LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Eric Cox

Position: District Safety Coordinator
School: Ware Shoals High School
School District: Ware Shoals School District #51
City, State: Ware Shoals, SC

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Music that Describes Eric


Eric Cox was nominated by his superintendent, Dr. Fay Sprouse.

"Get your phones out now and put my number in there. If you need me, I don’t care if it’s 11 at night, call me."

Thus begins each grade level meeting the first week of school at Ware Shoals High School, Mr. Cox’s alma mater and home base. He has served as District Safety Coordinator for Ware Shoals School District 51 for the past 10 years. This role is perfect for the Retired First Sergeant with the South Carolina Highway Patrol and Retired Master Sergeant with the South Carolina Army National Guard. 

Mr. Cox is making a difference in his district, region, and state as he works to make school campuses and communities safer through prevention efforts and training. He developed a student-led First Responder program for his district called Squad 51. Students selected for this program become members of the Firefighter Explorer Program at their local fire department, which helps fill the need for volunteer firefighters in rural communities. He trains the students in CPR/AED, First Aid, Stop the Bleed, and use of the proper personal protective equipment. Squad 51 members respond to medical emergencies on and off campus, providing timely assistance to responding emergency units.

Mr. Cox provides Squad 51 members with reflective vests and go bags that contain the tools necessary for emergency response. He has these students provide assistance during special events, from directing traffic and parking cars, to helping those who are handicapped get into the building and onto the elevator. Squad 51 members also help serve food to the elderly during the school's Thanksgiving meal. Additionally, they present the colors at the town Veterans Day program, and they provide support during deployment ceremonies for the local National Guard unit. In a news story for Fox Carolina, Mr. Cox noted, “This is a way for our young people to start early and give back to our community.”

Thanks to the program Mr. Cox started in the 2015-16 school year, all ninth grade students receive the American Heart Association’s CPR/AED training and tourniquet training. One of the students he trained saved her grandmother’s life by performing CPR while waiting on emergency personnel to arrive. Other students have come to the aid of people in life or death situations, including Hunter, one of the Squad 51 students. He assisted a fellow FFA camper this summer during a serious asthma attack.

“Mr. Cox is a great role model," said Hunter. "He is always looking for ways to advance our training, so that when we get the call, we know how to jump right in and get the job done.”

Another student, responding to a call with his fire department, helped perform CPR on a heart attack victim. His fire chief praised his valiant attempt to save the victim’s life.

Last fall, a bus from a neighboring district crashed, seriously injuring many children and adults. Two Squad 51 students responded to the accident, helping remove victims from the bus and get medical attention. Meanwhile, Mr. Cox led members of the district’s Emergency Response Team in opening a reunification site so that families could be reunited with children who had not been transported to hospitals.

After that tragic event, Mr. Cox saw a need for a Reunification Mobile Unit (RMU) and Mobile Response Teams (MRT) from surrounding districts, so he undertook this project. The RMU will be a station stocked with supplies necessary for reunification, like parent forms and Wi-Fi hot spots. The trained MRTs will also travel to the scene of the emergency to provide assistance to the affected school district, the victims, and the victims' families.

“Eric has worked with the local government and other agencies to develop detailed response and reunification plans,” said George McKinney, Emergency Management Coordinator for Greenwood County. “He not only has plans, but he has trained on them and exercised them to ensure those tasked are knowledgeable and able to execute. He shares his knowledge and time with other school district safety managers to help them improve their programs. One project Eric spearheaded was the sharing of his plans in a secure on-line program. His forward thinking has led to all the response agencies, teachers (including substitutes), and administrators having quick access to those tools they need online.”

Ware Shoals School District 51 was the first in the state to go online with the Palmetto EOC system, which provides emergency responders and dispatchers with crisis plans, floor plans, training schedules, and access to camera systems. Mr. Cox also procured radios that are used by each school to communicate directly with law enforcement and fire dispatchers, which will save precious minutes in the event of a crisis. 

This past summer, Mr. Cox teamed up with Wayne Freeman, Special Agent for the SC State Law Enforcement Division, to conduct reunification training for all surrounding school districts and agencies. In addition, he led his district in becoming the first in South Carolina to host the Active Attack Integrated Response Course (AAIR). The AAIR, taught by Texas State University trainers, is a 16-hour course designed to improve integration between law enforcement, fire, telecommunication and emergency medical services (EMS) in active attack / shooter events.

