In 2011, Lynchburg Beacon of Hope set out to improve the number of students who pursue higher education in the city of Lynchburg, Virginia. The nonprofit was formed as one response to the city’s 2006 Community Dialogue on Race and Racism.
Their first success is right on schedule. A little more than five years after the nonprofit set up academic success centers in two area high schools, Beacon of Hope Scholar Azariah Cox graduated from Eastern Mennonite University.
Cox recently returned home to make a video for the organization. His story was also featured in an article in The News & Advance, with the headline “Heritage High alumnus a role model for aspiring college graduates: EMU graduate a success story for Beacon of Hope.”
The video, shared here with permission from the organization’s executive director Laura Lacy Hamilton, shines a spotlight on Cox’s positive attitude and his philosophy of life that emphasizes self-determination and advocacy.
“I don’t want to be a statistic, especially as an African-American male in our society now,” he says. “Being labeled is something you don’t want to be … Who do you want to be? What do you want people to think about when they hear your name?”
Cox won’t soon be forgotten on campus. He was one of 10 students to be awarded the Cords of Distinction for contributions to the EMU and greater Harrisonburg communities.
Read his tribute from head track coach Brian Simpson here.
He was also selected to represent the student body during the toasts given at Dr. Susan Schultz Huxman’s Inaugural Gala.
One of his legacies was bringing to campus Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the “Divine Nine” historically black Greek organizations. It took more than a year for Cox and fellow students Kennedy Okereke and Clinton Ugboaja to shepherd the proposal through various discussions and protocols. EMU administration and the sponsoring chapter at Virginia University Lynchburg were also involved. The three pledges were inducted in a fraternity probate show, EMU’s first, held on Thomas Plaza in May.
Read about how a trio of students brought Kappa Alpha Psi to EMU.
At EMU’s Washington Community Scholars’ Center this summer, Cox is a photography intern at the Anacostia Community Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate.