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

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

Lettie, who has three children–ages 15, 14 and 2 years–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, is now helping to lead efforts at two schools in the community, Vivian Adams Early Childhood Center and Dunbar Elementary School. At Adams, she says there is little room for parents to park. At Dunbar, she says kids “have to walk through a vacant park and sometimes abandoned alleyways to get to school. When there are people in the park, there’s often drug activity or a lot of drinking. Then when you get to the school, the sidewalk is very limited. At both schools now, we’re making noise, and a lot of people are responding. We won a new crossing guard and parking spots at the early childhood center. Now we just have to take it to the next level.”

Lettie and Parents United for Change continue to advocate for safety in East St. Louis. They won school buses for 200 preschool children and 300 elementary students.