Johnson Earns Prestigious Scholarship to MIT

By Jennifer L. Warren

POUGHKEEPSIE – Elijah Johnson recalls it with compassion, empathy and humility. It was an emotional, very personal moment when he realized the path he wanted to pursue in life.
“My Aunt lived her entire life in a wheelchair; she really suffered, and could not afford artificial limbs which she was self-conscious about even using,” recounted the Poughkeepsie High School senior Johnson. “I really understood how she felt, and wanted to be able to create limbs that are more realistic looking and affordable to people some day.”

Johnson will now have that very life-transforming opportunity, as he recently earned a full Quest Bridge Scholarship to attend the highly competitive Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this fall. The approximately $200,000 package, provided to 1,674 (narrowed down from a highly qualified initial pool of 30,000) students nationwide, will cover both direct and indirect costs for four years. Over 50 colleges partner with Quest Bridge, offering the elite scholarships; however, Johnson, who is strongly considering a Bioengineering major, had long-time lofty aspirations of specifically getting into one: MIT.
“I had been researching colleges for years- since I was a freshman, and although I really liked MIT, I didn’t think I could ever get into that school,” said Johnson. “I learned a lot about them because they are so well publicized, and I really liked their engineering program for its theoretical and practical approaches that emphasize a mission of ‘work by mind and hand.’”

It’s that humility-whether it’s regarding academic, athletic or just his general character- that strikes one most when encountering the well-rounded Johnson. Possessing a top ranking in his 2022 Class-with a schedule loaded with Honors and AP courses- Johnson has also been a member (as well as one year President) of the Math and Science Olympiad teams, is on both his Varsity Track and Field and Crew teams, as well as has a job where he tallies 20 hours a week. Add to all this, the energy- laden, focused Johnson is a long-time member of Upward Bound at nearby Marist College, and the first person in the Program’s 55 year history to earn a scholarship to MIT. It’s all those accolades- and so much more- that earned him the immediate respect and adoration of his Poughkeepsie High School Principal, Kellyann Royce-Giron.

“When I came back home to PHS to be the Principal a couple of years ago, I had these visions of what I wanted my students to be; I thought about how I wanted them to enter the world after being here and how they can make a difference,” said Royce-Giron. “When I look at Elijah, I see a brilliant, driven and humble young man, who is a true advocate for himself as well as what’s best for his peers and community and someone who truly wants to help others.” She added, “I’m just so super proud of and excited to see what he accomplishes the next four years; he’s not at all done yet, and we already plan on having him come back here some day and share all of that with our school community.”

Johnson smiles at the thought of some day returning to PHS and sharing his journey. After all, it holds a special place in his heart, a much welcomed final stop of sorts, after multiple moves during his elementary and junior high school years. Finally, feeling “at home,” he discovered an assortment of intangible gems when he entered the halls of PHS as a freshman.

“This place is just so nice with so many great people,” said Johnson, as he reflected upon his school’s impact. “I have made a lot of really special friends, and being here with them has really allowed me to finally find balance in my life.”

His PHS tenure also exposed him to Upward Bound, a program for low-income youth that provides assistance with SAT prep, the college application process, tutoring and recreational opportunities. Johnson, who is still in contact with his Upward Bound mentor, credits the Program with helping him really solidify his goals and ambition while experiencing personal growth.

When asked about what he wants to achieve at MIT and beyond, the always humble Johnson, wears a pensive look while pondering the question, but seems more focused on celebrating the here and now: Enjoying the remaining months of his senior year, reveling in that elusive balance, and just quietly being the very best version of himself.

As for the future, most people who have had the fortune of knowing Johnson would agree with his Principal’s four words: “He’s not done yet.”

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