When Berkeley Alternative School needed a new school resource officer, Kevin McField paused to think.

Through years of coaching football at Goose Creek High, he had come to love working with teenagers. And the school job offered practical benefits for a single father, namely working hours similar to his son's school day.

The Moncks Corner Police officer, raised by a single father himself after his mom's death, also wondered: Could he help turn around the lives of students facing discipline problems?

He took the job last year.

"It's another opportunity for me to talk to some kids and to reach some kids," McField says. "I'm here for any kid who needs someone to talk to."

Often students arrive at the school fresh from trouble at their home schools only to mix with other troublemakers - and make more trouble. Others cave to peer pressure. And many blame everyone else for their problems.

"Don't try to run from it," McField often advises. "Deal with it."

Despite their offenses, McField tries to reserve judgment, something he learned on the football field.

"Sometimes the baddest football player is the nicest kid in the world," he says.

Instead, he encourages them: Play sports, improve grades, go to college. Some kids listen because they know him from coaching football. Or they know his son, Evan, a senior football standout at Goose Creek High who just signed with The Citadel.

Jalen Stevens thanks God his family moved to Goose Creek a few doors down from McField. Stevens was in eighth grade. He became a big brother figure to Evan; McField became a father figure to him.

"He was always cool and funny. He always looked out for me and told me what to do and not to do," Stevens says. "But I knew he didn't play no games."

McField invited Stevens over for dinner when his mom worked late, offered him rides and urged him to play football, which Stevens did so well he's now a freshman at the University of Connecticut playing with a scholarship.

Without that leg up, Stevens figures he wouldn't have gone to college. He might be working a minimum-wage job trying to get by. Instead, he met McField.

"He never turned his back on me," Stevens says. "He took me in like his son and put me on a good path."

As the buses roll up to Berkeley Alternative one recent afternoon, a burly student approaches McField.

"You need a ride home?" the officer asks.

The student nods.

"OK, I'll call your mom."

The student heads off, and McField smiles: "That one is a work in progress." Like so many others he still hopes to reach.