Cathedral’s Hicks goes to Lott Institute

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, September 11, 2013

NATCHEZ — When John Ashton Hicks arrived at the University of Mississippi, he brought three basic essentials to ensure his three-week stay on campus lived up to the full college experience.

Submitted photo — John Ashton Hicks, far right, was joined by high school freshmen from across the state to participate in the Lott Leadership Institute.

Submitted photo — John Ashton Hicks, far right, was joined by high school freshmen from across the state to participate in the Lott Leadership Institute.

“I brought my own Xbox, refrigerator and TV,” Hicks said. “It was pretty much like I was moving in to college for real.”

But the Cathedral School freshman still has a few years until he’ll be enrolled in college and staying in a dorm of his own.

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Hicks, 14, was among 80 students from across the state who participated in the Lott Leadership Institute for Rising Ninth Graders program at the University of Mississippi.

The program is designed to develop critical thinking and leadership skills in soon-to-be-high school freshmen in hopes those students will return to their schools and put the new skills to work for the betterment of the community.

From June 16 to July 5, Hicks experienced what college life would be like including the academics.

“The theme of the whole thing was, ‘Problems in American Democracy,’ so we debated several topics from gun rights to abortion,” Hicks said. “We had books to read and reports to do, so it was a good bit of work.

“It wasn’t too bad though.”

Students in the program had to report to class each morning from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., including a lunch break.

“We’d have class all day, get to walk around campus and eat at the student union and then after we got to do other stuff around campus,” Hicks said. “We would go swimming sometimes or play soccer in The Grove, and we played a lot of ultimate Frisbee.”

The program also required students to participate in a service project to enhance the notion of stewardship.

“We were going to go into town and help paint houses and other stuff like that, but they changed the schedule, and we helped them with a Fourth of July event they were having on campus,” Hicks said. “We worked some of the games the people could play and then we all went to Swayze Field and watched fireworks.”

The students also took a trip to Jackson one weekend to tour the state Capitol and governor’s mansion.

Hicks said his favorite part of the trip was getting to meet and interact with other students from across the state.

“Everybody was really easy to talk to, and we all got along really well,” Hicks said. “You would think most people from Mississippi would know where Natchez is because of all the history, but I did have to tell a few people where exactly I was from.”

Hicks said the trip also allowed him to become more familiar with Ole Miss, which he hopes to attend after he graduates high school.

“I went back this past weekend, and I was showing my dad where everything was and getting around the campus really easily,” Hicks said. “I’ve kind of turned my whole family into Ole Miss fans and supporters after this trip.”

Hicks is the son of John and Courtney Hicks of Natchez.