During a recent event, dads and other father figures learned more about Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), a global program through the National Center for Fathering. According to the organization’s website, the program is aimed at promoting male involvement in schools.
As a “watchdog,” the men greet children at the start of the day; assist with morning drop-offs; and help in classrooms, at lunch, recess and with dismissal procedures. More than 5,300 schools are registered in 47 states plus four other countries.
The program kicks off each year with a pizza party for dads and their children as a way to learn more about Watch D.O.G.S. and to sign up for it. Such an event is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11, at Mary A. White Elementary School in Grand Haven and at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25, at Rosy Mound Elementary School in Grand Haven Township.
Jeffers Principal Shelley Peets said more than 75 men attended their recent Watch D.O.G.S. kickoff, and about two-thirds of them were new to the building. She said it was their best kick-off event yet.
Peets said the biggest benefit in the program is the increased participation by dads.
“It’s no longer a place where just moms come in and volunteer,” she said. “The dads are finding their place here, as well.”
The program at Mary A. White began this past March and volunteers quickly filled all 60 spots on the calendar, said Valerie Livingston, the school’s principal. After spending a day lending a hand at school, Livingston said many “watchdogs” said they couldn’t believe how busy the school day is.
Livingston said staff enjoyed having the men at school greeting students in the morning, spending time with them at recess and being in the classrooms. The students also enjoy having the guys at school, she said.
“Children have a natural way of gravitating toward men who want to play games with them,” Livingston said. “The kickball field was especially busy during the spring, as was the soccer field whenever a ‘watchdog’ was here.”
Without hesitation, Brian Nelson signed up to be a “watchdog” on his birthday and be part of his daughter’s school life at Jeffers. His daughter, Xylarina, smiled at the thought of having her dad at school.
Michael Nardi signed up for the first time because his daughter, Mia, wanted him to be a “watchdog.”
“I can’t say no to this face,” Nardi said, looking at his daughter.
Mia Nardi said she wanted her dad to volunteer because they would get to spend more time together and it gives him a chance to help other children, which Mia said “is a nice thing to do.”
After having experienced being a “watchdog” for a few days last year, Jeromy LaRock signed up for four days this year. He said his favorite part about it was getting to see the children his daughter interacts with on a daily basis, and he encourages other men to get involved in the program.
“It’s worth it,” LaRock said. “It’s so much fun.”