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EL elementary school program encourages male participation

North Elementary School Principal Tom Cunningham and Top D.O.G.S. Bob Shallcross, Drew Cooper, Troy Chisom, Robert Nizer and Mario Hernandez provide the core group of the pilot program’s volunteers. They will be hoping to bring on more WATCH D.O.G.S., after hosting a Dads and Kids’ pizza night Feb. 24. (Photo by Stephanie Ujhelyi)

EAST LIVERPOOL –Most children love dogs and that is what North Elementary School is counting on.

According to Principal Jack Cunningham, the school, which serves grades K-6, is serving as East Liverpool school district’s pilot for the program WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), which focuses on providing positive male role models for students and also providing an extra set of eyes and ears to enhance school security.

A nationally recognized family and community engagement educational initiative, WATCH D.O.G.S. will be hosting an inaugural Dads and Kids’ pizza night at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24 at the school cafeteria. After pizza and drinks, participants will learn about the innovative program.

As Cunningham detailed the goal is to sign up as many dads as possible for the program, so children see that the male role models, which can also include uncles, grandfathers and family friends, think education is important too. He said that plans are to officially debut WATCH D.O.G.S. on March 2.

It is all about male adults interacting with kids, especially recognized that many don’t necessary have access to a male role model.

The program, which is offered K-12 program, encourages participating WATCH D.O.G.S. to volunteer at least one half a day annually at their student’s school during the school year.

After signing up at the launch event, participants contact a school coordinator to schedule and identify opportunities for participation at the school.

A typical WATCH D.O.G.S. schedule can include daily orientation, where the volunteer receives an official Dog Tag name tag to place on his official uniform T-shirt. He then turns his attention to assisting with students arriving to school or departing school, helping in the cafeteria, volunteering in individual classrooms, patrolling hallways and providing other kinds of assistance, such as working with small groups of students on homework, flashcards, or spelling.

Cunningham had heard about the program and started investigating it. “We are always looking for ways to get males involved with our children. I found it intriguing. I would love to have someone here every day,” he added.

Generally, classrooms more often see the female face of a room mother; however, Cunningham acknowledges that when there is an adult male present in the school, tongues start wagging quickly.

He wants to see that more often, thus the decision to introduce the program, which if successful could be implemented at other schools.

Some of the fathers present acknowledge that dads don’t find themselves involved in the education realm often enough.

Both Drew Cooper and Mario Hernandez did agree that this is an opportunity for them as fathers to demonstrate to their children that their education is just as important to dads as it is to moms. “I think some dads don’t know that they can volunteer,” explained Hernandez, who also sits on East Liverpool’s school board.

Robert Nizer said that he recently took his daughter on a field trip and was disappointed to see that he was the only father present on the bus. “I think (WATCH D.O.G.S.) is an awesome opportunity to give moms a break. This is a chance to step up for the supermoms,” he said, adding that he hopes seeing this approach to fatherhood may rub off on younger generations now currently exposed to that.

Principal Cunningham said that part of the problem is that working fathers may not be able to take off for specific events, like a school concert, Valentine’s Day party or spelling bee. “This program opens up the schedule to male figures any day in the year,” he added.

Anyone with questions regarding the Watch D.O.G.S. program is asked to call Cunningham or Sandy Walgate at 330-386-8772.

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