Elijah N. Sharma

Elijah N. Sharma

GUILDERLAND — A vibrant man filled with the conviction of his beliefs, Elijah N. Sharma died on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. He was 22.

“Elijah was best known for his unwavering advocacy against injustice,” his family wrote in a tribute. “He was a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and directed that personal discipline towards the betterment of others. Elijah served as the Northeast regional director for the Young Democrats, through which he was invited to attend President Obama's inauguration.”

“He was a kid who lived life to the fullest,” said Greg Goutos of Altamont. “He was very talkative, opinionated in a good way. He could talk about politics, music, fashion…”

Mr. Goutos’s daughter, Corinna, was Mr. Sharma’s close friend since middle school. “They were soul mates. He was like a brother to her. I watched him grow up,” said Mr. Goutos, noting it was Elijah who had convinced his daughter to become a vegetarian.

As a freshman at Guilderland High School, Mr. Sharma and Ms. Goutos founded Last Chance for Animals GHS.

“I’ve been raised to be kind and tolerant and respectful,” said Sharma at the time on why he founded the club.

He was born in New Hartford on Feb. 7, 1991, the son of Angel R. and Anita K. (Sharma) Luckina. He attended Sacred Heart School in Utica, until his family relocated to Guilderland in September 2001.

“As a young person,” his family wrote, “Elijah attended Redeemer Church. It was there he learned the love of Jesus and it became second nature for him to always put others first.”

Throughout his school days at Guilderland, Mr. Sharma was involved in an evolving series of causes, often getting results, but not deterred even when results weren’t forthcoming.

As club co-presidents of Last Chance, Mr. Sharma and Ms. Goutos helped get vegetarian burgers on the menu at the school cafeteria. “They’re served every day now,” Mr. Sharma, a vegan, said proudly at the time.

The pair also took stances on issues outside the world of school, for example, gathering signatures on petitions calling for an end to production of foie gras in New York State. At that point, Mr. Sharma said he wanted to be a “human and animal rights attorney.”

Later, as a junior, he won an Outstanding Activist Award from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals after the club held a protest to advocate for a ban of dissection and vivisection in biology classes. After the Last Chance protest, the school agreed to better publicize an opt-out policy.

That same year, Mr. Sharma got exposure on the peta2.com website as a “Star Street Teamer,” with pictures and an interview posted. He worked as a freelance model and thought about becoming a makeup artist with heart.

“When I grow up,” he said his junior year, “I want to focus on youth and cosmetics and fashion as linked to animal welfare…It would be cool to push brands of makeup that have stopped animal testing and brands of clothing that have stopped using furs.”

The summer between his junior and senior years, Mr. Sharma funneled support for two high-school social studies teachers who rallied students to fight their transfer to the middle school.

Students, recent graduates, and community members packed the school board’s meeting hall as the protests got extensive press coverage. The board stuck with the decision and ultimately one of the teachers left for another job and the other was later transferred back to the high school.

Sharma rallied on and, before that spring’s budget vote, founded a group to try to vote down the school budget. He dubbed it “the Guilderland Tea Party” after the revolutionary one in Boston and ahead of the national Tea Party movement.

“Since we believe there’s a tradition of tax resistance in America when people ignore their constituents,” Sharma said at the time, “we’re urging people to vote down the budget unless our demands are met.”

In 2009 and 2010, Sharma ran for a seat on the Guilderland School board.  In his first run, in 2009, when he was a high school senior, Sharma described himself as the first openly gay candidate to run for the school board.

He had served as a trainer for the National Coalition Building Institute, an organization founded in 1984 to eliminate prejudice. “I’ve seen it change students,” he said at the time.

In both school-board elections, which he lost, Mr. Sharma campaigned against bullying and for environmental stewardship.

After graduating from Guilderland, he went on to Hudson Valley Community College where he was appointed to serve as student trustee of the Board of Trustees. He transferred to the University at Albany, graduating in May 2013 cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science political science and communications. Mr. Sharma planned to go on to law school.

Ever the activist and thinking of others, Mr. Sharma wrote The Enterprise earlier this fall that he had moved into his own apartment in Guilderland, and, having been diagnosed with Lyme disease, he wanted to start a “local organization to support victims of Lyme and to advocate for patient care and understanding.”

“He had human rights and animal rights driving him,” said Mr. Goutos. “He was always so energetic.”

“Elijah loved people, all people, and it was his desire to serve them,” his family concluded. “Elijah also greatly loved the Capital Region. He wanted to spend his life here, and he did.”

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Elijah N. Sharma is survived by his parents, Angel and Anita (Sharma) Luckina; his sister, Grace; his grandparents, Dr. Yogendra and Kathleen Sharma and Norberto and Donna Rosado; his aunts and uncles, Latika Sharma, Dr. Krishn and Sara Sharma, Dr. Aaron and Andrea Sharma, Donald and Tina (Rosado) Bailey, Carmecita Rosado, and Norberto Rosado; and by his great-aunts and great-uncles and cousins too numerous to name.

“But all loved Elijah and all were loved dearly by him,” his family wrote. “Elijah's love for others touched countless people over the years and he made many friends, including long-time childhood friends Graziella, Corrina, McKenzie, and Brie. But one friend, Carmen N. Branca III, shared a special place in Elijah's heart. Thank you, Carmen, for all you did for Elijah.”

 Elijah Sharma also had a cat, Apollo.

“We give thanks to God for allowing us the privilege of sharing Elijah's life,” his family wrote. “Elijah was a precious gift that showed us the way to Jesus, the most precious gift of all. We did nothing to deserve these gifts. We also want say thank you to all our family, including our Redeemer family, and friends for the outpouring of love and support.”

Funeral services will be held on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013, at 11:30 a.m. at the McVeigh Funeral Home, 208 North Allen St., Albany with interment following in Albany Rural Cemetery.

Relatives and friends are invited and may call on Wednesday, Nov. 27, from 4 to 7 p.m. in the funeral home. Mourners may leave messages or obtain directions online at McveighFuneralHome.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to the International Justice Mission, Post Office Box 96961, Washington, D.C., 20090-6961.

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