A story of hope

Moving beyond a troubled past, culinary alumnus uses education to help others in need

Armando Saucedo

Trinity Whyte, Staff Writer

Reverend Jeffrey Hicks is a Schoolcraft alumnus, but he started out from a much darker place. 

He describes his past behavior simply as violent, as he served 27 years of his 25–50 year sentence in prison for a variety of crimes. However, he didn’t let that keep him down. 

In prison, he taught a variety of different classes to other inmates and became a minister, elder and public relations director. He even wrote newsletters for four different agencies during his sentence. 

Despite his busy schedule, he had an even greater goal in mind: he started a non-profit during this time, which he continues to run to this day. His non-profit, which aims to feed hungry, homeless people in need, is the main motivating factor for him now that he’s free. He states, “The vision has always been in me. In the penitentiary, I was the minister. But now that I’m outside, I have to put flesh into it.”

Upon his release from prison, he decided to make a radical change by attending college and getting a degree. He states that “The Lord impressed in me and said ‘I want you to go to school and get a foundation!”

He had many choices once he was a free man, but chose to do exactly that. Many of the people he encountered in his life recommended that he should consider taking classes at Schoolcraft College. Here, he sought out a degree to create for himself a stable foundation upon which to build his free life. He chose the college’s culinary program, due to his 40 years of past experience in the field, and he adored it.

 “I just had a wonderful time!” He speaks highly of many people he met, and thinks fondly upon the experiences he had in his classes. 

Once he finished his degree, he decided he wouldn’t stop at culinary. He studied theater to develop a positive, strong presence, which he believes is important for getting people to listen, and he loved that time he spent in those classes as well—so much so that he finished that degree with a 4.0 and even joined Schoolcraft’s Omicron Iota chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) honor society. It’s clear that he took his classes seriously, too, because he has the powerful presence he dreamed of. His booming voice and radiant positivity fill the room. He demands respect and draws attention. Now, with a culinary and theater degree under his belt, he’s onto the next thing—a business degree to better run his non-profit.

Hicks believes he’s very fortunate for the people in his life, as he isn’t what one might call a self-made man. He admits that his wife was one of his biggest supporters on his journey, and has kept him grounded throughout their time together. She was right there waiting for him when he got out of prison after his lengthy incarceration, 27 years to the hour. 

Not only does he have a loving, supportive wife, but he also has five children, 15 grandchildren and four great grandchildren that he is grateful he gets to spend time with. He also appreciates his nephews, too, who were the ones who picked him up from the facility he was incarcerated in after all that time.

In addition to his coursework and his non-profit, Hicks is enjoying his time as a free man learning, ministering, writing poetry and he even hopes to publish the books he wrote while in prison. He’s not letting his past stop him from creating a positive, fulfilling life. He offers this advice for everyone: “Never give up. I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care how dark your life has been.” 

In the future, Hicks aims to continue making a difference and helping others who may also be down on their luck just like he was. His non-profit is his way of giving back to his community to help others who are struggling. He believes that anyone can turn their life around and create a satisfying life for themselves, just as he did for himself.