Citizenship Award 2024

Parker Hicks earns prestigious 2024 Missouri Citizenship Award
Posted on 05/14/2024
Parker Hicks and Dave Elledge.

Poplar Bluff High School senior Parker Hicks was selected among 15 students across the state to receive the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Citizenship, the first time a student has earned the honor locally in seven years, according to recent memory.

Students are chosen for the State Board of Education’s Missouri Citizenship Award based on academic achievement in civics and government courses, performance in civics and government-related extracurricular activities, and exemplary community service, according to an announcement from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Before even beginning Parker's essay, I was instantly impressed by his application," read a comment from the review committee representing DESE, MSBE, the Missouri Bar Advisory Committee on Citizenship Education, Missouri Council for the Social Studies and the Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals. “…He clearly uses a local inspiration that is amazing to read about.”

Parker’s essay referenced in the excerpt—highlighted by DESE Director of Fine Arts Dr. Kendra Franks—was about his mentor Dave Elledge, a member of the Poplar Bluff Board of Education. Parker details how for nearly a decade he has attended the Bluff Church, originally co-founded by Elledge in an effort to reach a sector of the faith-based community otherwise “untapped,” the teenager explains.

Elledge, who would go on to be named the Daily American Republic’s 2020 Difference Maker of the Year, additionally helped found Buddy Ball through the Parks Department, providing sports opportunities for those with mental and physical disabilities, along with Sleep in Heavenly Peace, a nonprofit chapter that has supplied over 550 beds for children in need, the essay continues.

Being a leader “is about what you do that is good when no one is looking,” writes Parker, “a quality I have consistently observed in Mr. Elledge.” He concludes: “Dave Elledge stands as an inspiration for effective citizenship, emphasizing the transformative impact that an individual can have on a community.”

In addition to running cross country and working as an intern at the Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce, Parker is involved with numerous student organizations, including holding leadership positions with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Honor Society and Mule Barn pep club. He volunteers for the Bread Shed food pantry, Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign, highway clean-up committee through the Interact Club and as an ambassador for incoming freshmen, to name several listed on the application submitted by Dr. Stephanie Lovette, PBHS social studies teacher.

“He truly dedicates himself to each one, bringing enthusiasm and commitment to every activity,” Lovette stated, adding that Parker’s involvement as vice president of Missouri Boys State last year “underscores his keen interest in civic engagement.” His impact “doesn’t stop at the school gates,” she goes on to say.

“Parker truly loves his community and country and is willing to put forth any effort needed to ensure that he improves our community,” Lovette continued. “…His drive to lead and help his community is inspiring and gives me hope for the younger generation.”

During the surprise ceremony featuring family, friends, colleagues and educators, Parker said in an impromptu speech that he wishes for God to have the glory. “He’s the one who does all good through me. He’s the reason I have these values instilled in me,” Parker said, deflecting praise for his organization and time management skills, joking how he is “still working on that.” Parker proceeded to acknowledge Elledge, who was in attendance, noting that he is “blessed to have [Elledge] at church. He’s such a role model.”

Outstanding Achievement in Citizenship has been awarded since the 1990/91 school year as a provision under Senate Bill 198, which pertains to teaching federal and state constitutions and U.S. history in public and private schools. In rarefied air, Hamiz Mirza of the PBHS Class of 2017 received the honor, before which 2013 PBHS valedictorian Austin McWilliams won it, according to district records.


Cutline: Parker Hicks poses with his award alongside role model Dave Elledge during a surprise celebration arranged on Tuesday, May 7, at PBHS.

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