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Hicks Goes One-on-One with Gang Violence
Ryan Hicks ’05 made the most of his time at Kansas Wesleyan. In addition to playing two sports (basketball and soccer) and working as a Resident Assistant, Hicks was recognized twice as the Communications Student of the Year. In the first few years after graduation, Hicks and his father, Kenn, launched Ballin’ for Peace in the Los Angeles area, which quickly gained national attention by making a positive impact on the lives of at-risk youth.
Ballin’ for Peace has been a huge success and has received praise from news stations (CNN, ABC, and NBC), national magazines (Sports Illustrated and SLAM), local newspapers, politicians and the Los Angeles Police Department. In September of 2014, Hicks became the first person to be honored as part of the Marriot Rewards’ Year of Surprises. The Year of Surprises program was initiated by Marriott International in 2014 to honor outstanding community members that deserved to be celebrated. Marriot sponsored a night dedicated to celebrating Hicks and his work. The evening was hosted by two-time NBA Champion Jordan Farmar.
Ballin’ for Peace is modeled after the Venice Beach Outdoor Basketball Championship, an event founded by Kenn Hicks in 1979, which prospered for more than 20 years. NBA players, such as Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce, participated in the annual summer events. Ballin’ for Peace was established to combat gang violence. With the help of organizations like Ballin’ for Peace, gang-related homicides decreased by more than 26 percent in Los Angeles during 2007. At a Los Angeles Clippers game, former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recognized Ballin’ for Peace members with a certificate of appreciation for their exemplary work in southern California.
Ballin’ for Peace provides positive recreational activities for youth and adults. It also offers free workshops, employment opportunities, educational grants, scholarships, health care services and entertainment programs. Ryan is the backbone of the organization. His responsibilities include event planning, marketing, fundraising, media production and public relations; skills he honed while at Kansas Wesleyan. He credits his Communications professors, Paul Green and Richard Pezzuolo, and his basketball coach, Jerry Jones, as major influencers in his growth as a student.
“Mr. Pezzuolo and Mr. Green provided me with valuable guidance and expertise. They truly cared about their students. They inspired me to turn in quality work. Although I was busy with my classes, basketball, soccer, and Resident Assistant duties, the work ethic instilled in me at KWU was the catalyst that motivated me to persevere and to continue to develop in the field.”
This year Hicks plans to continue strengthening the organization’s national influence with events, contests, workshops, and audio and video production. He is working on a recording “Ballin’ for Peace, West to East,” which is a follow-up to two previous projects featuring well-known music artists and DJs.
For more information about Ballin’ for Peace, visit www.ballinforpeace.org.