RICHMOND, Va. — Elijah Lee isn’t old enough to vote, but he feels most comfortable lobbying at the Virginia State Capitol.
The 15-year-old from Chesterfield County, Virginia can’t drive. But he thrives being a vehicle for progress.
Elijah is the founder of Hear Our Voices, a nonprofit through which he advocates for fellow teens and children.
“Our young people are the most important resource in any community," Lee said.
“Our entire motto and vision is dedicated to lifting up our young people," Lee said. "That means talking about human trafficking and child abuse in our communities. That means talking to community members and stakeholders within those communities to how we can better support our young people.”
One of Elijah’s first acts was to raise money to build a safe room for victims of child abuse at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
“I think it was the feeling of not being able to understand what some of my peers were going through and a level of pain that hurt the most," he said.
The young man encourages other teens to become socially aware.
“The great part about it is that we live in a world and nation where change is always possible," he said.
The North Carolina native is no shrinking violet. He regularly delivers remarks at marches and civil rights commemorations.
His activism is attracting a lot of attention.
Lee has been featured nationally in magazines, on television, and even as a character in the comic Marvel’s "Hero Project."
Maggie Walker High School teachers Amy Maxey and Adam Rotche said fellow students naturally gravitate toward their blossoming freshman.
“Oh, he is a leader in the classroom. Definitely. Yes,” Maxey said. “The class has already pegged him to be in the political realm and we’re excited to see how far he gets. Yes. I see him making a difference in the world.”
“Elijah is already planning for a future beyond where most high school students can see. He is only a freshman,” Rotche added.
Lee's bedroom, decorated with political posters and causes he supports, is his sanctuary.
It’s also home to his growing collection of bracelets and sunglasses.
“It is just part of my identity now at Maggie Walker,” he said.
He may shine, but Elijah Lee admits he has worked tirelessly to find his voice.
“I think I found this level where I’m moving through life with joy and passion with hope and kindness and hopefully that is what is reciprocated,” he said.
With all of his publicity, Lee's proud mom Jessica makes sure her rising teen has stayed grounded by finishing his homework and cleaning his room.
“I can assure you that as much as I have sewn into him. He has sewn into me threefold,” she said. “When the rest of the room is saying, ‘That was a phenomenal speech’ or ‘You moved me,’ I’m saying ‘You kind of rushed that.’ I’m critical of that. I want to keep him humble.”
The young man who has already accomplished so much said his journey is just beginning.
“I don’t see youth advocacy as this one thing. I see merely my work as passing on the torch from people like John Lewis,” Lee said.
Elijah Lee is a teen always on the go. Just wait till he gets his license.
"I’m taking every day one day at a time and recognizing what can I learn from today. How can I grow today? And how can we move not only Virginia but our nation forward today," he said. "That is the one thing that I’m keeping in mind.”