Born and raised in Minneapolis, Jacox grew up in a low-income family. She remembers how her parents sacrificed to make sure she and her siblings had everything they needed. But she also remembers tense domestic situations that resulted in night terrors.
Jacox specifically needed two things: a support system, which she found in her grandmother, and opportunity which she found through basketball.
Natural talent and drive resulted in Jacox playing varsity basketball by seventh grade. She rode that talent to a spot on a junior college team in Iowa, where she was quickly scouted away to play Division I basketball as a combo-guard for the University of San Francisco in California.
Jacox played for USF up until her graduation in December 2015, when she completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology. With one more year of eligibility, she received an offer from UMSL to play for the Tritons while earning a master’s degree.
“If it wasn’t for basketball I don’t know where I’d be,” Jacox said. “It’s a blessing to get through school for free.”
Deciding on an MSW degree came about after an eye-opening undergraduate internship experience at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in San Francisco. She worked with men and women serving 20-year or more sentences, helping prepare them for their transition back into society.
“That was just a very, very humbling experience for me, and that’s what really drove me into thinking social work,” Jacox said.
She also admits that her grandmother, a social worker for teen and young moms, played an influential role having exposed her to the field at such a young age.
But it wasn’t until a UMSL class with social work instructor DeAnn Yount that Jacox knew child therapy was her calling. Yount, who teaches through stories from the field, recounted a story that resonated with Jacox.
“It sounded oddly familiar,” Jacox said, “and then I realized how similar it was to my life story.”
Inspired to be the person she once needed, Jacox landed an internship at Youth in Need in St. Charles, Missouri, this semester. The agency helps youth up to the age of 19 and sees clients with a wide range of cases including homelessness, depression, mental and emotional health issues, traumatic stress, parenting conflicts, behavioral issues and grief.
Jacox’s internship has her helping in the office, the teen parent program and the racial equity program. She guides a teen parent support group and even carries a case load despite having worked at the agency only since August. That opportunity is something Jacox appreciates.
“The staff here is super, super supportive,” she said. “They know you’re a student, but they say the best way to get your practice is to get out there and be exposed to it.”
She’s putting the time spent toward her 600-hour concentration practicum requirement at UMSL. With six cases of her own, Jacox already has invaluable experience.
“The No. 1 thing I’ve learned is that relationship is everything,” she said. “You have to build a relationship to build trust. If you don’t have trust, you’re not going to be able to achieve the goals that you set together.”
The racial equity part of Jacox’s internship is inspired by Forward through Ferguson and the results of the Ferguson Commission report. Jacox is helping Youth in Need complete its Path to Racial Equity Baseline Assessment, developed by UMSL Assistant Teaching Professor Courtney McDermott’s collaborative grant work last year. Still in the early stages, Jacox is gathering data to determine where the agency might have areas of inequity.
“A lot of the time people can’t handle the facts,” she said, “and some people aren’t prepared and ready to talk about it. Raw data is in your face, so many agencies are wary about this. But I love that Youth in Need is one of those agencies that said, ‘We need something like this. Let’s get on board.’ Because really people from all types of backgrounds need services.”
Jacox will graduate in May 2018. She’ll be eligible to complete her licensing exam a month before then to become a licensed master of social work. Her end goal, after completing more hours in the field, is to be a licensed clinical social worker.
She’ll continue her internship at Youth in Need until her graduation. In the meantime, she’s happy to be making a difference in children’s lives.
“Hopefully a lot of them are able to one day see the support and love that we are pouring into them,” Jacox said. “Maybe they will want to give back as well.”