Laura Cox

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In the summer between her junior and senior years at Hickman High School, Laura Cox experienced what she calls a life-changing opportunity. She was accepted into the Missouri Public Affairs Academy at Missouri State University. Thirty students from around the state spent part of each day of the week-long academy volunteering in some capacity at a public service institution. They also heard from a variety of speakers about public affairs occupations in the community.

“What really made an impression on me was that all of the people we listened to made an abundance of difference in their communities using their unique skillset,” Laura wrote in her essay. “I came to the realization that that is all I want to do — to make a profound difference in my community.”

Given Laura’s skillset, which includes athletics (volleyball and soccer), academic achievement, church and community involvement, beauty pageants and several leadership roles, she shouldn’t have any problem achieving her ambition. In fact, she’s already making it happen.

“During my junior year of high school, I was chosen for the great opportunity to be a part of Junior Leadership Columbia sponsored by the Columbia Chamber of Commerce. Every month, roughly 25 juniors from around Columbia would get together and learn about different leadership skills and about a variety of businesses and operations within our city. This led to my desire to be a part of the Youth Advisory Council sponsored by the Columbia City Council,” Laura wrote.

The YAC set a goal of creating Clothes Closets at each high school so low income students could find affordable clothes, shoes, accessories and toiletries. Laura led the effort at Hickman. “We applied for and received a grant from our PTSA to buy shelving and other storage items. Then we held a clothing drive and the outcome was better than any of us could have imagined.” Laura’s only regret is that it won’t be fully operational until after she graduates. “I am very proud of the accomplishments my small team has made and look forward to hearing about its success next year.”

After graduation, Laura will attend Missouri State University where she intends to major in political science with a minor in psychology and the humanities. She doesn’t know exactly where this preparation will lead, but she hopes to use her college years to learn more about herself and the world around her.

Laura is the daughter of Norman and Maria Cox of Centralia.

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