Hunter Hinton jokes that 2 p.m. each day is when he goes into the phone booth to change into his Superman costume. That is because Hinton has worked for the last three-and-a-half years as an intervention specialist at Cravens Elementary School from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then he goes to Owensboro Police Department to work as a street crimes detective.
Hinton said he works at the school for balance and explained that being in the school environment keeps him from burning out as a police officer.
At 37 years old, Hinton’s career choices were not his original plan. He graduated from Owensboro High School in 2000 and went to the University of Louisville where he planned to become a pediatrician.
During his senior year, his mother had a heart attack and stroke and with two younger sisters at home, Hinton said he knew he needed to come home.
Once home, his grandmother told him that he had to do something — that he couldn’t just sit around — so he enrolled at Owensboro Community and Technical College in the criminal justice and law enforcement courses. It was in his first class that he realized he was where he was meant to be.
Hinton also began working at the H.L. Neblett Center.
“That was one of the best decisions I made,” Hinton said. “That place saved my life.”
It was at the Neblett Center that Hinton began working with kids, some of whom didn’t have a positive role model.
“My journey started through the Neblett Center,” Hinton said.
After completing his associates degree, Hinton worked as an instructional assistant at Cravens and later Owensboro Middle School before being accepted in the OPD’s Police Academy in 2011.
Upon graduating the academy, he worked as a patrol officer and then became a training officer for OPD.
It was during a parent-teacher conference for his child, who then attended Cravens, that Hinton was approached about working there again but this time as an intervention specialist.
Hinton said that he thought it was a joke, but when he began thinking about it, he knew the difference he could make.
He accepted, something he said was also good for his family because his children have and do attend Cravens, and with one in preschool, she will be soon be there as well.
“We get to go to school together and I see them throughout the day,” he said.
While at Cravens, Hinton enjoys talking to students and interpreting critical data on a specific student’s behavior.
“It allows us to make sure these kids are successful,” he said. “I want to catch them when they’re young. My goal is to not have them in my room but to get them back to the classroom.”
Kara Allen, a Cravens behavior coach who often works with Hinton, said that she could not do her job without him.
“He’s a therapist, detective, social worker, advocate, parent and more,” Allen said. “Many schools have a resource officer but very few have the privilege of having an individual like Hunter. He utilizes his law enforcement background and deep community connections to take the behavior interventionist position to a new, more effective level. He is an invaluable colleague whose unique skill set and compassion for others help students become their very best selves.”
Hinton, along with other Cravens teachers, are also responsible for specific kids in a Check In-Check Out program that allows him to see these kids in the morning and afternoon to gauge their behavior through discussions and interactions.
“I just try to be me,” he said. “I am up front with the kids. They know I love them and I know they love me.”
Hinton said that it is refreshing to see the positive difference in students who he was when he began at Cravens. Hinton recalled one particular student who was at Cravens prior to Hinton’s arrival but was referred to him because of his outbursts of anger due to his family circumstances.
“I took him under my wing. I was magnetized to him,” Hinton said. “I tell him always, ‘Man, you know I love you.’”
Hinton said he has enjoyed watching this student’s positive transformation. They now joke about the student not coming to his office as much as he used to, and Hinton has told him that he must not need him anymore, but Hinton said the student tells him to not “get it twisted” because he will always need him.
“I am real proud of him,” Hinton said through tears. “He tells me every day that he loves me. I’ll never give up on them.”
Andy Boggess, public information officer for OPD said that Hinton has the ability to make a difference in these kids’ lives and to make a positive impact.
“The fact that he works in the schools, particularly elementary, has the opportunity to impact kids at a young age,” Boggess said.
While Hinton has been working at Cravens, he also received a promotion to a narcotics detective with the street crimes unit, a place that right now, he wants to be.
“I am having a lot of fun,” Hinton said.
Hinton said that when he has to arrest someone, it isn’t personal.
“I’m not out to lock up someone — it’s never intentional,” he said. “I do my job, and I do it to the best of my ability and with integrity.”
Hinton cares strongly about this community, something he mentions with both jobs. And he sees this community as his.
“I was born and raised here,” he said. “Working at the school gives me a peace of mind.”