Watch­DOGS turn dads into role models

Pro­gram en­gages fa­thers to spend a day vol­un­teer­ing at school

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

A group of Berry El­e­men­tary School fa­thers is hop­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the school and in stu­dents’ lives by be­ing there.

A “Dads and Donuts” event for stu­dents and their fa­thers or other male role models also served as a plat­form for re­cruit­ing more dads to take part in the school’s Watch­DOGS chap­ter, said fa­ther Robert John­son, co­or­di­na­tor for the pro­gram.

Watch­DOGS (Dads of Great Stu­dents) is a na­tional fa­ther in­volve­ment ini­tia­tive of the non­profit Na­tional Cen­ter for Father­ing, and chap­ters ex­ist in 47 states and over 5,400 schools, ac­cord­ing to its web­site (www.fa­thers.com).

“It’s de­signed to get more fa­thers in­volved in the schools,” John­son said. “We ask fa­thers to save one day out of the school year to vol­un­teer at the school.”

The pro­gram started last year at Berry, and John­son took over co­or­di­nat­ing the pro­gram this year. He works with school coun­sel­ing staff to set up days when fa­thers can come into the school and help out.

The dads help with stu­dent ar­rival in the morn­ing, and then help out in the class­room, read­ing to stu­dents or pro­vid­ing tu­tor­ing, as the teacher needs.

Then they help with lunch duty — a three and a half hour shift at Berry — and get to eat lunch with their child, as well as serv­ing as lunch­room and play­ground mon­i­tors.

In the after­noon, they as­sist fur­ther in the class­room and then aid with dis­missal.

They also take a picture with their child or chil­dren, which goes up on the school’s Watch­DOGS wall.

All the while, they wear a distinc­tive Watch­DOGS T-shirt to iden­tify them.

“When the fa­thers come in with their Watch­DOGS shirt, the kids’ll come up and ask him, ‘Who’s fa­ther are you?’” John­son said.

Berry guid­ance coun­selor Olivia Cof­fey said it is great to see so many fa­thers par­tic­i­pat­ing.

“Un­for­tu­nately, we don’t have a large group of men on staff in the build­ing, so it does make a dif­fer­ence hav­ing dads here,” Cof­fey said. “The pro­gram has been a huge ben­e­fit to the school and the stu­dents.”

The Wed­nes­day morn­ing break­fast served as a re­minder and an in­tro­duc­tion to fa­thers about the pro­gram.

“We’re try­ing to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing so that we can get more fa­thers in­volved for the rest of the school year,” John­son said.

James Tyner, a mem­ber of the U.S. Air Force sta­tioned at Joint Base An­drews, took the morn­ing off to at­tend with his twin daugh­ters, first graders Kennedy and Kamp­bell.

“I wanted to be here and sup­port my girls, let them know that Dad’s go­ing to be in their lives,” Tyner said.

Tyner said he was in­ter­ested in tak­ing part in Watch­DOGS.

“I want to be here for my kids, and any other kids that may need some en­cour­age­ment, just to let them know there are fa­thers around who want to take part in things,” Tyner said.

Kermit Diggs, fa­ther of first grader Isaac, also took part in Watch­DOGS last year.

“I think it’s won­der­ful, for them to see a male role model come in and to ac­tu­ally see that we do care, and we do want to sup­port teach­ers and see th­ese kids are in a healthy and safe en­vi­ron­ment,” Diggs said. “Typ­i­cally, we see it’s the mother who’s do­ing the work, so we want to make sure that we’re step­ping up to the plate as well.”

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

Robert John­son speaks to fa­thers and other male role models about tak­ing part in Berry El­e­men­tary School’s Watch­DOGS pro­gram dur­ing last Wed­nes­day’s Dads and Donuts event.

Kermit Diggs and his son, Isaac Diggs, a first grader, took part in Berry El­e­men­tary School’s Dads and Donuts event last week.

James Tyner eats break­fast with his first grade daugh­ters Kennedy and Kamp­bell at Berry El­e­men­tary School’s Dads and Donuts event last week.

Ron­nie Robin­son and his daugh­ter, first grader Ad­di­son, take a selfie while eat­ing break­fast at Berry El­e­men­tary School’s Dads and Donuts event last week.

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