For many years, Darrell Julu was a standout in the military and in pop culture (but more on that in a minute …), known for his physical prowess, strong work ethic, and uncanny ability to influence wayward teens to straighten up and fly right.
Today, Darrell appreciates the importance of physical, mental and emotion wellness in the journey toward development and transformation.
Darrell credits his mother for establishing strong standards—particularly with education. At her insistence, Darrell was enrolled in one of the most rigorous Catholic high schools in New Jersey. When school was finished, Darrell attempted to rebel against his mother’s collegiate expectations. “I was sick of school and told her I was joining the military. The Army was my first choice.”
But she found a way exercise her influence there, too.
“My mother told me, ‘Unless you want to go to another strict Catholic school, you will join the Marines.’”
Although initially assigned to the role of postal clerk as a new enlistee, Darrell showed his superiors at Fort Benjamin Harrison that his strength and agility might be better served in training others. Early into his military career, Darrell was sent from Indiana to California to attend drill school. While there, he became part of the Light Armored Reconnaissance unit and soon after joined the original group of military members deployed to Somalia. After Somalia, he was deployed to Bosnia.
While Darrell’s military service took him to dangerous places all over the world, his mother remained concerned about a journey he hadn’t finished: pursuing higher education.
“Throughout my time in the service, my mother kept asking me, ‘What about school?’” Darrell. To appease her, Darrell enrolled in a military-friendly institution that accommodated his very hectic schedule, but he was never able to gain much ground because of his assignments.
“I’d take a semester of classes here and there, but it was hard to get any traction,” he reflects. “I never felt like I had the time to finish what I started.”
After eight years of active duty as a Marine, Darrell enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard. Additionally, Darrell always knew that he wanted to help rehabilitate and guide troubled youth, so he joined the New Jersey Department of Corrections as a Juvenile Correctional Officer. Darrell’s unit was known as a “no-nonsense” operation, as well as for the head of the division: Joe Clark, subject of the popular movie Lean on Me, who was famously portrayed by Morgan Freeman.
Due to the popularity of his boss, The Sally Jessy Raphael Show (a popular, syndicated talk show that ran from 1983-2002) took interest. Producers from the show filmed a segment at the Department of Corrections and quickly became interested in Darrell’s style of instruction. They were so impressed that the initial invitation for him to appear on the show as a boot camp instructor became a full time commitment. He left the Department of Corrections and stayed with the show for seven years.
After his time with Sally ended, Darrell became active duty in the U.S. Army and was deployed to war-torn parts of the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq. During Darrell’s nine years of service, he sustained physical injuries and, for the first time in his military career, began dealing with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Through his challenges with PTSD and recovery through therapy, “Sgt. Julu” has an evolved philosophy about rehabilitation.
“I still believe that the correctional aspect of behavioral rehabilitation is important, but through my own challenges, I have learned that treating the whole person matters so much more. It’s the awareness of mind, body and soul that puts people on a real path to wellness.”
Having previously studied criminal justice, Darrell is now exploring his new perspective as a social work major at Park. He also continues to work with youth, although not as “Sgt. Julu.” These days, “Coach Julu” volunteers as the head football coach of Kansas City, Mo’s University Academy lower school football program. He has also coached for Della Lamb Community Services’ football league in Kansas City for fifteen years.
Darrell is optimistic about the path on which Park has placed him.
“Earning my social work degree will allow me to pair the credentials with my experience,” Darrell believes. “I’m finally finishing what I began and will be able to help so many others in a more meaningful and lasting way.”