A day in the life of Jennifer Cox is a hectic one; she gets up early to get her son ready for daycare and then heads off to Kenwood High School, where she is the coordinator of the Sports Science Academy. After a long day of teaching and extracurricular activities, she heads to a local homeless shelter to teach classes and workshops on social/emotional health and fitness. Then, she coordinates the pickup and drop off of fresh fruits and vegetables from Trader Joe’s to various shelters.
Earlier this year, Cox started Empower410, a non-profit organization that serves to inspire hope and promote health in Baltimore area homeless children.
“My long-term plan is to be working in many shelters throughout Baltimore,” Cox said. “Right now we primarily work with three. This all came together based on my teaching career at Kenwood. I’ve been inspired by so many of my students.”
According to Cox, building relationships with kids goes a really long way and regardless of their circumstances, every student who walks through her door can be successful. Through Empower410, she hopes to meet students where they are and show them that they are capable of achieving anything they set their minds to.
“My primary goal is to empower children to live self-sufficient lives when they get older,” she said.
Since starting the organization, she has quickly expanded and gotten help from multiple partners. Brick Bodies provides instructors to teach yoga classes to students, and Stevenson University is generating materials and helping to teach sessions.
“The outpouring of support from the community has been amazing,” Cox said.
St. John Properties and St. Michaels School are donating space for Empower410 to operate in, The Cole Foundation and International Union of Operating Engineers donated money and resources to the nonprofit, and the Kurt Chenowith Foundation plans to donate a vehicle for all those trips to Trader Joe’s. (Cox currently borrows her husband’s truck or depends on countless helpful volunteers.)
“It is crucial for community members like Jennifer to get involved with our children and the families because they need positive people, with a positive message who are dedicated to long term relationships with them,” said April Stevens, volunteer coordinator at the Eastside Family Emergency Shelter. “Shelter life can be incredibly trying for our youngsters, but with the proper resources in place, we can get them back on the right track. We have a challenging task here at the shelter, and community members like Jennifer make our goals more obtainable.”
Cox’s devotion to all kids shines through when she talks about the work she does both in the classroom and in the community.
“I love my students, and I want to see all of them succeed and go on to live healthy, productive lives,” Cox said. “Our homeless kids are some of our most at-risk kids, so if I can get in there and build relationships with them, my hope is that they will feel safe, respected and willing to learn.”