Mrs. Cole — A Tribute

Jacqueline Ohlrich, Staff Writer

In the early years of East Ridge High School, the campus was a chaotic scene where many racial groups banded together into gangs of sorts. Such was nothing but a ticking time bomb in need of solidarity. That was when Mrs. Aurelia Cole made the Knight’s Creed, the same one still repeated every morning before the day begins. “She expected anyone who considered themselves a Knight to adhere to the Creed in order to overcome a very divisive and dangerous day, so as to create unity for the days to come.” (Grant Mollett, 2018). This is Mrs. Cole’s longest lasting imprint on East Ridge and still conveys the same unity originally intended. Such helps define Mrs. Cole, a great figure to East Ridge High School as one of our earliest principals.

After Mrs. Cole was principal for many other schools, she was appointed the assistant superintendent of administration and safety in 2008 and stayed until her retirement six years later in 2014. Cole was one of the founders of the South Lake Historical Society, the director of Christian education, and an active member at New Jacobs Missionary Baptist Church. All while continuing to be a member of the McKinney Gospel Choir that her father, the Rev. McKinney, began.

Mrs. Aurelia Cole was a person who not only thought of her community as people whom she lived with, but as a family. As an alumnus of East Ridge, Noris Peguero vividly recalls this very quality. “There were over 900 students. Even then she always took the time to ask about how I was doing and knew me by name. She was genuinely interested in the answer that I would give,” stated Peguero. This characteristic led Mrs. Cole to volunteer her time to many different organizations, including East Ridge High School’s Key Club as the Kiwanis Advisor, despite her being a retired woman.

She also pushed her students to be better than what you think you can be. “She was the same person in and out of work, inspiring and genuine, cared and passionate. It reflected in the way that the students performed and made a difference in the school,” said Peguero. The way that Cole was a motherly figure to her student left a lasting impression on them to this day.

However, Mrs. Cole passed away from lung cancer at the Mike Conley Hospice House in Clermont at the age of 69 on July 5th. Yet, even though she physically left, her influence never will. According to Mrs. Cole’s Daughter, she admired her mother’s ability to connect and influence people. “All my life, I’ve seen how much of an impact my mother had on so many people in so many different ways. Things always seemed like they were small to her, but to other people, the things she did and what she inspired in them were huge,” Green said. “I think if we all could take just a little bit of what she left with us and do something good with it, we could make a big difference in our community.”

Her influence is seen not only in the students she saw growing up, but also the people she worked with. Some still reside in our school, such as Mr. Mollett and principal Lueallen, who has been at East Ridge High School since the early days. Mr. Mollett describes her as “a very compassionate woman. She was kind and would go to great lengths to help anyone in need. As a principal, Mrs. Cole held her students and staff to high standards. She expected a lot from her students and teachers, and led them to do their very best each day.” Mr. Mollett admired Mrs. Cole’s ability to foster relationships with her teachers and students. He saw firsthand her genuine care for her students and staff through her relationships with others and himself. “She had a way of making each of us feel important, appreciated, and necessary in this school,” stated Mollett. Our principal also knew Mrs. Cole personally and professionally, as Mrs. Cole was her immediate supervision as she was hired to be the principal of ERHS. “I admired her ability to make all people feel special, her love of education, and her ability to provide wisdom and leadership in a time of need. For me …one of her most admired qualities was her spirit of service and her winning attitude.” This love for the teachers and students had shaped Mrs. Lueallen’s approach for leading East Ridge towards success. Such includes Mrs. Cole’s belief in the “One Knight” Creed and what it symbolizes for us, “her belief that there is nothing that together we can’t accomplish.”

Although she is gone, we shall have faith in knowing that she has already left a lasting mark on not only the past but also the future of East Ridge High School. For future students may not know yet, but they will soon feel like One Knight once they enter East Ridge High School, all as a result as Mrs. Aurelia Cole.

Watch a tribute here.