Adam Oakes’ family starts nonprofit to help high school students with college transition

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - May 27 marks three months since VCU freshman Adam Oakes was found dead in an off-campus house. His family believes he died because he was forced to drink a large bottle of whiskey as part of his initiation process into the Delta Chi fraternity at VCU.

This week, the office of the chief medical examiner determined he died from alcohol poisoning and ruled it as an accident.

As his family continues to search for answers about his death, they’re taking action by creating a new foundation, called Love Like Adam, to help high school seniors and their parents with the transition into college.

“If we can save at least one life in that room, then we’ve made a difference,” said Courtney White, Adam Oakes’ cousin.

“We don’t want a child to lose their life,” said Eric Oakes, Adam Oakes’ father.

White says the goal for their organization is to support and educate high school students about the possible dangers they could face on college campuses including hazing, sexual assaults, alcohol poisoning, and drug overdoses.

“It’s kind of like better equipping them that if they see someone in trouble, they can get help,” she said. “Not to mention, making good decisions about fraternities and sororities.”

Through interactive virtual and in-person presentations, White hopes they can share Adam’s story and show how students can help when they witness possible hazing situations.

“No one got him help that evening,” she said. “How can we make it so these kids the first thing they do is get help?”

The nonprofit is awarding three $1,000 scholarships to students from Potomac Falls High School, which is Adam’s alma mater. It will go to students they believe demonstrate the same qualities he did in his community.

“We’re looking for students who are empathetic, who listen to their friends, who have an optimistic outlook, who give back to their communities,” White said.

White says these actions are met with a purpose to keep Adam’s memory alive.

“I’m hoping that this will highlight the person Adam was, not what happened to him,” she said. “He was a 19-year-old kid that was loved by so many and he was such a great person. The impact of his death will continue with us for the rest of our lives.”

White says they’re hoping to open scheduled times for their presentations by August. She says their organization will not be charging for the presentations. Instead, people can donate to the foundation, which will go towards the nonprofit’s scholarship fund.

White says the winners of this year’s scholarships will be announced soon. She also hopes to open up the scholarship process to students outside of Potomac Falls High School in the future.

The Richmond Police Department says no charges have been filed in connection to Adam’s death.

VCU’s Division of Student Affairs also started disciplinary proceedings against Delta Chi. If the fraternity is found responsible for misconduct in Adam’s death, the chapter could be expelled from the university.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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