School resource officer Cpl. Daniel Allen and guidance counselor Geri Henderson say they love their jobs at Whale Branch Early College High School because they love helping the students -- every day, in every way they can.
When they won statewide recognition for their work, it came as a surprise -- both knew they had been nominated, but both thought it would go to someone else.
Allen, a deputy with the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office, has been named the 2012 Eric Bamberg State School Resource Officer of the Year by the S.C. Association of School Resource Officers. The association also recognized Henderson, the school's head of guidance, as the 2012 Educator of the Year.
"When they started announcing things about who won the award, I thought, 'That sure sounds familiar,' " Allen said of the banquet he attended Thursday. "Then, they announced my name."
Henderson said she also was surprised and that her coworkers in the guidance department deserve the credit for the school's success in helping students plan for life after graduation.
"It's good to go to work and enjoy working with the people around you," she said.
Allen, who has worked at Whale Branch High since it opened in 2010 and was a school resource officer at Battery Creek High School, said he was inspired to become an SRO by the officer who served at his middle school. Alvin Hardy seemed always to be helping Lady's Island Middle School students when Allen was there in the late 1990s, Allen said.
He strives to do the same.
"I like being someone that the kids can actually come to," Allen said. "I have an open-door policy with them, their parents and the staff. I want to make them realize that officers are more than someone who arrests you. That they can be a positive person in your life."
Allen and Henderson were nominated for the awards, and school administrators, teachers, students and parents wrote letters of recommendation, according to a news release from the county school district. They were selected by judges not affiliated with the SRO association.
It's the third time in the past four years that a local school resource officer has won the award, which is named for a longtime officer at Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School.
According to a district news release, Cpl. Mike Creason of the Bluffton Police Department won the 2011 award for his work at H.E. McCracken Middle School. In 2009, officer Othoniel Hatchet of the Beaufort Police Department won for his work at Beaufort High School.