Aug. 5, 2013 8:30 am

Tearful speech from Baltimore teen reminds you why teachers matter [VIDEO]

Elijah Miles, an 18-year-old from Baltimore city, says teachers "transformed him" from wanting to become a drug dealer.

Elijah Miles.

Listen to Elijah Miles.

He’s the 18-year-old summer intern for Teach for America Baltimore who told a roomful of Teach for America recruits: “Everything that I am is because a couple of teachers like you saw through all that mess and all my faults and saw my potential, deep down inside Elijah, that I couldn’t see for myself.”

Watch Elijah Miles’ speech:

Wiping tears from his cheeks, Miles recounted how he wanted to be a drug dealer in high school, how his own mother was “in and out of jail” because of her own drug addiction, and how his best friend was shot and killed when Miles was 14.

Teachers, he said, “transformed” him, and taught him to love himself, other people, and the neighborhoods he calls home that are on the periphery of Baltimore’s tourist destinations.

Miles, who begins classes this fall at Morgan State University, said teachers are the most important part of his “dream for Baltimore city:” preventing his friends from thinking it’s OK “to kill each other and hurt each other” and instead instilling in them a love for each other and the neighborhoods they came from — as well as the will to make them better.

Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City,, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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