Charles Peters

Charles Peters Serving his community is the gift Charles Peters is paying forward for the teaching and mentoring he received at Elgin High School.

After a five-year stint in the United States Marine Corps, the 2009 EHS grad joined the Springfield Police Department as a patrol officer and last year became the school resource officer at Lanphier High School in the state capital while continuing patrol work during the summers.

“The plan from the summer before senior year was to go into Marine Corps,” he recalls. 

Serving at Camp Pendleton in California and then Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, Peters worked in air traffic control maintenance as a navigational aid technician, maintaining the equipment used to communicate with aircraft. 

After five years in the Corps, during which he earned a promotion to sergeant, he looked for a way to continue a life of service.

“I enjoyed serving, but I was looking to serve in a different capacity. That pride of wearing my Marine Corps uniform, that pride of service to the community. And I thought, you know, joining the police force would allow me to do that for the specific community for which I worked, which ended up being Springfield.”

Peters takes pride in his work with the community, citing life-saving work as a first-responder and his experience on the Springfield Emergency Response Team, a SWAT team that also serves as a weapons of mass destruction response team. He also appreciates the day-to-day patrolling duties between school years. This summer he was able to prevent harm to his fellow officers during a deadly-force scenario.”

“Just knowing that I was able to do my job and everyone went home safely that night, that was rewarding.”

His work at Lanphier High School, though, may be Peters’ greatest source of personal and professional pride. At the school, he provides security and law-enforcement services, including advising students on any criminal issues such as thefts or fights, works as a liaison between students and staff and mentors kids on everything from life plans to personal hygiene.

“I knew I always wanted to do something where I got to help people. Everybody needs a little help sometimes, to put them on the right path. And with the kids, working with them and families. Sometimes you only see families on their worst day. Seeing kids do well, seeing families turn it around, the way you conduct yourself as an officer can determine if they have a lot of bad days or if that bad day is just a hiccup.”

Peters is quick to add that he, too, received some extra input at Elgin High School. Jesse Jones, then a dean at the school, and Noe Velazquez, Peters’ adviser at the time, went the extra mile, and the former student uses that as extra inspiration.

“Those two guys taught me what it means to go above and beyond and help somebody in need. It’s not always the student you like the most. And definitely, they helped me make it through high school and into the Marine Corps. If it hadn’t been for them, I would not be the person that I am today. Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper, you have to listen and hear where they’re coming from. With kids, emotions are up and down, and you need to be calmed down to do what you’re supposed to do, which is to learn, study and get good grades.”

On balance, after receiving some guidance and later offering assistance, it has been a wonderful life.

“You see a lot of negativity, but at the same time, you get to really help some people, whether that be a wakeup call when someone has to spend the night in jail, or when a kid doesn’t have a Christmas, and you go out of your way and get that kid a Christmas present.”

The gift just keeps on giving.