PHOENIX - When administrators decided to transition Phoenix’s Balsz Elementary School to a middle school, they wanted a new name based on a set of principles.
“You’ll start to see quotes on the walls, you’ll start to see images on our walls, you’ll start to see the clothing and the spirit wear that the kids are wearing,” said principal Dr. Chad Smith.
After months of discussion, they decided to name the school after Pat Tillman - the former ASU and Cardinals linebacker who quit his football career following the September 11th attacks. Tillman decided to enlist in the Army, but was killed three years later in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.
“We had sort of an altruistic reason to do it. We wanted to honor Pat…It’s what he stood for. It’s the legacy that I think he’s going to pass on to the kids at this school,” Smith said.
But the District didn’t want to move forward without the approval of the Tillman family. After presenting their proposal to the Pat Tillman Foundation, the family ultimately agreed.
“They were fantastic they were wonderful. When we finally got the news that they were on board and they were supportive, it was fireworks, bells, and whistles,” said Smith.
The new school, meant to better prepare students for high school, will combine traditional academics with a significant amount of electives and after-school programs. Teachers say the name is a perfect fit.
“He’s such a positive role model for these kids, because he really showed what it meant to be dedicated and loyal,” said teacher Jenny Spencer.
“And in this community it’s important for them to have a role model, but unfortunately a lot of our kids don’t have someone to look up to,” added teacher Ashley Carranza.
The school’s mascot will be the Warriors - an embodiment of Pat’s spirit on the football field, battlefield, and in life.
“Each new generation of kids, as they come up, get to learn the Tillman story. And get to learn what an amazing human being he was,” said Smith.