Student Spotlight: Elijah Leano ‘26

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Elijah Leano '26 hosted Move for Martell in 2021.

On March 7, 2021, Elijah Leano ‘26 hosted the inaugural Move For Martell: Walk/Skate/Bike event, benefitting the T.J. Martell Foundation. Despite facing some challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event raised more than $800, all of which will go directly to the Foundation to help cancer research. More than 20 walkers, skaters, and bikers, and even people on stilts and pogo sticks, were in attendance, and Elijah was able to complete the marathon goal of 26.5 miles through many different modes of transportation. Read on to learn more about how Move for Martell came to fruition, Elijah’s love for music, how he found a new passion at Gulliver, and more.

Q: What inspired you to put together an event like Move for Martell? How did your partnership with the T.J. Martell Foundation come about?

Elijah Leano '26 hosted Move for Martell in 2021.

A: Music has always been a really big part of my life, and additionally, my hero was my grandfather who died of cancer. My older sister runs a charity event that involves raising funds for cancer research through tennis, but I wanted to do something that involved my interests. While researching, I discovered the T.J. Martell Foundation, which collects funds for cancer research. Tony Martell was a music executive whose son, T.J.Martell, died of leukemia. Tony created the T.J. Martell Foundation as a promise to his son to raise money for cancer research so other kids with cancer could live longer lives. I connected with their foundation to set up my charity event. Move for Martell mixes music and skateboarding, all to benefit finding a cure for cancer.

Q: Your family has always been fond of music, and you play several instruments and have even sang in the past. Why do you love music so much?

A: There’s something in music that pleases me. It’s like looking at a beautiful painting, and when all the different colors mix together, it makes this awesome piece. When certain chord progressions play, or unique tempos are used, it just makes me happy to be able to appreciate such beauty. From a young age, my dad exposed me to everything, like Duran Duran, the Beatles, Taylor Swift, and more, so I’ve learned to appreciate all different types of music.

Q: In your two years at Gulliver, what teacher has had the most impact on you, and why?

A: Mrs. Lafarga, my history teacher last year. I didn’t really ever have a favorite class, but Mrs. Lafarga made history something to look forward to in the day – not just because of her caring personality, but more because of how interesting she made her class, as well as current events.

Q: While at Gulliver, have you discovered a new passion? 

A: While at Gulliver, I learned that my passion is helping others. Last year when I was in sixth grade, Dr. Blue reached out to me and asked me to welcome new students to Gulliver and participate in the admissions video for prospective students, and I couldn’t be more excited! In fact, even though we are in this harsh time, I still managed to participate in introducing new students to our school through Zoom, and it was quite the experience as those prospective students are now my classmates.

Q: What activities and clubs are you involved in at school? 

A: One activity that I have been deeply involved in at school is the drama plays and musicals. I scored a role in last year’s Midsummer Night’s Dream as an understudy, and I was incredibly excited to be a part of that wonderful show. By the time spring rolled around, I was able to be Spot Conlon of the Brooklyn Newsies. However, COVID prohibited us from performing, and Newsies was never able to go onstage. This year, I had a creative experience with performing an online play entitled The Most Likely Pages, and I was able to play the role of Walt Majors. All in all, I have had a great experience with activities with the school.

Middle school student building.

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