No matter how old you are, setting a personal goal means committing to the hard work, dedication and follow-through required to achieve success. Just ask Elijah Clary '28, who earlier this school year was crowned "Little Mr. 1910" after taking second place in the Little Mister and Miss NCCU Pageant.
When he first heard about the program from a friend, Elijah thought it sounded like fun.
"I wanted to participate because I had a lot of trophies already and thought this one would be the biggest," he said, smiling.
Getting to the trophy, though, required a lot of preparation and effort. The program, sponsored by North Carolina Central University, aims to build confidence, poise and public speaking skills in children with an interest in attending the university. In addition to competing on-stage in categories including formal wear, oratory and talent, participants are expected to raise money in support of NCCU's community service and cultural awareness goals. The top three boys and girls in the pageant join current NCCU students as part of the Royal Court, representing the school at public events.
"Elijah went to the first meeting to learn about the program and really enjoyed it," his mother, Demetrice Clary, said. "As he practiced at home and rehearsed with the other children, his confidence increased and his public speaking improved. A lot of the things that had not been strong points for him improved."
One of Elijah's favorite parts of the pageant was a dance routine with the other children. "When I first saw all the people in the crowd, I was kind of nervous," he remembered. "But I realized I was with other people so I shouldn't be nervous, because they were doing it with me."
In fact, it was the camaraderie between contestants that Elijah enjoyed the most.
"I'm the only child in my family," he said. "It was like having other brothers."
As Little Mr. 1910 — a title which reflects the year of the university's founding — Elijah has made appearances with the other winners (his counterpart, Little Miss 1910, plus first-place winners Little Mr. and Miss NCCU and third-place winners Little Mr. and Miss Eagle Pride) at events such as NCCU's Homecoming in October and, on Feb. 3, will participate in the 16th Annual NC MLK-Black History Month Parade & Block Party in Durham.
Members of the group have also taken the initiative in fulfilling another important responsibility of the Royal Court: community service. With his friend Kennedy, who serves as Little Miss 1910, Elijah provided meals for members of Durham's homeless population on Christmas Day.
"It made me feel good that we were helping them have something to eat," he said. "Even though it was cold, we still went."
His commitment to service has helped Elijah in performing all of his duties. But he still thinks winning trophies is pretty awesome, too.
"The one I got says '2nd Place,'" he said, "and I'm in second grade!"
Below, Elijah with his friend Kennedy, Little Miss 1910; Elijah on campus at the statue of NCCU founder James E. Shephard.