When Elijah Precciely enrolls in the honors college at Southern University next year he will have already published a book and submitted five patents for his inventions.
When he graduates, he will just be learning to drive.
The homeschooled 11-year-old from Baton Rouge has always shown an extraordinary amount of curiosity and a sharp ability to learn, asking his mother about all the bones in a human body and how taxes work by the time he was 3 years old
By the time he was 5 years old, Elijah preached his first sermon and was a guest on WTQT 106.1 FM radio station, where he now has his own weekly show.
He started taking classes at Southern University when he was 8 years old.
"I wasn't looking, 'Hey, I want to come up here to Southern University.' I didn't even know that I was going to get into a college," Elijah said Friday. "I was just being myself.”
Elijah, placing a Southern University cap on his head and sliding a columbia blue and gold letterman jacket over his collared shirt and bow tie, signed a letter accepting the academic scholarship with the university Friday morning in front of the university's board of supervisors and his family.
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He swiftly stepped up to the microphone, pulled out his notes in a leather folder and lowered the microphone before launching into a speech, thanking everyone who helped him make it there. Elijah listed them all by name, from his parents and sisters to the teachers who suggested moving him up a level at Trinity Children’s Academy when he was just 18 months old.
Elijah expounded on how grateful he was by discussing the concept of legacies, acknowledging not only that he is a "legacy" of his parents and teachers, but also of Southern University’s first president, for whom his scholarship is named.
“When I reflect on this Joseph S. Clark Presidential Scholars Award it means absolute legacy, nothing but legacy to me,” Elijah said. “Those that have paved the way, I want to thank you for paving the way in my education, and I will absolutely pave the way for others to do the impossible. I am elated.”
Elijah started building his own inventions at home at a young age before his mother, Pamela Precciely, a Southern University alumna, reached out to Dr. Diola Bagayoko, who is in the university's Physic's Department, about finding Elijah some lab space on the campus. Bagayoko encouraged Elijah to join his classes. Elijah went on to take biology, physics and business classes at Southern University.
“I appreciate that the staff never turned him away with his questions,” his mother said. “Sometimes he would want to teach the class and that’s okay because they understood that that’s the highest form of testing and Elijah has done research on that.”
He plans to study physics and mechanical engineering through the honors college on a full-ride scholarship that starts in the spring. Due to the time he has already spent in the classroom at the university, Elijah will begin as a sophomore and plans to spend four years at the university to finish a five-year program.
“We are pleased to offer Elijah Precciely the J.S. Clark Presidential Scholar award," Southern University President Ray Belton said Friday when introducing Elijah to the board. "As a J.S. Clark Scholar, he will engage in research and other scholarly activities as part of the honors college.”
Pamela Precciely and Stephen Precciely, Elijah's father, said they always cultivated Elijah's curiosity and didn't hesitate to bring in other people like Bagayoko when Elijah's "technical vernacular," as Elijah called it, went over their heads.
“Find that child’s genius, what they like, and nurture that even if you have to seek outside help, then that’s what you do and that’s what we did," Stephen Precciely said, advising other parents to do the same.
Outside of the classroom, Elijah spends time with his best friend 10-year-old Reginald Ellis II, who will start at Southern University Lab School in the fall. The pair met at a homeschool co-op when they were toddlers.
They conduct experiments, grinding down blue lillies from the Precciely’s backyard to make ink. The pair constantly scheme over business plans, whether it’s owning a basketball team or making a deal for Reginald’s lemonade stand. Elijah makes fruit ice cubes that he sells to his friend.
Reginald carried copies of Elijah’s book, "Mission Christian God’s Got First", on Friday and quickly handed Elijah a copy, as if on cue, when Elijah mentioned the book during an interview with multiple journalists.
Elijah turned to a page and read from it, explaining how passages in the book contain life lessons.
“It teaches children that they are loved and also that they can do great exploits and great things because if a person doesn’t know that, they’ll never be successful,” Elijah said. “If they’re never told they can be successful, they never will be because that’s never been put in them.”
Elijah, who calls himself a “life-long learner" jokes about how the scholarship is an answer to his prayers because he was already worried about college debt. In the pocket of his suit jacket he keeps a stack of business cards that identify him as an author, entrepreneur and inventor before including a quote from Albert Einstein.
“Theory without practice is lame. Practice without theory is blind,” the quote says.
When asked what it feels like to be the mother of a prodigy, Pamela Precciely shared an analogy that the family has come to use.
“When you’re in the kitchen cooking, you don’t always smell the strength of the aroma,” Pamela Precciely said. “However, when other people come in and they smell it, they say ‘What are you cooking?’ We’re just used to it.”