BOUNTIFUL - Bountiful’s police chief turned a bad situation as a kid into something positive.
As an elementary school student in Salt Lake City, he was smart enough to be advanced to another grade, he told the Bountiful Rotary Club.
“I was not wanted by kids in the new class, or by anyone in that grade,” Tom Ross said.
“That situation stayed with me for several years. It was tough, so miserable I didn’t want to go to school,” he recalled.
My dad said he couldn’t pull me from the class but he could do something else: he enrolled his son in a boxing class, and said I’d never be bullied again.
Ross’ father proved to be right. The first day of junior high when a bully started taunting him, Tom Ross punched him. That ended any further problems.
“I decided I wanted to go into law enforcement, to protect people,” the chief said.
“If I can help stop problems, help kids not get into using illegal drugs,” he said of his decision.
Ross also pointed to the experiences of Woods Cross High School graduate Ben Kjar.
“He was born with a birth defect and was bullied as a boy,” Ross said. “Instead of letting that take him down, he became very successful in wrestling and sports.”
Kjar is a former top Woods Cross High School and Utah Valley University wrestler. He took fourth in the 2012 Olympic trials and is a 2016 Olympics hopeful.
Kjar shared his experiences at a Davis County Youth Summit, sharing the stage with three students who said they were being bullied.
The wrestling champion told the audience that he learned to change, not let bullying destroy him.
Ross related these experiences in the context of the Bountiful Communities That Care youth group. The nonprofit, which is supported by the Bountiful Police Department, received a $1,000 donation from the Rotarians.
The group promotes finding ways to prevent underage drinking, foster a positive family environment and graduation from high school.
Communities that Care holds events ranging from a 3-on-3 basketball tournament that has mushroomed in participation, to a summer math and science academic remediation program.
Those programs currently are aimed at junior and senior high students. Elementary school students can participate in parenting classes.
“I love school. I’m getting straight As. The program last summer changed my life,” Hayden Monk told Catherine Holbrook, CTC executive director.
The group is sponsored a masquerade ball and laser tag on New Year’s Eve that raised $1,400 and 10,000 lbs. of food. A Super Bowl of Caring, Feb. 1, is planned to aid in the fight against youth hunger, Holbrook said.
“Twenty-seven percent of children in Davis County go hungry,” she said, adding, that’s because low and moderate income students can get school lunch during the week, but not on weekends.