James Elliott, a recent graduate of Delaware Technical Community College, is the inaugural recipient of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) President’s Award for Leadership Excellence, a two-year transfer scholarship of up to $30,000 each academic year.
Elliott served as PTK’s 2019-2020 International President, the highest position of student leadership available, making history as the first convicted felon to hold International Office. In 2011, he was incarcerated for his role in an armed robbery and spent the next six years behind bars. He took courses through Ohio University and enrolled at Delaware Technical Community College upon his release, where he double majored in Human Services and Drug and Alcohol Counseling.
At Delaware Tech, Elliott served as the Delaware State President of his regional PTK officer team. He advocated for prison education and reform on his college campus and others and joined a roundtable discussion for state legislative changes regarding prison reform. In 2019 he was one of only 20 students nationwide named to the prestigious All-USA Academic Team and one of 49 students awarded PTK’s New Century Transfer Pathway Scholarship — again, the first convicted felon to receive either award.
This fall, he will attend Columbia University to major in political science with a concentration in human rights. He has also been named a Program for Academic Leadership and Service (PALS) Scholar at Columbia.
“In many ways, James Elliott represents the very best of Phi Theta Kappa,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, PTK’s President and CEO. “He has leveraged the organization to grow personally as a leader and academically, landing in the top spot among community college students in this country. And, more importantly, James has invested his time, talents, and energy in advocating for other students, particularly those who are still in prison.”
The PTK Board of Directors nominates and selects the President’s Award for Leadership Excellence recipient. The award is presented to an outstanding member showing exemplary service, leadership, and dedication to the advancement of the mission and ideals of the Society. It is the highest honor given by the PTK Board of Directors.