I'm Not Giving Up On You

How one dad's dogged dedication is changing kids lives

Marci Lambert

(page 1 of 3)

As a kid, Ray Dockery once believed he wasn’t capable of success. But several teachers challenged his beliefs. They dared him to play the saxophone and to reach for As in his senior English class.

With hard work, Ray achieved those goals, and began to imagine a bright future. But he wouldn’t alter his childhood, even if he could. His insecurities and confusion gave him a heart for special work.

Strolling the hallways at Hamilton Middle School, the 46-year-old Dockery wears a white polo shirt that identifies him as a fellow charged with a special mission. The shirt’s WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) logo features a cartoonish canine with a pair of eyeglasses propped on its nose. With a warm smile, Dockery jokes, giving high-fives, and setting kids on a higher path. He has shared six powerful words with hundreds of kids in Memphis City Schools:
“I’m not giving up on you.”


A retired Navy operations specialist and former police officer, Ray knows how to achieve success, and he shares his life experience with kids. For 12 years, he has been here every day, from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. No pay. Instead, he volunteers — for kids who don’t have a guiding male voice, for kids who live in homes filled with too much yelling, for kids who live in the silent vacuum where dads are missing in action. 

“Being a WATCH D.O.G. is a chance to make a difference in a child’s life,” Ray says. “I can’t work as a disabled veteran, so this is how I give back.” But, “You have to love kids to be in this program,” he allows. “The payoff is that you’ll get a lot of love and hugs and save a lot of lives. What we do is real simple. We’re not security guards or police officers. We’re here to support the teachers and school and to mentor to the kids. A lot of kids simply want someone to listen to them.”

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