Dads come back to school

Published 12:04 am Thursday, November 3, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Ray Brown and his grandson, Kamron Brown, 6, share a quiet conversation during the Dads of Great Students event at Natchez High School last week. The program is designed to get fathers involved in their children’s academic career.

NATCHEZ — Dads are going back to class at Natchez High School, not as students, but as security and support.

Natchez High School recently implemented Watch DOGS — Dads of Great Students. The presence of dads on campus not only increases the sense of safety, but also provides an objective mentor for students.

Approximately 30 men attended an informational meeting last week in the school’s cafeteria to learn about the Watch DOGS program and sign up.

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The program is part of the father involvement initiative of the National Center for Fathering that organizes fathers and father figures in order to provide positive male role models for the students, enhance school security, inspire children and reduce bullying. Today, more than 2,200 active programs in 41 states participate in the Watch DOGS Program.

Delores Irving, statewide Parent-Teacher-Student Organization president, said national research has proven that children perform exponentially better in the classroom when males are involved in a child’s education.

“There needs to be more emphasis placed on good choices,” Irving said. “We want to say to the children — it does not matter what side of the tracks you came from — whether the house on the hill or the shack in the valley, you can do it. These dads are going to offer positive choices.”

Irving said that 72 percent of children in the U.S. go to bed at night in a house without a male figure; and the program extends beyond just a temporary solution to a deep problem.

“It’s not bake sales,” Irving said. “It’s advocacy.”

Watch DOGS at Natchez High will encourage students, help with parking lot traffic, monitor hallways and buildings, assist at recess, study hall and social times, have lunch with students, chaperone trips, assist coaches and more.

Earnest Cade, whose daughter is a junior at Natchez High, said he had just been thinking about how he could get involved in his daughter’s academic life.

“This program is a God-send,” Cade said. “It’s a beautiful idea — and plain as day.”

Natchez dad Prentice Simmons said staying at home the night of the presentation was not an option. Simmons has two sons in ninth and 10th grade.

“This is greatly important,” Simmons said. “I really want to come out and support them.”

To become official Watch DOGS, dads must join the school PTA program, undergo a background check and purchase a T-shirt to wear on campus.

Dads are encouraged to donate as many days as they can as Watch DOGS, whether it be one day a year to multiple days a week. Coordinators suggested taking the occasional personal day from work to have a presence at the school.

To become involved in Watch DOGS at the Natchez High campus, call Greg West, coordinator, at 601-334-6955.