Providing a listening ear and helping people get the support they need have been natural instincts for Joey Matherne.
As a deputy with the Cole County Sheriff's Department for three years, he's been able to add training and resources to help a larger population.
This fall, the 23-year-old started as the full-time School Resource Officer at Cole R-1 School District.
"I have two daughters, I know I want the best for them," Matherne said. "The biggest reason I got into this was to help kids to make good decisions."
Matherne and his wife Valerie have been married four years.
Working in the schools is a different mindset from other law enforcement roles, he said.
"It's nice to walk into a room full of people that want to see you!" Matherne said.
Matherne will spend most of his time at the high school, where his office opens into the freshmen hallway.
He hopes his age will be an advantage in getting to know the youth, too.
This spring, Matherne will offer D.A.R.E. lessons once-a-week for ten weeks in the fifth-grade classes.
His primary purpose, though, is "to make sure the school is safe," he said.
One of the ways he does that is to park his sheriff's department vehicle in front of the school as awareness and deterrent.
But his regular activities include walking the halls to build relationships with students of all ages, keeping an open door for students who need a listening ear and serving as traditional law enforcement when required.
"I don't want everyone growing up fearing cops," Matherne said.
The biggest challenge was public speaking.
But the two-week D.A.R.E. training helped him overcome that, Matherne said.
"I want people to trust me and know I will do what I can to help them," Matherne said.
To provide full-time School Resource Officers for the three rural public school districts inside Cole County, four years ago the county commission agreed to fund two positions and the three districts - Blair Oaks, Eugene and Russellville - split the cost of a third.
Matherne's father is a sergeant with the Jefferson City Police Department.
"That was a big influence on me getting into law enforcement," Matherne said.
Visiting with Sgt. Kevin Woodson, who is the full-time SRO at Cole R-5 School District, Matherne became interested in the program at about the same time as the Russellville opening came up.
Jefferson City Police Officer Les Martin was the SRO at Jefferson City High School, where Matherne attended. When considering this career move, he sought Martin's advice.
"If I only help one kid, that's one I've helped keep off drugs - hopefully I'll help more than that," Matherne said.
So far, Matherne has found Russellville students to be "great" and "courteous." And no serious discipline problems have arisen yet.
"Hopefully, we'll keep it that way."