By Megan Alley
Members of New Richmond Elementary School’s father involvement and educational initiative, Watch Dads of Great Students (DOGS), hosted a Christmas program at the school on Dec. 15.
Watch DOGS is a national initiative that started in 1998 in Arkansas and 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.
The Christmas program, which was designed by New Richmond Elementary School’s head Watch DOG Rodney Slone, brought Santa Claus and his elves to visit every classroom at the school and pass out donuts and small gifts – a coloring book, a box of crayons and a candy cane – to each student.
Marcella’s Doughnuts and Bakery in Amelia donated the donuts, and the school’s faculty bestowed the small gifts.
This year marks the second year for the school’s Watch DOG initiative and the first year for the group’s Christmas program.
“They did all this on their own,” Jamie Kunz, school principal, said. “It wasn’t like a program for us in school. They decided to just do this.”
She went on to explain the positive influence the Watch DOGS have had on students.
“It’s so nice just because [the students] have that positive male role model that they don’t normally have,” Kunz said. “It’s neat to see [the students]; they gravitate towards our volunteers, and they just get excited to see them everyday.”
She added, “Discipline has decreased tremendously, because it could just be a student wants some attention or needs a break, and so they take the kids for walks, they go play with them at recess, or sit by them at lunch; they’re just an extra set of hands and eyes that we don’t normally have.”
First-year Watch DOG Rodney Slone, whose three daughters are students and whose wife is an occupational therapist at the school, explained the significance of the Christmas event.
“What’s kind of sad, but nice too, is that for some of these kids, this will be the highlight of their Christmas. It’s so sad to think, but then again, just being able to make a difference is phenomenal,” he said. “What I’ve always known, but it’s highlighted today for sure, is that giving much more exceeds receiving; I mean, that’s the number one idea.”
Kindergarteners Aiden Miller and Kim Isbell, whose father stepped in to play Santa Claus, said the Christmas program made them feel “happy” and “good,” respectively.
Courtney Shuman, kindergarten teacher, expounded on the students’ reaction to the Christmas event, and the Watch DOGS initiative.
“It’s been just great having the availability of extra people that want to be here, that want to be a part of our community and help these little guys succeed,” she said.