Some students may be content to master “the three R's” — reading, writing and arithmetic — but Lloyd Ricks Jr. prefers to focus on three C's: college, computers and community service. A student at Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.), the computer engineering major, who will graduate this June, manages to successfully juggle university life while working for PECO Energy and spending as much time as he can giving back to the community.
“My goal in life is to use my education, professional skills and personal experiences to help others succeed,” Ricks said. “No matter what I do, this is always my primary purpose.”
Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S., Ricks realized from a young age that he possessed an affinity for math and science.
“I was in the advanced placement program in middle school, which meant I was doing high school-level material,” he recalled. “One of my eighth-grade teachers noticed algebra and calculus came pretty easily to me. This teacher suggested I look into computer engineering.”
With encouragement from the teacher, Ricks applied and was accepted to the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a high school with curriculum that emphasizes science and engineering. From there, he enrolled at Drexel University, a private research university with a cooperative (co-op) program that consistently ranks as one of the best in the United States. Drexel's co-op program enables undergraduate students to balance classroom theory with practical, hands-on experience prior to graduation. Students typically are on co-op for a six-month period, alternating with six months of classroom study.
Ricks' recently completed his final co-op stint at PECO, an Exelon-owned utility, where he worked with smart grid and smart meter technology.
“I was part of the deployment team,” he said. “I had to learn what smart meters are and do, and be able to describe their functionality to anyone who doesn't understand them. I performed testing and checking of the smart meters PECO had just purchased to ensure they operated as expected. I also did some voltage and interval read analysis.”
According to Ricks, working at a utility exposed him to a new realm of career possibilities. In fact, the 22-year-old remains a part-time employee at PECO, even though his co-op is complete.
“An advantage to working at PECO is they allow me to engage myself in other facets of the business,” he noted. “One opportunity I pursued was getting to know the project management office and what a project manager does. I also educated myself on meter operations so I could understand how PECO's meter system has evolved over the years.”
Ricks' continued employment at the utility affords him the chance to do what he likes best: helping others. Part of his duties involve interacting with new co-op students to make sure they understand what they are supposed to be doing.
The up-and-coming engineer also makes it his mission to help others outside of work.
“One of my primary commitments is my involvement in my fraternity, Alpha Chi Rho,” he said. “It is a social fraternity that is very active in community service and philanthropy work.”
Ricks has held a variety of offices in the fraternity, including secretary, judicial officer, risk manager, community service chairman and philanthropy chairman. The fraternity's community service projects range from performing neighborhood cleanup to painting schools to helping preserve the area's natural habitat by eliminating non-native plants and weeds. Philanthropy work includes organizing numerous fundraisers for the American Cancer Society.
“I am also a certified volunteer with the IRS's VITA program, which offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own taxes,” he said. “It gives me so much satisfaction to be able to help disadvantaged people file their taxes.”
Ricks' community involvement extends to his university as well. For the past three years, he has served as a resident advisor (RA), supervising students living in one of Drexel's residence halls.
“As an RA, I have helped many students deal with a variety of issues, such as alcohol and drug withdrawal, homesickness and depression,” Ricks said. “I keep in touch with almost all the people I have been an RA for in case they need advice or just someone to talk to.”
After graduation, Ricks plans to remain involved in his fraternity's graduate chapter as well as continue his community service participation. Furthermore, he intends to pursue his master's degree in business, computer engineering or electrical engineering.
“What I would really like to do eventually is go back to my high school and teach, whether that is 10 or 20 years from now,” he said. “Wherever I end up, I know it will involve helping other people in some way.”