The first day of a new school year is exciting for many students.

It's exciting for police officers, too.

Sam DiSaia, 29, is the new school resource officer at Hilliard Davidson High School, 5100 Davidson Road, succeeding Richard Quigley, who retired earlier this year.

DiSaia, better known as "Officer Sam" to the students, is one of four Hilliard Division of Police officers who serve as SROs in the Hilliard City Schools.

Josh Barnett has been assigned to Bradley High School since Oct. 12, 2015, Jon Gleason has been at Darby High School since Jan. 14, 2013, and Bill Okey has been at Heritage, Memorial and Weaver middle schools since Oct. 1, 2018, according to Hilliard police.

"High school is tough," DiSaia said. "It's not the easiest thing in the world. If I can make it easier in any way for a student, that's why I'm here."

DiSaia joined the Hilliard Division of Police in June 2017 after three years with the Grandview Heights Division of Police and almost two years with the Athens County Sheriff's Office.

That DiSaia finds himself in the hallways of a high school is not unusual for him.

While a student at Olentangy Liberty High School, from which he graduated in 2008, DiSaia said he wanted to be a science teacher, but he also began thinking of being a police officer.

He tried out both as part of a career-mentoring program at Liberty, teaching in a classroom and interning at the Delaware County Sheriff's Office.

Ultimately, he graduated from Ohio University in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in criminology and chose to carry a gun and a badge.

DiSaia had worked in patrol bureaus his entire career until the opening for a school resource officer at Davidson. He said he saw the opportunity to blend the two jobs he had wanted since high school.

"This is the perfect fit for me," he said. "I can take both my passions and put them together."

DiSaia was selected from multiple applicants within the division and interviewed by a panel of police and, in this instance, school district officials, said police spokeswoman Andrea Litchfield. The process is typical for any ancillary post, such as SROs and K-9 handlers, in the division, she said.

Aaron Cookson, Davidson's principal, said the school is "excited to welcome (DiSaia) to the Hilliard Davidson Wildcat family."

"We are confident officer DiSaia will work hard to ensure the safety of our staff and students, build strong relationships with our Wildcat community and continue the bond (our district) shares with the Hilliard police department," Cookson said.

"There's not one way, or a correct way, to begin building relationships. Just be a presence and a smiling face," said DiSaia, whose first full day with students at Davidson was Aug. 21.

But he had the chance to meet many students during a string of days the previous week when students came to the school to pick up electronic devices and obtain identification cards.

DiSaia also had the chance to meet staff members during safety training Aug. 19 and 20.

He said although his job obviously involves security and emergency response -- including building checks for any possible risks, such as propped-open exterior doors, as part of his daily routines -- he is focused equally on meeting students.

"At lunch time, I don't stand in place -- I move around and talk to students," DiSaia said. "The students here are great, so many are outgoing (and) I feel so at ease here already with students and staff. ... It's just like I thought it would be."

Hilliard police Chief Bobby Fisher said DiSaia is well-suited to step in as Davidson's new SRO.

"(DiSaia) is an enthusiastic officer who has a passion for education and community-oriented policing," Fisher said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo