Army DJ's hero award.

Elijah Clark has seen the world from many views. A Creighton Prep senior, he's done with finals and ready for graduation. His view as a child, though, is a total 180 from today.

"When I was young, when I was born, my mother was addicted to drugs. She loved something other that myself, is what it felt like to me," he said.

Elijah's father got custody of him, and when he was eight, he moved to Omaha. Elijah changed schools again in high school, which made for another struggle. He lost some friends, his grades were struggling,  and he was fighting wit his dad.

"I was spirally downward with my grades, my academic probation, my disciplinary here. I told myself that like I couldn't be loved and that all that I deserved was abandonment."

He said it wasn't like a light bulb went off, but something changed in him his junior year.
"I had to start trusting people or it wasn't going to get better. I had to accept the things I couldn't change," Clark said.

From there, things changed. Clark volunteered, and found purpose and inspiration in helping others.  He spent his summer days delivering food for the Open Door Mission. During the school year he tutored kids. He helped special needs children at Spring Lake Elementary. He also worked with a refugee resettlement organization.

"People that are impoverished or homeless that need help, because I've been there once," he said.

That's on top of three jobs. Clark's determination and hard work was enough to get the attention of his teacher, Ralph Setter, who nominated him for the Salvation Army's DJ Hero award.

"He's just shown great fortitude, diligence, and perseverance," Setter said.

This fall, Elijah Clark will add another perspective. He'll be the first member of his family to attend and graduate college.Thanks to the DJ Hero award, he'll start with a ten thousand dollar scholarship to help pay for it.

"I was just sitting in class and I read it and I was like, lets go! I was really excited, but I was just like yay, and didn't tell anyone. I went back to work."

All the while, with a humble view.