Charmaine Cox ’22 at McNeil Hall on campus

May 10, 2022

Charmaine Cox ’22 will complete a journey she started more than 20 years ago when she walks across the stage to receive her degree in social work. The mother of two took a break from her studies to care for her daughter with cerebral palsy.

“I always knew that I wanted to finish what I had started at Saint Augustine’s University,” said Cox. “I didn’t feel like my purpose in life was to work from paycheck to paycheck, and just because I had a child with special needs didn’t mean I have to struggle.”

Cox, a Wilmington native and a tutor in the New Hanover County Schools, hesitated to go back to college. As a non-traditional student, Cox felt intimidated by the younger students and technology. She decided to start at Cape Fear Community College and transfer to UNCW.

“I thank UNCW for giving me the confidence to continue my education as an older student,” she said. “The professors were very helpful in making my transition from community college to the university.”

She juggled her role as a student and mom by communicating with professors at the beginning of each semester about her circumstances, Cox said. They were more than willing to help her achieve her academic goals.

“Many times, my daughter came to the library when I needed to do an assignment before I knew about getting a loaner laptop,” Cox recalled. “Also, taking classes when my daughter was in school allowed me some time to focus on being a student.”

Cox excelled in her studies and campus involvement. She made the Dean’s list and pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., receiving several scholarships and becoming a member of Phi Alpha.

With the help of the UNCW Student Emergency Fund and the Osher Reentry Scholarship, Cox was able to offset the cost of books and other expenses. The scholarship is awarded to students who have experienced a gap in their formal education due to circumstances beyond their control.

“I was able to purchase anything that I needed for classes, which was a blessing,” she said. “I am very thankful because someone took their time to bless someone else that they didn’t even know. I hope to be able to do the same one day.”

Cox plans to use her social work degree to help vulnerable populations of color, especially youth and the elderly. As commencement approaches, she described feeling “over the moon” about reaching the end of this part of her journey.

“I hope to inspire someone in a similar situation who may want to go to school and pursue their aspirations,” she said. “I want to let them know that anything is possible, especially for Black women. My grandparents always told me that I could do anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. I wish they were here to see me walk across that stage.”

-- Venita Jenkins