‘I’m glad I found this place’: 19-year-old correctional officer looking to inspire others into law enforcement careers

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 9:20 PM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2023 at 9:47 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - 19-year-old Chesney Higginbotham dreamed of joining the U.S. military when she was in seventh grade.

After she graduated high school last summer, she was getting ready to chase her dreams. That all changed when she was diagnosed with anemia.

Higginbotham was disqualified from joining the military due to the blood disorder which left her searching for a new career path.

At some point, one of Higginbotham’s friends suggested that she should apply to become a correctional officer at the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.

“If I didn’t get this job, or if I didn’t hear about it, I would not be here right now. I’d be probably still living with my mom, doing whatever she wants me to do,” Higginbotham said. “Or working at a fast food joint. But, I’m glad I found this place because it’s one step into my whole life.”

She was in luck as the state of South Carolina had just recently passed a new law lowering the age for corrections officers from 21 to 18 years old.

Horry County Sherriff’s Office recruiting officer, Antonio Soto, said several of their newly hired corrections officers are under the age of 21.

“Since the age requirement was lowered, we’ve probably hired about maybe five to ten 18-year-olds,” Soto said. “But, what’s been really helping is under 21. We’ve been getting a lot of 20, 19-year-olds lately. It’s helped tremendously since the laws changed.”

The Horry County Sheriff’s Office said they’re in a much better place this year than last year with the new law. They said they will still continue to make correction officer hires.