Emily Cox

Program Counselor

I feel honored to bring people closer to realizing their passions and dreams. For nearly 25 years I’ve worked hard raising a family and serving the Durham area community in the areas of clinical social work, nonprofits, the arts and education.

I am a strong believer in education as a lifelong process. I didn’t stop taking classes when I finished undergraduate school at Loyola University, New Orleans (where I earned a B.A. in French and Public Relations in 1988). I worked for the French Cultural Services in the French Consulate starting as an intern 1987 helping promote French culture and education in the southern United States. Starting with night classes at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Arts, I pursued a curiosity for clay sculpture and found a deep appreciation for mindfulness and the ability to learn something difficult and new. A few years later, I worked as the assistant to the founder of New Orleans’ nonprofit artist job-training program called Ya/Ya Inc., Young Artists/Young Aspirations. These talented high school students worked within a group accountability model that was a challenging, cutting-edge business design. This program demonstrated the power of direct student involvement.

We moved to Durham in 1993 and I worked at Carrboro Elementary School for two years while I applied to UNC’s School of Social Work. In Durham, I volunteered with clients and served on the Board of Directors for Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes. Over the years I have volunteered with the Interfaith Food Shuttle, Durham Public Schools, NC Field, Urban Ministries, Durham’s Georges Rousse Project, Claymakers and You Can Vote.

I earned a master’s degree in social work at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1998. As a clinical social worker, I practiced psychotherapy with women, couples, adolescents and families from Durham and Chapel Hill through Family Counseling Service and with Durham County Child, Youth & Family Services and Family and Youth, Inc. I partnered and consulted with teachers and principals on best practices for employee self-care, school and classroom crisis management. In 2006 I took a hiatus from social work and worked as an artist and community organizer while raising my two children (now in high school and college). In January of 2017 I was happy to be asked to join the team at Achievement Academy, thanks to a Triangle Foundation grant made possible by two generous and kind Achievement Academy tutors, Steve Quessy and Mama Doucette.

What I like most about my AAD counseling job: Working one-on-one with a young mother who is making choices to improve her quality of life. Partnering with young people to explore alternatives to unhealthy lifestyle choices. Building bridges between a family and an adult student who lives at home, emphasizing compassion and forgiveness and giving families a focus on small daily victories. Working with the AAD teaching team, our director and our Made in Durham team, students can enrich their lives in new ways. For example, working with Ms. Rotcelis Morales, I was able to reconnect an AAD graduate (who is a refugee) to become a volunteer at Church World Service. I’ve gotten to know our students better and secure deeper change through a relationship with community partners.

The biggest challenges for the AAD students: Our students come to class from all corners of Durham, so access to transportation can be a barrier. A number of our students have financial problems affecting their access to good food and housing. Attendance and performance are challenged by economic, emotional and family stress, medical and mental health issues. I aim to identify and work respectfully in a partnership style to face down these challenges with students and families. I hope to ask questions that open doors for students to find their own solutions, at school and in the community. Solutions come naturally over time as the students make connections and choices.


Staff Information
Stay in Touch