By Karen Billing
Carmel Valley teenager Morgan Hicks spent part of her summer vacation singing “Happy Birthday” to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Her memorable birthday tribute came courtesy of the One Young World Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, where Hicks was one of 1,600 young delegates selected to attend from around the world.
Hicks, a senior at the Bishop’s School, was treated to seminars on world issues given by some of the most well-known experts on the topic, such as Tutu, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, activist Bob Geldof, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Muhammad Yunis, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, Doctors Without Border co-founder Bernard Kouchner, and Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who organized protests in Egypt.
“It was inspirational,” Hicks said. “I’m in such a bubble here and a lot of these topics I had never experienced. We heard about politics, the environment, capitalism, economics, leadership and how to have relationships with other countries to promote world peace.”
Hicks was selected to attend the summit by the International Community Foundation (ICF), a National City organization she has interned for since her freshman year. Donor Antonio Diaz, through his San Diego-Tijuana Talented Youth Opportunities Fund at ICF, sponsored Hicks’ trip.
ICF President and Founder Richard Kiy, also a Carmel Valley resident, thought Hicks would be the perfect ambassador for their organization for all the “amazing” contributions she has made in such a short time.
At ICF, Hicks helped launch the Youth International Philanthropy Council, which encourages and inspire youth to take on cross-border giving.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for kids to take on projects but they feel like they don’t have the vehicle to do so,” Hicks said, noting that her council gives them one.
One of her first projects was helping raise $125,000 for a new playground in Mexico for abandoned and neglected children.
With the knowledge gained from her experience at ICF, Hicks also wrote “The Teenagers Guide to International Giving,” which will be published in the fall.
“I’m proud that we were able to sponsor Morgan and hope it leads to others to follow in her path,” Kiy said. “I look forward to her inspiring others on how they can make a difference.”
In addition to her work with ICF, Hicks also co-founded the “Students Against Destructive Decisions” club at Bishop’s and is a member of the cross country, soccer and track teams.
“I’m very busy but I like it that way. I get more things done when I’m busy,” Hicks said.
At the One World Summit, Hicks met fellow delegates, ages 18-30, from all over the world. She was one of the youngest there but connected with people from England, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Morocco, Libya and Syria.
“It was really interesting and humbling to hear the opinions of the other delegates about the U.S.,” Hicks said “Compared to a lot of countries, we are such a young nation and we have a lot to learn. I think we can learn a lot from different countries and it was interesting to hear their perspective.”
Hicks heard presentations on a wide variety topics, from feminism and women’s rights to issues in Africa; learning about the problems the country is facing and steps that can be taken to ensure it doesn’t get worse.
She was inspired by a delegate she met from Rwanda who used to be a child soldier.
“That blew me away,” Hicks said. “Despite everything that happened he doesn’t want to crawl in a hole and hide, he wanted to make a difference. It was amazing and inspirational.”
She took very detailed notes during the presentation by Doug Richards, an entrepreneurship expert. Hicks said Richards spoke about the challenges of the world today and how as young leaders, they are in charge of making it better.
Hicks will carry Richards’ words and all the other invaluable messages she received at the summit, as she continues in her efforts at ICF and beyond. While she doesn’t know what college she will attend, she knows she wants to study social entrepreneurship.
“Change starts from one person…Don’t be afraid to make a difference,” Hicks advised.
Initially she was nervous about working in Mexico but pushing herself outside her comfort zone allowed her to discover that it was a wonderful country and also allowed her to meet the people she was taking an active role in helping.
“You learn something if you put yourself out there,” Hicks said. “Your physically being in the experience changes you, rather than just sending a check.”