RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On a typical day, fourth-grader Elijah Robins spends his time studying at Mary Munford Elementary School. He dreams of one day being an engineer. However, last month, he became the youngest student to present at Yale University’s National Initiative, a program dedicated to strengthening teaching in public schools. Robins represented the entire city of Richmond.

“It feels right when I start to talk usually, I can’t stop sometimes,” Robins said. “It was just like eating cake almost, a very amusing moment.”

His teacher Valerie Schwarz recommended him to be one of the four students across the country to speak in front of an auditorium of peers, Yale professors and other faculty.

Elijah Robins speaks at the Yale National Initiative 2022. Photo courtesy of Sierra Krug / 8News

“I kind of said, I have a student and he has ‘it,'” Schwarz said. “It’s kind of hard to say what ‘it’ was, but he has a presence, he has charisma.”

Robins also has a passion for space and science. At the conference, he shared things he’s learned in this year’s school curriculum with a room full of people older than him. The material was based off of Yale University science curriculum. The topic of life on different planets particularly piqued Robins’ interest.

“I wasn’t comparing myself I was thinking of them as an equal,” Robins said. “They were teachers, and they weren’t going to say anything bad to you, but…they were teachers…and they were older and knew more stuff.”

Robins hasn’t always loved public speaking, but it is something that’s always come somewhat naturally to him. With support from his teacher, peers, and family, Robins described the experience as both exciting and nerve-wracking. He said he knew the end goal of showcasing his knowledge with others was going to be worth the pressure and hard work.

“It’s more about not thinking about what would you do if you did mess up,” Robins said. “It’s more about what would happen if you don’t mess up, like what good could come out of this, not what’s bad.”