When Beaufort Police Officer Othoniel Hatchett was considering which special police unit to join about seven years ago, he passed on the SWAT Team and the K-9 unit.
He felt he was needed elsewhere.
"I wanted to become a school resource officer," Hatchett said. "I believed that I can make a difference with those kids."
Hatchett, 51, was honored last month by the S.C. Association of School Resource Officers, which named him the state's School Resource Officer of the Year for his work at Beaufort High School over the past two years. Hatchett also worked at Lady's Island Middle School in 2005.
Hatchett was nominated for the award by several members of the city's police force, including Beaufort Police Chief Matt Clancy.
"He has done a lot more than just keep the school safe," Clancy said. "He has helped the entire department build a rapport with the students, and show them that law enforcement can be trusted and that we're on their side."
Hatchett, a native of the Dominican Republic, joined the Beaufort Police Department seven years ago after moving here from Ohio.
After working in a cadet program in Ohio, Hatchett volunteered to become an SRO and quickly earned a reputation as one of the department's most dedicated officers.
"He is the kind of person who gladly goes above and beyond what he is asked to do," said Lt. Doug Kadas, who supervises the SRO program.
Officers rotate as SROs, serving in schools for two years, then return to patrol for a year.
Now back on patrol, Hatchett said he will miss interacting daily with the teachers and students of Beaufort High but still plans to be a fixture there, and will mentor the school's new SRO.
"The school is like one big family," Hatchett said. "You work with the kids, the parents, the grandparents, the cousins, the aunts, the uncles. You get to know the whole community and everyone knows you. I know I can do more, and I can still do great things with the kids there."