Cumberland County NC Jan 9 2017 He was a bright kid. A troublemaker to be sure, but bright.
All Jennifer Osborn wanted was for him not to give up on himself.
Osborn, a Cumberland County school resource officer supervisor, knows that she can't save everyone. There are just too many tattered lives, too many kids who've spent their lives being told they don't matter.
But, Osborn says, "You keep trying. That's the biggest part of this job. Every day, you remember that there are kids who just need a nudge in the right direction - someone who believes in them.
"So there was this kid at Ramsey Street Alternative (school). He had been in trouble with fights, with drugs. But he was a bright kid. I told him that all I wanted to see was him walk across the stage at the Crown, get his diploma and get away from everything that was going to hold him back."
Three years later, while helping with security at the Crown for high school graduation, Osborn heard a familiar voice holler "Hey, Dep!"
"I turned around, and there he was in his cap and gown," Osborn said. "I couldn't be prouder of any other graduate there."
Osborn's achievements as a school resource officer and in working with Special Olympics earned her a Hometown Hero award in December. She receive the award from former Gov. Pat McCrory.
"I was stunned," said Osborn, who was nominated for the award by Fayetteville businesswoman Bunny Powers. "When I first got the card telling me I had been nominated, I figured it was one of those scams.
"I emailed Bunny to see if it was real, and she said yes, it was real - and very deserved."
A native of Rockingham, Osborn comes from a family with a tradition of law enforcement. One of her uncles was the sheriff of Richmond County when she was growing up. It was, she says, a family with rules and goals.
Still, "I was torn growing up," she said. "Part of me wanted to go into law enforcement; another part wanted to serve in the military."
Eventually, Osborn did both, entering the Air Force security forces as soon as she was out of high school. She served for eight years, then worked briefly in the Fayetteville city police records section.
"I was going crazy there," she said. "It wasn't the sort of job I needed to have. I needed to be on the streets."
Nine years ago, she ended up not on the streets but in the school halls as a resource officer. Her first year, she worked in more than a dozen elementary schools.
"It was an eye-opening experience," she said. "I was raised in a strict home. It was clear pretty quickly that not everyone was.
"I learned a lot that first year, and never stopped learning."
While working as a deputy, Osborn attended a Special Olympics event at Methodist University.
"I just loved the spirit and the enthusiasm of the kids," she said. "They were giving it everything they had. You want to help people working that hard.
"Working with them has also been an education. I quickly learned that the students didn't want sympathy. They want to have fun and compete. It becomes a passion for you, as well.
"When you do a job, that becomes a part of your life; it's hard to describe what it means. We don't do what we do for rewards. We do it because it's become a part of us."
One of the events that made Osborn a hometown hero happened off the job.
"My husband (Greg, also a Cumberland County deputy) and I were driving home, and we passed a wreck, a bad one," Osborn said. Her voice grew softer as it shared the memory.
"It had just happened. Emergency responders weren't there yet. We pulled over, and I could tell it was bad.
"In the back of one of the cars, a 7-year-old kid was pinned in the back seat. A piece of glass had slit his throat, and another piece was sticking in his eye. I held his neck and yelled for my husband to get something to stop the bleeding.
"I held him still, in my arms, keeping pressure on the wound until the EMTs arrived. He was alive when we left; that's all I knew."
Until seven years later, when Osborn was walking down the hall of one of her schools.
"Last year, we met again," she said. "He was fine. His vision was perfect. And he remembered every detail.
"We both just sat down there and cried. It was one of the most wonderful memories of my life to see him well again and to know that I made a difference."