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Former Utah Jazz center kicks off WatchDOGS program at Crescent Elementary

Nov 02, 2017 05:18PM ● Published by Julie Slama

At 6 feet 11 inches, it’s hard to believe former Utah Jazz center Thurl Bailey once felt like he didn’t belong.

“I was tall, but awkward from growing fast, and I didn’t play sports,” he said. “I wasn’t accepted as I was and it was a difficult time for me since I didn’t fit in.”

But his parents were there for him, he told Crescent Elementary students at their WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students) kick-off.

WatchDOGS top dog and father of two Crescent Elementary students and an Indian Hills Middle student Wes Tillmann said Bailey’s dad encouraged him.

“He said his dad made him who he is today,” Tillmann said. “He said he was cut from his middle school basketball team three years in a row, but his dad kept encouraging him. He taught Thurl the fundamentals with a garbage can as his hoop. His dad was there for him.”

That message was the reason Principal Camie Lloyd invited Bailey, also a recording artist, to sing “Cat’s in the Cradle” to the students and their dads.

“(Thurl Bailey) has a foundation where he is trying to encourage men to get more active in their communities and help them be a more positive role model,” Lloyd said. “It’s really nice to see male figures take a leading role and show it’s OK to display those types of attributes.”

Crescent Elementary is one of 11 schools in Canyons School District that has the WatchDOGS national program, many that parent Jeff Jaramillo helped to launch or support.

WatchDOGS is the father-involvement initiative of the National Center for Fathering that organizes dads or father figures to provide male role models to inspire students, reduce bullying issues and to enhance school security. There are more than 6,450 schools across the country participating in the program. 

Locally there are programs at Altara, Brookwood, Butler, Crescent, Draper, East Midvale, Midvale, Midvalley, Oakdale, Ridgecrest and Sunrise elementaries.

At Crescent, the program began in fall 2013 when Jaramillo brought it to the school after successfully starting it at Altara Elementary in Feb. 2012. Jaramillo learned about it after seeking something he could do after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“I love the program and it’s so awesome to see so many dads involved in the school,” he said. “We focus first on the kids, giving them extra support, impacting their lives, giving them more male role models. It’s not just about my kid, but it’s about all the kids.”

Bailey called upon fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, uncles, neighbors and other male role models to step up and volunteer at least one day of the school year.

Tillman said at the mid-September evening event, about 25 dads signed up to volunteer several times during the year.

“We want more to be involved in their kids’ education and volunteer. Sometimes new kids move to the school or are kindergartners and we would like those dads or male figures to be in the school,” he said.

Tillman acknowledges many male figures are less apt to put aside work for a day, but he said it is worth it.

“I love my dad, but he wasn’t involved at my the school. We want the best for our children — then why aren’t we there? Whatever we can do to help get dads and their kids in the building at the same time is worth it. Your kid is always going to remember the day their dad came to school. We have dads helping out with a jog-a-thon, the carnival, go on field trips, playing at recess and just be there helping with flash cards. My favorite time is to eat lunch with the kids. It’s really touching that they want to eat lunch with dads who are there,” he said.

Jaramillo said teachers not only appreciate having an extra hand with reading or math, but also the understanding of their roles.

“Once we’re in the classroom, we can appreciate the teachers and their efforts better,” he said. “We also walk around the perimeter, checking doors, and just being an extra set of eyes and ears. The whole school gets a value from having WatchDOGS.”  

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