I use my voice to empower that parent to use her voice, so we can work together to make a change.

In the small southern Illinois city of East St. Louis, Lettie Hicks knew that schools in her community faced many challenges; since 2015, she’s been part of a group of parents that is doing something about it.

Lettie, who has three children, belongs to a group called Parents United for Change, which was formed with support from COFI. She says she was inspired to join after hearing testimony from another COFI parent, Rosazlia Grillier. She and other mothers conducted door-to-door surveys in East St. Louis and found that the need for safer neighborhoods and transportation to school and preschool were prominent issues.

“Being part of COFI taught me that I do have a voice,” she says. “I have also found that there are other parents who stand for the same thing: safety for our children.”

Lettie, who spent much of her childhood in various foster homes, has helped lead efforts at two schools in the community, Vivian Adams Early Childhood Center and Dunbar Elementary School. Both places suffered from unsafe environments for children, with factors such as limited parking and students having to walk through vacant parks and abandoned alleyways to get to school. Alongside her fellow parents, Lettie made a lot of noise, and people responded. They won a new crossing guard and parking spots at the early childhood center.

Parents United for Change continues to advocate for safety in East St. Louis. In 2018, they celebrated a huge win: House Bill 5195, which provides transportation for students who live close to their schools but whose commute to school is through a “dangerous area.” Check out this video made by Education Week (featuring Lettie and her adorable daughter!) about the victory:

Lettie, now one of the Co-Vice Presidents of POWER-PAC IL and the Health, Food, and Recess Campaign Co-Chair, has no plans on slowing down. Named one of five national women’s economic security fellows with other COFI mother leaders, she spoke out about the importance of tax credits to help ease working mothers’ financial burdens on Illinois Public Media y The Register-Mail–which helped lead to winning the expansion of the Earned Income Credit to thousands more low-income families in Illinois in 2022!