From the Mississippi Delta to Illinois Tech: A New Outlook on the World Emerges

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We are pleased to introduce and share with you the words of Anthony Hicks, a fellow classmate at Illinois Tech from the Mississippi Delta in the US; Anthony arrived with us in Fall 2012 along with many of us from Syria as a computer science major, an area of interest for many of us. As Syrians, Anthony represents an IIT story – and a set of ideals and goals that we hold deeply as well, that is, a deep commitment to home and family, the place of his youth, a place which he seeks to help further through community service and outreach in the fields of computer science, communities and neighborhoods with a great history.  At IIT, we know that we are a community of students from every part of the US and more than 100 countries; we believe that our diversity and inclusion will serve Illinois Tech and our world.  We hope to welcome Anthony and so many of our IIT classmates to Syria, to visit their homes, and to learn together through our shared histories, commitment to such organizations as the Stars Alliance, and our lives how we will build – and code – a better tomorrow, for all.

We would also like to recognize that Anthony’s home state of Mississippi is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Schools movement that served as part of the US Civil Rights era.  The Freedom Schools represent an idea of civic and collective education to advance the education of young people; an idea which merits a rebirth and reconsideration today, and which might well serve the millions of internally displaced in Syria and neighboring countries.

–        the Editors, the IIT Syrian Student Blog

My name is Anthony Hicks III a junior Computer Science major at Illinois Institute of Technology. I arrived at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to obtain the best education I could from the university. However, only after 2 years I received something much greater than education. I received a new outlook on the world that I never had before. I am from a predominately African-American Christian area, known as the Mississippi Delta. 

I say this because growing up in this area I have already had ideas and concepts imbedded into me by the society around, whether or not the society knew that it was imbedding it into me or not, that I would soon find were incorrect. Two of the misleading ideas I had were all Whites are in a better position in life than Blacks and all Atheists are immoral and mean people. 

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These are a view of the ideas that I would soon find wrong after being at IIT. As I began to go through my days at IIT, I began to make friends from different backgrounds and cultures. I met people from Pakistan, Korea, Syria, India, Mexico, Japan, China, Greece, Colombia, etc.   With every new face I met and every new conversation I had a pre-imbedded idea had begun to dissipate and my eyes were opened wider. The small campus of IIT made me feel as though I was seeing the world. However, feeling that I am seeing the world is different from actually seeing the world – and I understand the depths and the diversity of the Mississippi Delta which was home to and welcomed peoples from across the globe for well over 100 years; there is so much more to learn about the Mississippi Delta, a place which I have called home and which others have called home as well.  And I am proud.

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I have wanted to travel the world since I was a child. I always wanted to see a place that differs from my own. A place in which people and things are done completely different than what I am use to. IIT made that inner want, that desire, the zeal only stronger. Right now I am in a position to go see such a place. I now have an opportunity to start my adventure, I am traveling this summer to Shanghai, China. 

 Given this opportunity is a dream come true for me, I sit down and re-examine myself sometime to make sure I am not in a dream. I, an African-American Mississippi young man from the Delta, given the opportunity to go to the other side of world. I am still in awe that this opportunity has shown itself to me. Though I am still in awe, I am prepared to go. I am prepared for this life changing experience. I want to learn what I feels like to be immersed into another culture, to start over as a baby begins with each new life. As I begin to learn a new language, learn a new way of thinking, and learn the unspoken laws of the land. Evolved problem solving skills, new ways to approach problems, and improved social skills are just some of the things I wish to acquire as I make this trip. 

After this trip, I expect to have gained skills that will not only improve me as an individual but also improve me as a member of the workforce – and as a global citizen. I wish to have skills that will help me become a better leader. Skills that make me a valuable member of the workplace not only as an employee but as an employer one day as well. As I slowly become the Computer Scientist and Mathematician I wish to be I expect the skills that I gain from China to help me reach my goal more efficiently.  

About Anthony Hicks:  Anthony calls the Mississippi Delta home. Computer Science and Mathematics are my academic loves, and I enjoy showing others that they are lovely. As a teacher assistant at Illinois Institute of Technology and a member of Stars Alliance, a student-based computer science outreach club, I get a chance to show others of their love. Alongside spreading my love for Computer Science and Mathematics, I enjoy developing applications for Android phones, iPhones, Windows, and Mac OS X. When I need to be away from the computer screen, I spend my time doing martial arts.  Anticipated graduation: Spring 2016

About Stars Alliance at Illinois Tech

About Stars Alliance at Illinois Tech  (faculty adviser – Vida Winans, Computer Science Dept., College of Science)

STARS Computing Corps is a national non-profit community of regional partnerships dedicated to building and preparing a larger, more diverse national computing workforce for the 21st century. The Corps is a framework for integrating engagement into computing departments for recruitment and graduation of undergraduate and graduate students.

The students and faculty that form our team are from the Illinois Institute of Technology computer science department. Last year we began work on developing an enrichment program to further the goals of STARS in our community. Our beginnings started with a Saturday program for girls in grades 6th-8th with the goal of cultivating a love for computer science, a not so common field for women. This program quickly grew until we expanded our team and our programs. We even added more short and long term goals and a 4-week after school program were all can get involved in computing.

Our team wanted those in our program to be:

  1. Inspired to learn more about computing
  2. Challenged to never give up
  3. Taught the foundations of programming
  4. Entertained by the wonders and unlimited capabilities of the world of computing

Through teaching the students the LEGO mindstorm interface, how to build the robot and ways to program the robot, we are accomplishing our goals. Students are excited to do the program again and motivated to learn how to program games for themselves. Our team quickly became mentors to them, encouraging them to ask us questions about anything while we kept the lines of communication open. We are excited to push forward and grow during this upcoming year!



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