SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Donovan Jordan Hicks, a Wofford College sophomore, lives for working toward something that is bigger than him.

“Failure will come,” he says, “but success is on the other side.”

Hicks already has enjoyed a certain amount of success. Wofford’s third Bill and Melinda Gates Scholar, he recently was selected to attend the annual Public Policy and Leadership Conference (PPLC) at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, which began Thursday, Feb. 20, and will continue through Sunday, Feb. 23.

With nearly 500 applicants from more than 150 colleges and universities, Hicks, a government and finance double-major from Boiling Springs, S.C., is one of 45 students who will attend the 14th annual conference.

The PPLC is open to only first and second year undergraduate students. Those selected to attend usually are prime candidates for Harvard Graduate School admittance. Traditionally led by current Harvard graduate students, the PPLC serves to inform students about possible careers in the public sector, including federal, state and local governments, the non-profit sector and international agencies.

It also serves to reach students from under-represented groups in public policy and international affairs, aiming to increase diversity both in those receiving degrees in the field and working in public policy.

Hicks and the other conference attendees were selected based on strong academic standing and their demonstrated commitment to public service.

Since his first year at Wofford, Hicks has completed 10 to 15 hours of service, and sometimes more, each week as a Bonner Scholar. He commits most of his time to the South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) in the Spartanburg office.

“I often find myself doing more, because I just love it,” he says. SCLS provides legal assistance to those considered to live in poverty. All of the services are free and mostly are geared toward civil disputes.

“I assist the attorneys with everything from drafting durable power of attorney documents to child support pleadings, and perform outreach through Safe Homes and SC Help to the Spartanburg community, which partners with SCLS in our Spartanburg Office,” Hicks says.

Hicks also participates in the High Impact Fellows HIF) program at Wofford, funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. The program brings faculty from area high schools together with college faculty and students to collaborate in developing classroom-ready materials that reflect current research in academic disciplines.

“Specifically, I work with Jimmy Rogers, a teacher at Chesnee High School,” Hicks says. “We are working with his human geography classes to ease the transition in the South Carolina Core Curriculum educational standard.”

To accomplish that goal, Hicks and Wofford’s Dr. William DeMars, chair of the Department of Government, created several progressive assignments for Rogers’ students concerning the human geography standards. “This would hopefully lead the students to a more liberal integrative understanding of the subject matter,” Hicks says. He and DeMars will present their work at the HIF Summit on March 22.

In addition, Hicks is a class delegate on Campus Union, president of the Pre-Law Society, attorney general for the Judicial Commission and an avid attender of the Reformed University Fellowship, where he serves on the Ministry Team.

His commitment to service and leadership has not gone unnoticed. It was Jennifer Dillenger, director of The Space in the Mungo Center, who referred Hicks to the Public Policy and Leadership Conference.

“She felt that the conference would be an excellent opportunity for me to network, grow and gain exceptional information concerning public policy work, given that I was already working in the field,” he says.

Hicks credits much of his success to his guiding parents, describing them as extremely supportive, encouraging him to stay both humble and focused.

“They have never ever hampered my dreams, and have always encouraged me that the sky is not the limit, but rather there are no limits,” he says. He adds that his parents taught him “that if I trust God and lean not to my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge him, that God would direct my path.”

Aside from attaining Dean’s List every semester, Hick’s list of goals to reach while at Wofford also include studying abroad, taking the opportunity to become comfortable outside of his comfort zone, and making a genuinely positive impact here on campus.

Hicks hopes the PPLC program will help him attain his long-term goals of becoming an attorney, eventually running his own non-governmental organization specializing in public interest law, and to one day serve as a judge.

Also, he adds, “I hope to pave an even better Wofford for future students.”

Written by Tyrell Jemison, Class of 2014