The job of a school resource officer is to "listen, learn, educate and protect," according to Jason Hottenstein.
He would know.
Fifteen years ago, Hottenstein, of Hershey, became the first active police officer employed in a Lancaster County school. He arrived at Penn Manor High School not long after the Columbine High School massacre — a tense time for schools.
Aided by federal grants, employing school resource officers has since become a nationwide strategy to deter school violence. There are now 16 in Lancaster County schools.
Although Hottenstein, 44, thinks schools are safer now than in January 2000 when he started, "the potential conflicts for teens I believe have gotten worse over the years," he said. "The number one thing schools can do to keep students safe is not have the mentality that it will never happen to us."
By being present at lunches, in the hallways and in classrooms, Hottenstein aims not only to protect students, but to be another adult who will listen to what they're going through.
Family: Wife Detective Cate Hottenstein; step-daughters Darian, 20, and Kieran, 15; English bulldogs Mo and Bailee.
Difference between regular police work and my duties: Unlike the street where you deal with different people all the time, a school resource officer is more personal. I tell people I have 1,800 kids, and I am responsible for getting them through high school safely.
One thing that's always on my desk: Paperwork and clutter (I call it organized chaos).
Favorite cafeteria food: Popcorn chicken.
Best part of my day: Interactions with the kids.
Hobbies: I've been a Hershey Fire Department volunteer for 25 years, and I love to golf.
What keeps me awake at night: Not being able to solve something.
Toughest situation I've dealt with at work: Having to make a death notification of a student.
Gratifying work moment: Having a kid come back after they graduate and tell you that if it wasn’t for you I would not have made it through high school. It's also awesome to see students graduate and go into law enforcement because of the influence that you had on them in high school.
Funniest work moment: There was a fight in another part of the school, and I ran out of the cafeteria with 600 kids in it and fell up the steps in front of them. It was ugly.
How I spend my summers: Back in uniform on the mean streets of Millersville.
My dream job as a kid: Truck driver (influenced by the TV show "BJ and the Bear").
Favorite thing about teenagers today: They are tech-savvy. If I am having trouble locating something I heard was out there, one of the kids can have it in minutes.
Biggest concern for teenagers today: They do things on the Internet without thinking much about who they might be sending a message or picture to.
How technology makes my job harder: A lot more cyber-bullying.
How technology makes my job easier: The electronic paper trail that the cyber world leaves.
Best advice I've received: My dad told me to always be yourself, don’t act like something you're not and always love what you do.
My advice to a new school resource officer: Don't judge a kid by their looks, or race and religion. Get to know your kids and let them get to know you, and that will build the trust.
How students inspire me: For some of my students, the stability and nurturing they need in their lives come from the adults that they are involved with in the school setting. Being part of a young adult's transition to head out into the real world is my inspiration.
Something students don't know about me: For the past 27 years I have been involved with a dance production company in Hershey called One Broadway. We do a yearly two-night show at the Hershey Theatre. Not only am I the stage manager, I have also danced and participated in the show on numerous occasions and will again this year.