By Megan Alley
A new father involvement and educational initiative that started last year at New Richmond Elementary School proved to be such a success that officials are looking to continue the program into the future.
Watch Dads of Great Students is a national program that started in 1998 in Arkansas and it brings fathers and father figures into school classrooms and hallways across the country.
“The program has created millions of hours of ‘in school’ volunteer time and has had a tremendous positive impact on the educational process,” according to a program flyer.
Benefits of the Watch DOGS are listed as:
– Students gain positive male role models.
– Schools gain an extra set of eyes and ears – the presence of a father or father figure provides an added deterrent to bullying, an enhanced sense of security in the building and helps to create a strong learning environment.
– Fathers get a chance to see their students’ everyday life and learn about the challenges and decisions that youth face, resulting in an understanding and connection to their students.
– Fathers get to see the positive impact they can have on their students’ lives, specifically in the areas of academic performance, self-esteem and social behavior.
– With diminishing school budgets, Watch DOGS volunteers provide real and important help for teachers and students.
Tim DuFau, New Richmond Exempted Village School District member, started New Richmond Elementary School’s Watch DOGS program.
“I thought it was a powerful program, to have male role models versus, you know, there are so many males who aren’t engaged in their kids’ life,” DuFau said. “I thought it would be neat to start something like this in New Richmond because I know of several kids that don’t have good male role models in their lives.”
As a Watch DOGS volunteer, fathers and father figures, such as a grandfather or older brother, sign up in advance to help for one or more full days at school.
When the Watch DOGS volunteer arrives at school, they are given a schedule for the day and are invited to help out in a variety of areas, included helping kids get off and on the bus, monitoring the hallways, lunchtime and recess time, assisting teachers in the classroom and providing scholastic mentoring.
Gary Slone, of Anderson Township, volunteered multiple days to be a Watch DOGS volunteer last year. He has two granddaughters who attend the elementary school.
Being a part of the program has been very rewarding for Slone, and he intends to volunteer on a more regular basis in the coming school year.
“Working with the kids is the nicest feeling,” Slone said.
He added, “I’ve learned that every kid is different … I wish every kid could have a great childhood.”
Addison Slone, Gary Slone’s granddaughter and a third grader at the school, said she looks forward to having Gary in the school.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It feels good seeing him.”
Looking ahead, DuFau hopes to sign up more Watch DOGS for next year’s program; a kick-off is planned for September.
“It’s a lot of work trying to get people signed up,” he explained. “It’s a neat program, and it’s like that saying, ‘It takes a community to raise a kid,’ it’s the same thing. It takes a lot of people volunteering to pull this thing off.”
DuFau also plans to expand the program to Monroe and Locust Corner Elementary Schools.
“I think a lot of these kids are starving for attention, and they appreciate someone giving up their time to do something for them,” he said. “These kids appreciate you, and for kids that have a family member in the school as a Watch DOGS volunteer, they like that someone is there representing them.”
For more information about Watch DOGS, including information on how to sign up as a volunteer, contact Tim DuFau via email at Dufau_tim@nrschools.org.