Giving Back as a Worldview
Education consultant and coach Teri Cox-Meadows ’90, ’94 understands the hardships of a first-generation student with limited-to-no income trying to better their life with a college education. With that understanding, she has made it her mission to give hope to children by means of music and education.
The current owner of a consulting company and founder of Daryl’s Music Makers, a nonprofit organization specializing in providing music and education to impoverished children worldwide, Cox-Meadows grew up in “a trailer park, literally the wrong side of the tracks” in Bryant, Arkansas. With no expectation or encouragement at home to further her education, she encountered a band director and a doctor who believed in her and helped her to dream.
“I wasn’t expected to go to college. It wasn’t anything that anybody in my family thought of, but I knew inside myself that was my way out,” and with the help of her band director, she earned a music scholarship at the University of Central Arkansas for playing the trumpet. This was what allowed her “to dream about UCA.” The scholarship got her in, but the financial hardship did not end there.
A couple of weeks before she was supposed to report to campus, Cox-Meadows received a call while she was working at Camp Aldersgate. She learned she still owed a substantial amount for room and board – an amount she had no way of paying.
“I just didn’t have it. I hung up the phone, and I just started crying. I turned around and there was a guy behind me, Dr. Kelsey Kaplan. He looked at me and said, ‘I need you to take a breath and tell me what’s going on.’”
Kaplan listened to her story. The next day, she got a call from UCA stating her room and board had been paid by an “anonymous donor” and that she could come to school for the fall semester.
“I just knew it was Dr. Kaplan. He never admitted to it … but I knew it was him.”
Cox-Meadows went on to work three jobs to save up money for room and board for the spring semester. The music scholarship, her jobs and the anonymous donation settled the cost.
“[With] what Dr. Kaplan had done for me, I was able to get there and stay there. It was a huge blessing – absolutely life-changing for me,” Cox-Meadows said. “The first semester, at the end of the semester, I sent Dr. Kaplan a letter from the president saying that I had made the President’s List. I mailed a copy to him and one to my mother that just said, ‘Merry Christmas.’”
Cox-Meadows went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UCA. In 2010, she earned a doctorate in educational leadership from Walden University. She never forgot about the donation and has paid it forward in spades.
Her nonprofit organization Daryl’s Music Makers provides instruments, teachers and other supplies to cultivate a love of music. The program serves more than 1,200 children annually in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and several music camps all across the United States. Cox-Meadows created the nonprofit in memory of her husband Daryl Cox who passed away in March 2012.
“You want to do something that helps make a legacy. Daryl and I were not able to have kids and so as a way of trying to honor his memory and support causes that would make him smile, I founded Music Makers. We take hope and a future to kids through music and education across the world. It is literally about exposing kids to music, education, and hope in the future that they can have through those.”
In addition to music education, the program teaches English and reading, provides food and water and awards scholarships in the United States. Cox-Meadows said each partnership is different, giving what is most needed and then expanding to music by providing lessons and instruments.
Attending UCA allowed Cox-Meadows to see the possibilities and impact education can make in life. Now she gives hope to others.
“My life is about giving back to others because I have been given to and had I not been given to, then my life would have been totally different … because of what people have poured into me, I’m allowed to pour back to other people.”