Mr. Cox is committed to ensuring all students, staff, as well as emergency responders know what to do in case of an emergency in one of the schools. He even meets individually with teachers to tell them how they should arrange their classrooms for students’ safety, and he teaches all students, in an age-appropriate manner, how to best respond in case of a crisis. This summer, after training substitute teachers that his district employs through a staffing service, Mr. Cox was hired to train all of the staffing services's substitute teachers in the region. He is an Alive at 25 instructor, and he offers frequent sessions to area students, teaching them how to make safe, respectful and legal driving decisions.

Mr. Cox has spoken to many civic and parent groups, and he has provided safety training for church groups in the area. SLED Agent Freeman recognized the talent and dedication of Mr. Cox, and he has invited him to be a presenter at the SLED school safety conference this fall. Hundreds of people have received training at no cost thanks to the efforts of Mr. Cox and his commitment to making schools and communities safer places to learn and grow.

"Mr. Cox is making a beneficial, life-changing difference for schools, communities, individuals, and groups through his vision, leadership, and service," said Sprouse. "He may be seen in our schools and on our campuses early in the morning and late at night, on weekdays and even on weekends. He answers his calling – school safety – and he will answer that phone, even if a student calls him at 11PM on a Saturday night to say ‘I need you,’ because he truly cares."


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Comments (22)


William Rogers Posted 5 days ago

I have known Eric Cox as a member of Ware Shoals United Methodist Church for several years. During this time I have observed him performing a variety of roles; teacher, administrator, consultant, planner, and leader. He preaches the best sermon anyone can - his life is a wonderful sermon, of God’s love to be shared. He is a person of deep faith - a faith which is both clear and strong. He is non-defensive and open, relaxed, reflective, and approachable. Most of all Eric is a person who cares for people, especially students. He is able to relate easily and genuinely with persons of diverse backgrounds; young/old, urban rural, intellectual/nonintellectual. He has a great affection for people, and can listen patiently and with concern. Persons feel they can come to him with significant problems knowing that he will treat them with respect. He is comfortable and competent working with folks in a variety of settings; one-to-one, and small and large groups. Wisdom is the virtue seen most in Eric. He is skilled, assertive, self-directed learner. This attitude helps him fit easily into a school community. I have been a parish minister for almost fifty years, and I taught and worked in higher education for thirteen years. I am confident that Eric has the qualifications to be among the very best. I am convinced that he brings an exciting but stable presence in school and community. As I have said, he preaches the best sermon - his life. William F. Rogers Pastor of Were Shoals and Harmony UMC

Dr. Billy R. Strickland Posted 7 days ago

Eric is an outstanding person who has served his country, state, and local community throughout his entire life. The Squad 51 program has served the community, but has also shown the students how to give back to their community at an early age. The reunification program, EOC system, and other programs have shown many school districts and other agencies how to protect our children better which is always our top priority. Because of these and many other things, Eric is very deserving of this award, but he already receives a reward daily as he shows students by example to be a good citizen for our state and country. Dr. Billy R. Strickland, Executive Director Western Piedmont Education Consortium

William Keesley Posted 10 days ago

Eric is an outstanding person, and an excellent guide and role model for young people. He is most deserving of recognition for his dedicated service.

James F Davis III Posted 12 days ago

Mr. Cox is one of the most conscientious people I know!!! As the Ware Shoals District Safety Officer he has raised the level of Safety and Security Awareness of every Student, Teacher and Staff Member of the Ware Shoals School District 51!!! The District’s Safety and Security Policy and Procedures are Second to none!!! Mr. Cox is so Insightful with the Safety Information he provides that is situationally applicable!!! Mr. Cox is always planning and preparing for every scenario of Safety and Security!!! Mr. Cox turns over every rock, and looks into every crook and cranny for potential dangers which could disrupt People and School Safety!!! From the hallways to the School Buses on the highways, you can see the fingerprints of Mr. Cox’s Safety and Security involvement!!! No matter where you are in the School District the knowledge of Safety and Security is the Attitude of the Students and Staff!!! The Designated and Distinguished Students of “Squad 51” are always ready and on call for duty (Squad 51 consists of High School Students who acts as an Emergency Response Team [EMT])!!! The Safety and Security Operations of Ware Shoals School District 51 are of the utmost in efficiency!!! Mr. Cox presents himself as a person who is always looking to improve what we have!!! When it comes to Safety and Security, Mr. Cox is not complacent!!! The tentacles of Mr. Cox’s influence reach far beyond the parameters of the School District to the surrounding community!!! Mr. Cox has trained Churches in Safety and Security, in planning, preparations and procedures in case of an Active Shooter!!! Mr. Cox has trained Churches in CPR!!! The District’s Safety and Security Operations are interwoven with the local Police Department, Fire Department, County Sheriff Departments, Highway Patrol and local town government!!! Mr. Cox is like the local version of the Secretary of Homeland Security!!! He makes sure everybody is SAFE and SECURE!!! Finally, Mr. Cox is just “Good People!!!” As I stated initially, he is Conscientious; but he is also Honest and Truthful; he is most Helpful and Generous; he is Concerned and Considerate!!! There MAYBE people who know more about Safety and Security than Mr. Cox; IF THEY ARE, I haven’t met them!!! Congratulations to Mr. Cox as Life Changer of the Year!!!

