Like millions of other college graduates in America, Harlemite Elijah Dormeus, 22, was seated during his commencement ceremony donning his cap and gown listening to the keynote speaker, thinking about his future when he received an unexpected graduation gift.
“My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans,” were the words Dormeus, along with his 400 classmates at Morehouse College, heard from Black billionaire Robert F. Smith. The estimated $40 million weight was lifted off the shoulders of the students at the all-male, historically Black college.
Dormeus is a member of Morehouse’s graduating class that recently made headlines after Smith made the shocking announcement. However, for Dormeus, it means a fresh start to reaching his goals of mentoring youth in the community.
“When I heard the news I thought he was lying,” Dormeus said during a recent interview with the AmNews. “I let it digest and then I prayed and thanked God that I got this far. Then I jumped up and yelled.”
The announcement for Dormeus translates to over $100,000 he doesn’t have to repay in student loans and a burden taken off his mother, whom he credits as his inspiration. But it also has a deeper meaning.
“It means that I can now pay it forward for someone else in my own community and my family,” he said.
Earning his degree in business administration with a minor in sales, Dormeus was born and raised in Harlem where he graduated from Frederick Douglass Academy. He participated in Harlem Children’s Zone’s (HCZ) Employment and Technology Center where he served as a student ambassador.
While in school he participated in music, singing, track and also helped tutor other students. He landed at Morehouse when he was with friends at a local restaurant singing and an alumnus from the school approached him.
“He asked me if I was interested in going to college and if I wanted to attend Morehouse,” Dormeus said. “He handed me his business card and I reached out to him.”
The experience proved to be life-changing. Dormeus ended up being accepted into the college with the help and encouragement from several people including then-HCZ Managing Director and Morehouse alumnus Torian Robinson.
“Morehouse has taught me the power of giving,” Doremus said. “I’ve had the chance to be part of a brotherhood like no other and worked with future leaders.”
While at Morehouse, Dormeus participated in the school’s famed Glee Club, Martin Luther King Chapel Choir, Student Government Association and the National Leadership Honors Society.
As for the future, Dormeus said he wants to obtain a master’s degree in business administration and a Ph.D. in organizational leadership. His goal is to build a nonprofit foundation to help young Black students in underserved communities by helping them with mentoring, financial literacy and other services.
“Morehouse gave me the experience I will never forget and now I see myself in a way that I couldn’t before,” Dormeus said.