Boys having RUFF time at HeritagePublished 8:29pm Monday, November 14, 2011
BY GREGG L. PARKER
Throngs of boys at Heritage Elementary School have been joining a RUFF group.
RUFF, or “Ready yoUrself For the Future,” is an organization that promotes leadership traits while lending support to boys in grades 4-6 at Heritage.
During the 2010 fall semester, fifth-grade teacher Anthony Graham coordinated a survey among 165 boys at Heritage. “We found that there was a huge need for the program,” he said.
Graham organized RUFF in December 2010. Since the group was founded, “the mission of the program has changed to ‘Empowering Young Men to Outstanding Leaders’ in the community and in school,” Graham said.
Sixth-grade teacher Michael Kelley coined the RUFF name and assists Graham with club activities.
RUFF boys receive training for leadership and communication skills, tutoring assistance if requested and guidance lessons. To instill leadership qualities, Graham has the RUFF boys “pair up with younger males in kindergarten through third grade to help them with sight words, reading and math skills.”
“We want our older boys to set good examples of leadership and character,” Graham said.
In the past 12 months, the RUFF boys have met with M.L. Carr, a NBA champion with the Boston Celtics, and Chris Gardner, author of “The Pursuit of Happyness.” “We are currently pursing a partnership with America’s Promise,” an alliance that wants youth to graduate from high school and be prepared for college, Graham said.
In addition, several upperclassmen from Bob Jones High School have visited Heritage and held small group meetings to discuss issues like citizenship, responsibility and character education.
Graham has witnessed strengthening of the boys’ behavior. “The boys have really embraced the program and are becoming outstanding leaders in our community,” Graham said. “I could not be happier with the response from the local community. The program has a supporting cast of parents and community leaders.”
Graham has taught at Heritage for four years. He has lived in Germany, North Carolina, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona. He considers Kwajalein, Marshall Islands as his home. He and wife Kayla have two children.