As a first-generation college student from Goldsboro, N.C., Cox envisioned attending a small college close to home with a familial atmosphere.When she and her family visited for a campus tour, Barton checked all of her boxes – and she was relieved that she had found exactly what she was looking for. Cox found comfort in the type of environment Barton promised, one that mirrored her cherished experience attending Wayne Country Day School where her graduating class was just 35 students. Her decision to attend Barton was validated during a memorable conversation her first semester with two former staff members who encouraged her to find her voice.
Barton quickly became a canvas for Cox’s academic and extracurricular exploration. Initially drawn to nursing, but met with a lingering feeling of uncertainty, she met with her advisor to look at her transcript and quickly identified the coursework she was excelling in: social work. Cox found her true calling, realizing that her passion lay in advocating for diverse and underrepresented communities. Around sophomore year, Cox explored the possibility of double majoring in aging studies. Growing up, Cox helped care for both of her aging grandparents and found comfort in the connection they shared. Cox’s grandmother passed the year before she attended Barton, but strongly believed that she was guiding her on a path she was destined to pursue. The voice within her, she sensed, was her grandmother’s spirit. “I felt this was my grandmother’s way of telling me I should work with older people,” she reflected. Inspired by her own personal experiences with her grandparents and the influence of Dr. Steven Fulks, beloved Barton faculty member and director of the aging studies program, Cox declared a double major in social work and aging studies. Paired with two minors in Population Health and Psychology, she set forth on a path that is as distinctive as she is.
Cox didn’t spare any time joining various campus organizations that showcased her passion for creating inclusive spaces for all students. During her first year alone, Cox joined the American Sign Language Club, We Gather (an organization for African American women that provided support for the transition from high school to college in addition to other areas of life), the Racial Equity Team, and the Resident Housing Association. “I never pictured myself being involved in so many events and activities on campus”, she shares. “I love creating spaces for all people, especially students, to have more things to do on campus to enhance the Barton experience.” Cox shares that she often finds herself attending events she wouldn’t have otherwise and even having the courage to attend them by herself. “Allowing myself to become immersed in campus life and student activities has helped me step outside of my comfort zone and find my voice,” she says.
When asked what she loves most about Barton, she stops to pause – “There’s so much!” Her thought emerges a moment later, sharing “When a student presents an idea, or concern, they [Barton leadership] make room for it.” She specifically references Brenda Whaley ’98, campus life advisor and Barton alumnae, who worked closely with her to form a Black History Committee that planned events and activities in honor of Black History Month. The staff did the same for Hispanic students and helped students find community through culturally responsive events and activities in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. “It is important to identify student groups on campus that are underrepresented and allow them to lead programming that means most to them so that they can feel authentic,” Cox shares.
Now in her senior year at Barton, Cox is busy as ever. She remains highly dedicated to the organizations she’s a part of and is currently Student Government Association (SGA) President, Vice President of Black Student Union (BSU), involved in Campus Activities Board (CAB), Presidential Leadership Fellows, Color Guard and Flag, a Student Ambassador with the Office of Admissions, and an Orientation Leader. If she had to choose something that she’s most proud to be a part of, she’s quick to reply, “Anything involving students.” Her most proud moment during her time at Barton was in February 2022 when BSU hosted a Greek Night event. She recalls feeling concerned about attendance, worrying that no one was interested in participating. To her surprise, nearly 100 Greeks of all organizations and affiliations showed up to support her efforts.
Cox now envisions a future where her newfound voice echoes for the future of Barton, resonating through the students of those who follow in her footsteps. “As generations go on, there are new ideas as well as new ways of doing things, so with that, comes a lot of change, so hopefully students that are here after I’m gone are able to speak up and say, ‘We see this changing, we need to take lead and see who we need to talk to make things happen.’”
In discovering her purpose and finding the voice she was destined to use, Cox stands testament to the opportunity of the Barton experience and the power of the unforgettable connections forged between our students and community. “To first-generation students, having the opportunity that you didn’t know you could have, means more than words could express. When you have someone looking in from the outside and seeing your potential, it makes you push even harder,” Cox shares. “Making the choice to invest in other people’s experiences that were in the same situation as you – it’s a continuous cycle of taking a leap of faith in a student, feeling seen by someone and knowing that they want to invest in your experience… a never-ending cycle of gratitude.”
We look forward to following Sherica’s journey and have no doubt she will make an impact.