Brenda Carpenter Posted 13 days ago

I knew Eric Cox as Sgt Cox with the SC Highway Patrol when he lived in Edgefield County. At the time I was Edgefield County Magistrate. He has always been a professional and caring person, and Ware Shoals was fortunate that he made the decision to come back home. I'm not surprised hearing about his accomplishments there because of his love for other people. Congratulations to Eric and I am blessed to have had and still call him my friend.

Richard Walters Posted 13 days ago

Eric Cox is dedicated to his community,County,State and our country U S A !! He deserving of recognition as a Servant of South Carolina making sure everything is done right!!

Paul Anderson Posted 13 days ago

“Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for his friends.” This describes a lifetime of service provided to his fellow man by a loyal, humble Ware Shoals graduate. First, as a member of the South Carolina National Guard he protected our country, and later for over twenty five years as a South Carolina Highway Patrolman, he has protected the citizens of South Carolina, and finally, choosing to direct his attention to his hometown and his alma mater, he is protecting our most precious resource, our children. I’ve known Mr. Cox all my life, as they say. He is a man of integrity…he says what he means and he means what he says. He loves his family, he loves his school, and he loves the students of Ware Shoals High School.

Cyndi Dyal Posted 13 days ago

I have known Eric Cox since high school, he has always be a great guy. He was a highway patrolman for years left his hometown to fulfill his patrolman duty, and then returned back to his hometown to step proudly back into his alma mater to do great things for school district 51. His devotion for our school and our children has really changed a lot of lives, sending our children in the right direction. It is hard to name every thing that he has accomplished. There is no one more deserving of any award than Mr. Eric Cox

Gail Rogers Posted 13 days ago

Everyone needs an Eric Cox! He is a very valuable person to have in our community, town and school. We owe a lot to him!

Shawn Davenport Posted 14 days ago

Mr. Cox has been one the guiding lights for my boys as they have traversed the halls of Ware Shoals High. My middle son was one of the original members of Squad 51, and my youngest soon followed. Both boys have learned invaluable lessons from him over the last 4 years. Aside from the many life saving and emergency response lessons he has also taught them about commitment, dedication, and service to others. Dylan my older son is currently serving in the SC National Guard. Not only did Mr. Cox show his pride in Dylan's decision to follow this path he also taught him many skills that will transfer into this career choice. My youngest is beginning his third year as a member of Squad 51. He looks very much forward to the events they help with and the trainings they do. His fire chief has spoken very highly of the training he received as a member. Through his time on the Squad he has definitely been instilled with the core values of our district; Learning Serving and Leading. I also am a member of staff for Ware Shoals Primary school. This is the school where the smallest of our Hornets get their start. Over the last 4 years I have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Cox on our Emergency Management Team. He has led us through many scenarios and training situations that have built confidence in our staff and given us the tools and knowledge to maintain the safety of our students and staff. I truly believe that through his dedication to our district and the students within he has changed many lives, including that of my sons!

Elizabeth Counts Posted 14 days ago

Mr. Cox is so deserving of this!! He puts a lot of effort in all he does and worries about each student not only their academics but also the well being of other areas of life which can be tough for fast paced high school students. He notices when things aren’t right with a student even when others would have passed it off as nothing. He truly cares for each person he meets.

Dr. Julie Fowler Posted 14 days ago

Eric Cox, having had experience working with you in Ware Shoals and now having the opportunity to collaborate with you in a neighboring district, I can attest to your devotion, commitment, and passion for safety. You lead by example and have the heart of a servant leader. Thank you for being a champion for public education. When you joined the team in Ware Shoals, you implemented safety measures and provided training unparalleled in the history of the district. You not only provided service to your own district, you partnered with the 12 Western Piedmont Education Consortium member districts and allowed them to participate in every training you offered. You sought experts in the safety field and encouraged them to come to our small, rural districts to provide training and ongoing support. You orchestrated the convening of all emergency management service providers and exposed district administrators to the networks within their own communities. We trained together in an effort to support each other in emergency situations. In October 2018, when Abbeville County School District (ACSD) had the horrific bus accident in Greenwood County, it was you and your emergency response team who were first on the scene providing communication with our District; it was the Ware Shoals team who comforted our students and teachers involved in the accident; and, as students and teachers were airlifted and transported via ambulance to different area hospitals, it was the Ware Shoals team that executed exactly what they had been trained to do under your supervision. ACSD will forever be grateful for the swift action of your superintendent and you and your team. This nomination is well deserved and we are hopeful that everyone gets to know the Eric Cox we respect and appreciate. It is a pleasure learning, serving, and leading alongside of you. Thank you for all you do to pay it forward for students, teachers, administrators, community members, colleagues, and neighboring districts. #LCOYERICCOX #GAMECHANGER #PAYITFORWARD Dr. Julie Fowler, Superintendent Abbeville County School District

