CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As students swarm the halls of Stonewall Jackson Middle School on a recent rainy morning, a tall boy makes his way over to Charleston Police Cpl. Stacy Loftis.
Loftis sees the student approaching and notices what he's carrying. A look of dismay spreads across his face.
The grinning student hands over a scarlet sweatshirt, the words "Ohio State" emblazoned on the front. An ardent University of Michigan fan, Loftis had bet the student his Wolverines would best the Buckeyes in a recent basketball game. He lost.
"Hang onto it until Friday. I'll wear it then," Loftis said.
Loftis is wearing his standard issue uniform from the Charleston Police Department, complete with body armor and gun.
But Loftis doesn't spend his time as Stonewall's Prevention Resource Officer waiting to shoot potential attackers.
"Unfortunately people just think a police officer comes in and guards the school, and that's not it," he said.
His role, like that of the more than 60 other Prevention Resource Officers in the state, includes prevention, mentoring and safety.
Prevent illegal acts by students through education. Mentor students through constant interaction. Provide safety by patrolling the school and grounds.
The position has become a vital one to the Stonewall community.
Loftis, 38, is a 14-year veteran of the police department. He has patrolled Charleston's East End, worked in a special enforcement drug unit and spent seven years on the department's SWAT team.
But his training to become a Prevention Resource Officer - or PRO, as they're commonly known - was his first exposure to public speaking training. That helped him successfully teach 37 classes this school year, touching on a variety of topics outside the normal curriculum.
His classes deal with topics like sexual harassment, drugs and conflict resolution. That's just as important for students as science or reading, said eighth-grade math teacher Jessica Austin.
"It's not something really taught," Austin said. "It's something they're dealing with every day."
Austin welcomed Loftis into her classroom to complete a lesson he had recently started about dating and domestic violence. In his second lesson, Loftis talked to Austin's 14 students about the dangers of keeping such relationships a secret.
He recounts recent stories involving domestic violence. He spares no details, discussing rapes and murders that stemmed from the relationships. The lessons need to stick with the eighth graders, Loftis said: the students are about to be or already are at dating age, and it could save their lives.
"It teaches us kids about what we need to be looking into and how to handle it," said Miaha, a 13-year-old eighth-grade girl who heard Loftis' presentation.
Miaha scribbled furiously during the presentation, and said she took three pages of notes the last time Loftis came to the class. Other students also said they thought the presentation was useful, citing personal experiences with domestic violence.
Classes aren't confined to the school. Occasionally, Loftis takes small groups of students to Tiger Morton Juvenile Detention Center in Dunbar. The trips help students see their actions have consequences.
By educating youngsters about poor decision-making and giving them examples of mistakes other teens have made, they have an opportunity to avoid that path, Loftis said.
"They have an opportunity to make better decisions."
Loftis believes the lessons work. He got confirmation they did so for at least one student. In the hallway a student approached Loftis to show him potentially inappropriate text messages the student had received.
Students should approach Loftis, and he welcomes it. For that to happen, however, he needs to foster relationships with students and let them know he's accessible.
As Loftis approaches the door of his office, a student he recognizes walks by. The student smiles.
"I've never seen you smile! You have the prettiest smile," Loftis said. "You're always walking around like you're mad all the time."
He's quick to joke with other students in the hallways or in the lunchroom, and students approach him freely. One rubs his mostly bald head while passing in the hall.
Unless he establishes a rapport with students, they'll never feel comfortable talking or listening to him. Doing so lets students interact with a police officer in a familiar and unthreatening setting, crucial for the officer and students alike, Loftis said.
"We've got juveniles that have a negative outlook on the police. We want to bridge that gap by getting them to see that as a police officer, we're here to help them," Loftis said.