ADA30 Spotlight - Kyle Cox

July 2, 2020

Formative Years:
I was born and raised in El Paso, TX. Growing up, I have been challenged with many obstacles in life. Born with Duchene Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a muscle deteriorating disease and a bilateral hearing impairment, I have faced many challenges in life. From an early age, my mother has been very active in the disability community. She has served on the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) and has traveled to Washington D.C. to advocate on my behalf and for many others with disabilities. This gave me a passion and a platform form to get involved at an early age. "It's not the disability, but the Ability." From an early age, this is a saying that has been ingrained into me by my mother. By choosing to focus on my abilities and what I can do rather than on what I cannot do, I can accomplish anything. Another mentor who has greatly influenced my life was my high school band directors. He believed in me and that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. I had the honor in being in the top band his final year before he retired. Although I didn't begin my work in advocacy until I got to Texas A&M, my mom and high school band director instilled in me the qualities I would need to be able to advocate for people with disabilities.

Undergraduate Experience:
Upon my arrival at Texas A&M, I sought out ways to serve as an advocate for people with disabilities. After being elected to the Student Senate at the end of my sophomore year, I was nominated to chair the newly formed Disability Subcommittee to bring new disability initiatives to campus. As Chair of the Senate Disability Subcommittee I collaborated with various Texas A&M leaders, the Texas A&M Systems office, and other disability departments to advocate for disability issues and facilitate improvements in accessibility. Although the Disability Subcommission was unsuccessful, I gained valuable knowledge on leadership and collaboration, building a network of connections. Through this experience, I built the foundation of my work in advocacy and it opened doors for other opportunities to serve as an advocate for students with disabilities.

Through my junior and senior years, I served on the Disability Resources Advisory Board, where I provided a student voice and perspective on issues relating to Disability Resources. I also served on the planning committee for the "21st Century Classroom" building and Student Services Building. I was able to witness the planning process from start to finish of the new Student Services building and had the honor of speaking on behalf of Disability Resources at the Grand Opening. Further, I served on Student Panels for the Library, College of Architecture, and College of Special Education and worked with Texas A&M University facilities to facilitate improvements in accessibility on campus.

In addition, I've immersed myself in opportunities to improve my leadership and to build connections with other leaders across campus. I've participated as a delegate for the MSC Fall Leadership Conference for two consecutive years, where I connected with other student leaders and built my leadership skills. The pinnacle of my undergraduate college leadership was in the Spring 2017. I had the honor of serving as a delegate for the Abbott Family Leadership Conference, where I was deeply immersed in an intense four-day experience in Houston, TX. At the conference, we reflected on how ethics, morals, and values apply to different aspects of life, including business, community, and family. I've also had the opportunity to intern in Senator Schwertner's office and work at the Texas A&M Foundation, where I developed relationships, perspectives, and connections that could affect change.

During the summer of 2017, I worked for the Texas A&M Center for Disability & Development as a mentor, providing mentorship and leadership to high school students with disabilities attending summer camp to learn how to advocate for themselves. In 2018, I was awarded the Gary Grey Accountability, Climate, and Equity (ACE) Award for my work as a disability advocate at Texas A&M. I graduated from Texas A&M University in May 2018 with a degree in political science and a minor in ag leadership.
In the Fall 2017, the Division of Student Affairs did a Student Spotlight highlighting my accomplishments as a disability advocate.

Graduate Experience:
In the Fall 2018, I began my pursuit of a master's degree at the Bush School of Government and Public Service. I pursued the Public Policy Analysis track with a concentration in healthcare. I immersed myself in my studies and pursued other opportunities at the Bush School. I chose the Bush School because I hope to serve as an advocate for people with disabilities and to make policy changes to make the lives of people with disabilities better. While at the Bush School, I served on the Ambassador's Council as a liaison and I have represented the Bush School of Government and Public Service in development functions and alumni events throughout the semester. During my summer internship, I worked for the Texas A&M System Office, evaluating the effectiveness of the hiring criterions of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities for each of the individual campuses.

In graduate school, I have continued my work in disability advocacy. I served as chairman for the Disability Subcommission in the Fall of 2019. I worked with the Student Body President (SBP), the Operations Vice President, and the Diversity Commissioner to create the Disability Subcommission. My responsibilities included laying the foundation of this committee, recruiting the inaugural members, and laying the groundwork for the Disability Subcommission to continue after I graduate. In the Spring of 2020, I was awarded the Buck Weirus Award for my involvement at Texas A&M, creating positive experiences throughout the Aggie community, impacting studet life at Texas A&M, and enhancing the Aggie Spirit by making contributions to the university through participation in student organizations, Aggie traditions and university events.

In the Fall of 2019, the Division of Student Affairs at Texas A&M did a story on My Aggies Story that exemplifies how the Texas A&M experience has impacted me. In the following video, I share my story of leadership, values, resiliency, legacy, and initiatives:

Outside of the classroom and disability advocacy, I enjoy traveling, and spending time with family and friends. In my undergrad, I was part of a Christian fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) and Aggie Adaptive Sports. I also enjoy spending time on my many hobbies, which include watching sports, playing the Euphonium (Baritone) in both the Symphonic Band and the Hullabaloo pep band at Texas A&M, playing chess, collecting coins, stamps, and other memorabilia, and caring for my animals.

In May of 2017, my friends did a surprise road trip for me and a film crew came along to film the video. The following video is the trailer of the movie that they were going to create: Unfortunately, the video footage of the trip was stolen, and the producers were unable to finish the film. They began another video project where we each talked about the trip and we share the story in the following video:

After graduation, I hope to continue advocating for the disability community, either for a legislator or a disability advocacy agency.