UNION COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – An Upstate middle school is trying to give a voice to students in need. The “At-Risk Youth Interventionist,” position is brand new to Sims Middle School. It’s aimed at helping students who are struggling inside and outside of the classroom.

“I think he brings like a sense of family,” said Barclay Robinson, a math teacher at Sims.

“I’m pretty much like their biggest hype man or biggest cheerleader,” said Dejuan Shell, who holds the position.

“I love Mr. Shell,” said seventh grader, Trent Lemaster.

From behind the badge to in front of the classroom, Dejuan Shell, a former Spartanburg Police Officer, helps the students navigate the issues life may throw at them.

“The kids can kind of gravitate towards him if they have a problem, because they feel more comfortable with him,” said Seth Whitehead, physical education teacher.

“I can always come up here and talk to him. We talk through it, whatever it is,” said eighth grader, Jackson Bunn.

Shell helps students with all sorts of problems, sometimes it’s with behavioral issues.

“I get mad sometimes. He calms me down, used to get in a lot of trouble too. I’m cool now,” said Jamarriah Tucker, an eighth grade student.

And sometimes he helps students improve their academics.

“Stressing about grades, not having them high enough and calming me down,” said Lemaster.

“I’m going great in school. Grades are good,” said Tucker.

He also helps students with their self-image.

“I’ve gotten a lot more confident since working with him. I’ve started doing better and trying more in class,” said Bunn.

Shell strives to create a safe space for students to open up.

“There’s always a solution to the problem, I like to hear both sides and give an opportunity to feel like the student has a voice,” said the interventionist.

He is a familiar face in the halls of the middle school.

“Everybody knows who he is. I mean he walks in the cafeteria, the gym, wherever he is,” said Whitehead.

Whether students are at their desk, or at home, staff said they have seen an improvement.

“Sometimes if they get angry, or anything like that, he’s kind of helped them learn to take a step back and breathe,” said Becca Morrow, a seventh grade math teacher.

“I would ask Coach Shell to come talk to me as a parent and I would let him know things that were going on and Jack has really turned around those things at home,” said Robinson.

If a student needs help, Shell pulls them out of class, listens to them and goes over how to handle the situation.

“How they can fit in the same classroom as everyone else and not feel like an outlier, when we’re all the same,” said Shell.

Shell’s involvement is not limited to the classroom and hallways. He is a track-and-field coach and has started a club, called the Twisted Ties, that teaches young men proper etiquette.

A role model for any child, he is helping change the lives of the Sims Middle School Tigers.

“You can see a difference in them with the way they’re acting,” said Whitehead.

Shell started off his first year by working with more than 70 students and said he’s going to continue these relationships as they graduate from the middle school.