Tonja Lindle Posted 14 days ago

Mr Cix is one of a kind, he works hard everyday to ensure the safety of our school, students, faculty and even the community! He is passionate about taking care of our school. You feel safe knowing he is there because you know he’s always looking out for you! He puts so much time and effort into everything he does for our school and student!

Colene Cone Posted 14 days ago

Eric is a kind very supportive man. When his young granddaughter, age 11, was diagonoised with overian cancer, he set up a weekly face time with one of the classes at Waresholes school. This was such a positive experience for each of the students and lifted Carson while she did her chemo. He is a life changer and deserves this award.

Thomas L. Martin Posted 14 days ago

I have continued to be impressed by Mr. Cox's dedication to his job, and to the students of School District 51, for quite some time. The local paper, The Ware Shoals Observer, has many stories and articles about the local school district (as every hometown paper should!), and many of those stories are about Mr. Cox and his dedication, and especially his initiative, especially in cutting edge safety matters, such as an active shooter situation. He appears to have excellent contacts and resources, and has brought School District 51 far more programs, resources, training, and equipment than one would normally expect from one of South Carolina's smallest and poorest school districts. His safety programs, to an objective observer, would appear to be the product of a much larger and better resourced district. It appears to me, as a regular reader of The Observer's articles and stories, that the difference is in, and due to, Mr. Cox - it is his drive and dedication which enable him to provide training and safety which one would normally associate with a much larger district. District 51 appears to be very fortunate to have Mr. Cox on staff - and those of us in the general community sure should be glad of that!!!! I am!! R/TLM

Renate Gunnels Posted 14 days ago

Mr. Cox is always ready to listen and give advice on safety issues, being firm yet fair; inspiring affection and respect from students and staff alike. He sees the big picture in any given situation and stays well-grounded in realistic expectations. His understanding of human nature assures that his safety strategies are germane and effective without creating unnecessary anxiety. In an unpredictable world, he is a voice of astute, proactive planning.

DRU MCLEAN Posted 14 days ago

Eric Cox is an asset to our schools, our churches and our community. He is a man of his word, always!

George McKinney Posted 14 days ago

Eric, Thanks for your dedication to the School District, but more importantly the students and teachers you keep safe daily.

Vicki Randolph Posted 14 days ago

It is a privilege to work with such a responsible and caring person as Eric Cox each day. We could not ask for a better person to keep our school and community safe. Thank you Eric Cox for all you do!

Judy Abrams Posted 14 days ago

Eric...being a member of your family I have known you for a long time. When I married in to the family you were the age of the younger children. I have to say that I always called you a little brat. But as you have grown and gotten older I must say that I am very: Proud of you Eric. You certainly do a great job of keeping our school children safe. Please continue to do so as these children may be in school today but they will in deed be our leaders of tomorrow Help the school teachers teach them the things they need to know so that they can (safely) one day be successful and productive individuals in our town and other towns should they see fit to move away from Ware Shoals. Again, I am so very proud of you and the work that you do in Ware Shoals School District 51.

Marti Arsenault Posted 14 days ago

Mr. Cox is certainly making a difference in the lives of those in whom he comes in contact with. He is dedicated to the safety of our students and staff in Ware Shoals School District 51. His leadership and service to his community can be seen at all hours of the day and night.

Wayne Freeman Posted 14 days ago

I have been working with Mr. Eric Cox for the last year or so and in that time I have seen nothing but genuine concern for the safety of faculty and staff. He is tireless in his efforts to ensure that training and safety behaviors are constantly being taught and reinforced. He has been an excellent facilitator for the courses the district has hosted, and he has brought approximately $60,000 worth of training to the district through his tireless efforts. The district has a rare find in Eric Cox. His obvious passion for taking care of the faculty and staff shows in everything that he does. Wayne Freeman Senior Special Agent SLED Homeland Security South Carolina Active Shooter and CCTA Training Program