Dads volunteer time at Florence Bowser

Published 10:02 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The cafeteria at Florence Bowser Elementary School was overflowing with dads and pizza on Thursday as they got ready for an introduction to the WATCH D.O.G.S. program.

The program — Dads of Great Students — was first implemented at Driver Elementary by Kevin Schweiss, the Top Dog, and he wanted to make sure the program would come to Florence Bowser.

“When we moved to Driver, I approached Ms. Griffin, and she was completely on board,” Schweiss said. “We had an overwhelming response, and it went so well that we wanted to move it to the new school.”

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The WATCH D.O.G.S. program helps promote fathers and father-figures volunteering at their children’s schools.

Schweiss said that during the school day, students tend to be surrounded by women as most teachers are women, and mothers are more likely to volunteer for the PTA and other school-based organizations. The program gives dads and other father-figures the chance to provide a positive male role model for children who otherwise might not have one.

“They are being a positive role model, which some kids just don’t have,” Schweiss said.

Schweiss had another overwhelming response this year, with 150 dads attending the event and signing up for various days during the school year.

Dads from various backgrounds and professions attended the introduction and signed up to volunteer their time during their work week to be involved with the school. Some of the dads came back after participating last year at Driver Elementary.

“They talked about the lack of a male role model, because teachers are typically female,” said returning WATCH D.O.G.S participant Chris Hicks. “My kid sees me interact with other children, and that gives them a lot of pride. They seem to enjoy it.”

At Driver, Hicks and other participants had the chance to go inside the classroom and lend a helping hand to the teachers with their instruction. Participating in the program gave Hicks a sense of pride as well.

“The kids are high-fiving you, and they recognize you,” Hicks said. “It makes you feel like you accomplished something.”

Whether they are physically helping out in a classroom or hanging out with students in the cafeteria, the dads are a noticeable presence in the hallways.

“We are engaged with the students,” said returning WATCH D.O.G.S participant Jerome Bowen. “It lets the kids know we are a reassuring presence. I think that is just as important as being engaged.”

While there were a few returning dads, the Florence Bowser cafeteria was filled with new faces ready to give their time to the school and the cause.

“I just want to be involved and be a good influence for my kids and others,” said Community Church Pastor Michael Brueseke. “Anytime men step up, it changes the community, so anytime dads, or men in general, can get involved, it is beneficial.”

The program gives the chance for teachers to have an extra set of hands in a classroom and students to have another positive male role model in the hallways, but the program also allows the schools to have extra sets of eyes and ears.

“One benefit of having dads in the schools is having a really positive role model, but it also gives a sense of security for everyone,” said returning WATCH D.O.G.S participant Ben Steele.