Against the odds, an advanced degree | Read more from Micheal |
Micheal Cox graduated cum laude with a Master of Social Work from NC State in May 2011. He was one of 76 to earn an advanced degree from this competitive program—a great achievement by any standards. But Cox did it by defying the odds stacked against him in childhood. Cox came to Methodist Home for Children at age 13 for violating probation on a larceny charge and again at age 15 for selling drugs at school. If not for those interventions, and MHC’s guidance and financial support over the years, he says, “I would be in prison or dead.” Today, he’s ready for a career helping kids—as many as possible.
What motivated you?
As a young boy, my environment was a typical low-income environment. There was a lot of crime and a lot of drug selling all around me. But even then, before my mom got hooked on drugs, she instilled in me the importance of getting an education. I always enjoyed school and I was competitive in the classroom.
Why social work?
I think I was born to be a social worker. Ever since I was a kid I’ve had a sense of empathy, and I’ve always enjoyed helping people. But I chose the profession when I was an undergraduate at N.C. Central. My godmother was a social worker; her name was Barbara Greene, and I could see all the kids she was helping. I could see the difference she was making in their lives.
What do you want to do next?
Right now my resumé is geared toward youth. I’d like to work with youth for five or ten more years in an administrative role or in supervision. I’m trying to find my aim. Hopefully I can get involved with some decision making, in a position that can influence the lives of a larger population versus working one-on-one, one person at a time.
How did your experiences prepare you?
If you were born in my neighborhood, crime is something you walked into. Anybody can make youthful mistakes, poor choices, but in that environment, drugs and violence are right outside your doorstep. Without family support, mentors and youth programs, it’s easy to get caught up in the system.
I always tell people that if you’ve been there and you’ve lived that lifestyle, you can relate as a social worker to the kids you’re serving, and they’ll relate to you. But you don’t have to grow up in that environment to be able to help. It takes a collaborative approach. You need both the person who has lived that life and can relate and the professional who has the passion and attitude geared toward the cause and the mission of the agency.
I received unconditional support from people who’ve never been close to anything like my upbringing. But they had the passion and the commitment, and it made a big difference in my life.
How did MHC influence you?
Methodist Home is the type of place where people believe in you from day one. They say, if you get into this program, we want you to reach your goals and we will teach you skills to get there. I give the credit to Methodist Home. But it’s not about me anymore—it’s about the kids.