By Shelby R. Farrell


LOVES PARK – Instead of their usual morning routines, over 100 students and their father figures gathered at Harlem Middle School for donuts and coffee.

Harlem Middle School encouraged father involvement by inviting dads, uncles, grandfathers or any other significant male role models to an annual breakfast event, Donuts with Dad, on Sept. 11. The event was to promote the school’s Watch D.O.G.S., or Dads of Great Students, program.

Watch D.O.G.S. is a national program through the National Center for Fathering, and Rozanne Richards, a guidance counselor at Harlem Middle School, said the school adopted the program three years ago.

“The whole premise is to get dads or significant male role models with our students involved in the school and help them feel more a part of the community and give them a chance to mentor in the school,” Richards said.

“There’s been a lot of moms involved in schools over the years and more and more now dads are getting involved, which is wonderful, and it gives them the opportunity to come spend the day at our school.”

The men who volunteer in the Dads of Great Students program commit to spending a school day at Harlem Middle School, helping in a variety of ways throughout the day.

Richards said the school tries to have one member of Watch D.O.G.S. on campus at least once a week, and the volunteers could speak to classes, help with assignments, read to students and assist teachers in classes, among other ways to participate.

Patrick Cimino spent a day at the school twice last year, and he said he was able to be a part of five out of seven of his son’s classes.

“I wanted to see how Harlem Middle School is with all the kids and see how he performs in class, and I guess I wanted to see if middle school is better than when I was in middle school, and it is,” Cimino said.

“I just wanted to get a feel for the school, and let him know that his dad’s here for him, being able to see what he has to go through in a day-by-day basis.”

He said he is excited to be involved with his son’s education, and “Harlem should be proud.” He said he thinks a lot more dads and male role models should participate in the program.

Richards said she hoped the Donuts with Dad event recruited more volunteers for the Watch D.O.G.S. program.

“We’re always trying to get more dads involved,” she said. “Safety is always our number one concern, even though our school is very safe, but it just gives more eyes.

“Just having the males in the building, it’s very upbeat and positive. The students love it. The student’s love adults in the building, so it just gives them an opportunity to interact with other males or other people in the school that maybe aren’t necessarily in charge or discipline. It’s more on a friendship, or mentoring basis, so the students have really enjoyed it.”

She said the program has received good feedback from students and the men who volunteer. Between 15 and 20 role models participated in the program last year, and Richards said 13 people had already signed up before the Donuts with Dad event. She said 254 dads and other men attended the annual breakfast along with 262 students, and more of them signed up for the program.

“There’s a big commitment in our community to this school,” she said. “We have really strong support from our parents. We appreciate the support from the community, because we as a school, we cannot educate the children alone. It’s the school and the student and the parents.”


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