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My name is Elijah Hicks. I am a junior defensive back on the Cal football team. I love playing football at the number one public school in the country. However, I know I am only here because of the love and compassion that others have shown me. 
I was born and raised in Long Beach, Calif. I love my family, my parents have done everything they can to support me and my 10 siblings. It has been a mixture of the city that I grew up in and the circumstances of my life that has molded me into the person I am today. 
From the outside, some may think I was born into disadvantaged circumstances, but I consider my “disadvantage” to be the strongest tool that has allowed me to achieve and to grow. I always dreamed of going to college, but my family never had the money for me to do that. So I worked extremely hard and earned an athletic scholarship. However, it was not easy to get to this point. 
High school was extremely difficult for me, I lived with four different families other than my own. We made the decision that it would be better for my education and athletic opportunities to move to a different environment. 
I love my family, and they supported me even when I wasn’t living with them, but we made the decision to stay away from some of the environmental distractions of my neighborhood. While in high school, my mother and father both moved out of Long Beach. My mom moved to Los Angeles with three of my siblings and my dad moved to the Sherman Oaks where he lived in an office with four of my siblings, because that's all he could afford. Like I said, I have 10 siblings, I didn't want to be a burden to my parents. I wanted them to focus on taking care of my younger siblings and providing a more comfortable life for them. 
I attended three different high schools. In the 9th grade while living with my dad, I attended Gahr High School in Cerritos. I transferred to St. John Bosco in Bellflower for the 10th grade. St. John Bosco offered a great private school education and an excellent football team. However, I had to take two buses and a train, with little to no money, just to get to school every day. One of my friends at Bosco saw my struggle and his family invited me to stay in their home. 
Unfortunately, I could not keep up with the tuition, which forced me to transfer again. In the 11th grade, I transferred to La Mirada High School. At first, I was living with my two best friends on the east side of Long Beach. In my 12th-grade year, I was able to stay at La Mirada, but I moved in with a teammate so my commute wouldn’t be 45 minutes to get to school. 
By living in so many different homes during my high school career, I gained many new perspectives of life. From this experience, I learned the importance of selflessness and how we need to care for each other. None of the families that I lived with had to take me in, but because of their big hearts and compassion, they took me and treated me as their own. I feel as if I’m forever in their debt for the love and compassion they showed me. I feel the need to pay it forward. 
So far, all six of my siblings that have graduated high school have attended college at some point but only two of us had a scholarship. I currently have three sisters who are struggling to make it through college now. Whenever I have extra cash, I send them money for basic needs like toiletries or groceries. One of my brothers had to get a job and drop out of college because they could no longer afford everyday life while taking a full course load in school. 
Like many other American families, my family is very ambitious and hardworking. However, student loan debt discourages many families from chasing their dreams. Statistics say the total US student loan debt is $1.6 Trillion and in 2018 college grads on average owe $29,200 in loans. People do not like the idea of starting their adult life post grad with tens of thousands of dollars in debt. 
Our family has had many conversations around the topic and it inspired me to figure out ways to help struggling college students nationwide. After a couple of years of brainstorming, I have decided to take action and have created this charity, Intercept Poverty. 
Our goal is to bring awareness to student poverty across campuses, to build a community for low-income students and help them understand that they are not alone or at fault. We also strive to create a scholarships for students who are in need and build a better relationship between students and student-athletes on campuses nationwide

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