WatchDOGS turn dads into role models
Program engages fathers to spend a day volunteering at school
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.”
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.