When John Jay senior Elijah Font was recently interviewed by Fox 5, the focus of the conversation was his involvement in the CUNY Cultural Corps, an offshoot of CUNY Service Corps. While it didn’t come across in the interview, Font’s involvement in the program represents just one aspect of his extensive involvement on campus, where the Criminal Justice major is easily one of the most active and motivated students one might find.
Font became involved in CUNY Cultural Corps after working with the Service Corps for several years, where his first position was with the organization Senior Planet, helping the elderly understand technology and integrate computers into their lives. This eventually turned into a full time paid position through the JFEW summer extension program. And while he was keeping busy teaching seniors how to use iPhones, he also signed up with John Jay’s Office of Community Outreach and Service Learning, where he soon found himself in Brownsville working on initiatives like Treats for Troops, organizing toy drives, and participating in sex-education programs.
“The ultimate goal has always been to help people no matter who they are,” said Font, who credits his family for giving him the inspiration to serve others. He grew up on the Lower East Side where his mother was a public school teacher who firmly believed in the importance of education and involvement in the arts. Encouraged by his mother, he learned piano, cello, violin, flute and clarinet, and also took classes in hip-hop dance.
Like many John Jay students, TV shows like Law and Order and CSI are what first prompted Font’s interest in criminal justice. He first enrolled in the forensic science program, but by the time he was a sophomore, he realized that his interests had changed. “Law was calling me,” he said, “and it’s been my passion ever since.” Font hopes to enroll in the new J.D./M.A. in Forensic Psychology program and eventually become a family court lawyer.
As a child of divorce, he knows well the shortcomings of the system, observing that the sensitive nature of the work does not attract a lot of lawyers. “I’m a child of family court so I know the system. And now I want to go back and change that system,” he said. “We’re taught at John Jay that we need to have justice, and what better way to achieve that than to secure justice for a family.”
Today, Font’s interest in music has come full circle, his work with the CUNY Cultural Corps having brought him to Carnegie Hall. He started out conducting extensive research on criminal justice issues for the famous concert venue, which works extensively with at-risk youth and community courts in the five boroughs. He was soon promoted to his current role as manager of the NeON Arts program, which “offers young people the chance to explore the arts through a variety of creative projects at seven community-based probation offices.”
Font works closely with the director of the program, helping to distribute grant funding to local nonprofits in the arts field. “So I’ve gone from looking at files and writing papers to being on-site, going around the five boroughs having conversations and discussions. A lot of what they’re doing is social work, and it’s having a huge impact on the community,” he said.