Special needs SBU student inspires many
By Barbara Shoun
BOLIVAR—The fact that she has no arms or legs has not stopped Minda Cox from setting high goals for herself. When she graduates from Southwest Baptist University (SBU), she intends to work among disabled women and girls in countries where there are few opportunities; and she has high praise for SBU for helping her toward that goal.
Thus was her testimony before a committee of the Missouri House of Representatives March 2 which was holding a hearing on a bill that would reduce the amount of financial aid available to students of private colleges and universities.
“I wasn’t planning to go to college at all because I was afraid,” Cox said. Her experiences as a youngster in public school, she said, were not pleasant.
Minda was born in India with no arms or legs. She was adopted by the Rev. Cathy Cox when she was 22 months old. Cox, who is pastor of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in the Ozarks at Dunnegan, has adopted four other daughters with disabilities, none as visible as Minda’s.
“They [public schools] try to make things accessible,” said her mother, “but they don’t understand the interpersonal part of it. She felt isolated. The preference was to cut down on requirements rather than challenging her.” Cathy Cox chose to homeschool instead.
At an early age, Minda exhibited an interest and talent in art. She draws and writes by holding instruments between her shoulder and chin.
More recently, her art instructor, Emily Frost, with whom she has put on art exhibits, convinced her to take a class at SBU. She took the class and made an A, which led to taking more classes and making more A’s.
“You just have to ease in sometimes,” said Cathy Cox. It helped that SBU was “right down the street. I knew she would never go far away.”
Minda realized quickly that she was accepted on the Christian campus. Students opened doors for her, she could eat with the other students, and a professor once gave her a ride from one building to another. She didn’t feel isolated as she had in other settings.
“It’s different being part of a Christian community where you are not defined by your handicap,” she said.
She pays part of her tuition through the sale of her artwork and the state-sponsored Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program. If the scholarship awards are reduced, she will have to find other funding for her tuition.
Her disabilities presented the university with challenges it was willing to accept.
She is taking upper level intercultural studies courses to prepare herself to work with a mission group. One of the requirements is to spend six months abroad.
In preparation, students must go on a short-term mission project outside the country. She said most of the short-term programs are “big extravagant programs,” like hiking over mountains.
Rather than bend the requirements, SBU staff set out to create a manageable mission opportunity.
Within a day or two of her signing up for the class, her counselors went to work tailoring a program to fit her needs and limitations. As a result, she will be going to Guatemala for several weeks later this year. The university is helping her to raise money for the trip and looking for a partner to travel with her.
Cathy Cox is appreciative of what her youngest daughter has received at SBU, particularly the interpersonal relationships with the staff and other students.
“Faith-based institutions make a big difference to students who are disabled,” she said.