LOCKHART — Lockhart School is going to the dogs — the Watch DOGS.
Lockhart School hosted the kick-off of its new Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) program in conjunction with Doughnuts for Dads on Friday morning. The program kick-off included two sessions — one at 7:45 a.m. and another at 8:30 a.m. School officials were pleasantly surprised by the turnout, saying they expected a total of 60 participants but had nearly that many participate in the first session alone.
The Watch DOGS program involves dads and other male role models — including grandfathers, uncles, etc. — each spending a day volunteering at school. Each “Watch DOG” will greet children in the mornings, watching who is dropping off/picking up students; sit in on class with his child; eat lunch with his child; eat lunch with another child; volunteer on the playground; and volunteer in other classes.
The program is nationwide, and Friday’s kick-off event included a video explaining what the program is. Dads on the video said they enjoy going in classes and working with students by reading to them or holding up flash cards, as well as throwing balls on the playground or helping the school resource officer patrol hallways.
Principal Betsy Trakas said she believes it is important to have a male role model at school because most school staff and volunteers are predominantly female, and while schools are appreciative of female volunteers, there are some students who do not have a male role model at home.
“I think having these role models at school will change some students’ attitudes in a positive way, provide a sense of security that there are extra eyes watching students throughout the day, and give fathers a view of their children’s school life through a new perspective,” Trakas said.
Tracy Rash — Watch DOGS volunteer coordinator also known as “Top DOG” — said he hopes the new program will make a positive impact.
“With a daughter in second grade and a son who will be in kindergarten next year, this gives me a chance to come to school and be involved in my children’s lives,” Rash said. “Most dads rely on the mother. I’ve noticed on field trips that most of the chaperones are women.”
Guidance counselor Jennifer Seeman also helped explain the program during Friday’s event.
“You dads and father figures are so important,” she told those in attendance. “My child knows I’m at school every day, and I help him with his homework. But when Dad sits down to help with homework, it’s a big deal. He’s trying to impress Dad.”
David Campbell, whose six-year-old daughter Logan attends Lockhart School, said he looks forward to being involved with the Watch DOGS program.
“It’s exciting to be able to come spend time with my child, and I know she’s excited about it,” Campbell said.
Campbell mentioned that he often sits in on Sunday School classes at his church just to offer a male presence in the room.
“Sometimes the kids act totally different with a man in the room,” he said.
Several dads who already had background checks completed signed up on the spot for their days of volunteering, and others filled out the proper paperwork to get started. Seeman pointed out that some employers offer paid days off for volunteer work.
More information about the nationwide program can be found at www.fathers.com/watchdogs.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.