Watch D.O.G.S.

Do you know what goes on in the halls and classrooms of your child's school? If you'd like to take a more active role, Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) across America can provide fathers and other male guardians with that opportunity. Each day, different volunteers participate in the school's classes and supervising duties.

"I think it's just neat for dads to see what goes on in an elementary school in a day. They're not real sure what goes on in their children's lives at school," said Cara Jernigan, assistant principal at Will Rogers Elementary School in Edmond, where the Watch D.O.G.S program started in January. "Now they're able to see what a simple day in an elementary school is like."

Jernigan applied to the organization for a grant that covered the price of materials to launch the program.

"We had over four hundred dads, uncles, grandpas and other positive male role models and students in attendance," she said in reference to an awareness fundraiser.

According to the National Center for Fathering website, the Watch D.O.G.S. program is a safe school initiative that was first launched at George Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas. It was founded by Jim Moore, a concerned father who took action in response to the 1998 middle school shooting in Jonesboro. Today, more than 400 schools nationwide participate in the program. If your child is a member of a school currently affiliated with the organization, fathers, uncles, and even grandfathers can sign up to volunteer at any time.

Although the program dedicates part of the volunteers' efforts to child supervision, its most significant contribution lies in the capacity to provide students with a positive role model.

"In today's society, unfortunately, not every child has a positive male role model in their lives. Anytime that we can get more one-on-one with children, it's nothing but good," said Jernigan.

"The volunteer might read with the children. They might help them with flashcards or just spend time with the kids in a positive light. We have a set schedule where the volunteers are in different classrooms for about thirty minutes of the day and then on thirty-minute rotations. They also walk the perimeter of the building, and spend time at the cafeteria during lunch to help monitor and supervise the children," said Jernigan.

Both faculty and students have received the new program well. "The teachers and the children are very comfortable with it. I've had nothing but positive comments about the program from the teachers, and the children are always looking forward to it," said the assistant principal.

The number of fathers who have taken time to volunteer has risen, and many of them have even used vacation time to spend the day at their child's school. Although Jernigan does not have scientific data on improved academic performance, she believes a correlation could later be found.

"I'm very grateful for the number of volunteers that we've been able to have at Will Rogers," said Jernigan.

For more information about the Watch D.O.G.S. program, visit the organization's website at www.watchdogs.net.

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