PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “With exposure and familiarity comes acceptance,” says Karen Hicks.
That is a lesson she and her family learned from their son and brother, Andrew. The West Chester teen spent time during the summer volunteering alongside his church in the City of Chester at the Frederick Douglas School.
“At first he was very uncomfortable,” says Karen, “but after a while he grew to love it.
Karen says, Andrew was always a very appreciative young man. He realized early on how blessed he was to attend Henderson High School in West Chester. But he also realized the serious inequality between his city and the City of Chester. He wanted the kids he spent time with in Chester to have the same opportunities that he had.
“He said ‘why does it have to be so obvious where the white people live and where the black people live. It’s just not right,'” says Karen.
Andrew worked to get his entire family engaged in his summer work in Chester. But Andrew died in a tragic accident in 2010 when he fell off of a cliff while the family was on vacation in California. As they waited to bring Andrew home for burial, the Hicks family began thinking what they could do to honor Andrew’s legacy.
“We felt like God was telling us to get his high school friends engaged,” says Karen.
The family started the Andrew L. Hicks Jr. Foundation. The endeavor began with an outing that brought the mostly white kids from Henderson High School together with mostly black youth from the City of Chester.
“A lot of high school kids struggle with ‘do I have anything to offer,'” says Karen. “We made it easy for them, and they loved it.”
Karen says the West Chester students wanted to do more. Bowling and trampoline park visits then grew into mentoring programs and more. Their goal was to expose the kids from Chester to new places and opportunities and to show the kids from West Chester that they have something to bring to the table.
“Every month we started doing events,” says Karen. “So many kids made this happen, the kids became friends and loved on each other and it helped both the Henderson kids and the Chester kids. They don’t have those preconceived notions that many adults have.”
Today, the Andrew Hicks Jr. Foundation provides mentoring and leadership opportunities for kids from Chester from grades 5 to 10. Karen says their goal is to expand the program through 12th grade to provide college, career and job opportunities for Chester youth.
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Giving kids the opportunity to know kids who are not like them and for showing kids they have a lot to give,” Karen said.