As part of our “Get to Know Groundwork” series, we've been spotlighting members of our amazing team. This week, we’re getting to know Elijah Smith, who joined Groundwork Ohio in January of 2023.
Elijah Smith is the Policy Assistant at Groundwork Ohio. In this role, Elijah will support Groundwork Ohio’s mission to ensure that every child has the best chance for lifelong success. As part of his work, he will build relationships with public policy professionals and advocates to build a strong network to fight for children and their caregivers.
Prior to joining Groundwork Ohio, Elijah served in various positions in the Ohio House of Representatives and the United States Senate. In those roles, he led constituent outreach efforts and worked to effectively advocate for the people of Ohio and their needs.
Check out our Q&A with Elijah to learn more about why he’s a passionate advocate for young children and families in Ohio!
Q: What drew you to early childhood policy research and advocacy? Tell us more about your “why”!
Public service is about identifying the needs in a community and working relentlessly to meet those needs. Lifting someone up and offering a helping hand is a fulfilling privilege, and service is one of the greatest honors one can have in their life. Groundwork Ohio has given me the opportunity to advocate and give a voice to those who need it the most – children and their families.
Children are Ohio’s future workforce, government leaders, and business executives. Standing up for equity in the education and development of our children will ensure that Ohio is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received or a lesson that you’ve learned that has helped you in this work?
I was once told that “All you have are friends and future friends.” The world is full of fascinating people and everyone has something to contribute. This philosophy ensures that no one is discounted and everyone is respected - principles that are crucial to children, families, and their futures.
Q: What’s your motivating word for 2023?
Listen. Being a voice for those who need it is not just about talking, lecturing, and producing content. Providing a voice is only beneficial if you have the ability to listen to those who need help. Oftentimes, if you talk more than you listen, you will miss the things you need to hear the most.
Q: When you aren’t advocating on behalf of young children and families, what do you enjoy doing?
Toni Morrison once said that “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” I take that quote to heart and write anything and everything that pops into my head. I have the pleasure of doing the majority of my writing on a 1953 manual typewriter that I refurbished by hand.
Q: Describe a scene from your vision of the future for Ohio’s youngest children and their caregivers.
My vision doesn’t merely focus on a fully stocked classroom full of excited young children ready to learn. It doesn’t just focus on a well-equipped teacher or well-fed children. My hope is that those things become the norm rather than the exception and that we can envision a crowded stadium in late May, full of graduates ready to embark on their next adventure.