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Welcoming Watch DOGS at Everson

Getting dads and father figures involved in Everson Elementary involves a concentrated approach, all led by a group of dads. This effort has a formal start with an informational pizza dinner on Oct. 9.

The Watch DOGS program — DOGS stands for Dads Of Great Students — invites dads and father figures into the school to volunteer in their child’s class for a day, eat lunch with students, play at recess and get involved in activities. While this program has been ongoing at Everson for about five years, the school took a year off last year in order to restart it with renewed energy this year.

And it all starts with a welcome pizza night at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Everson Elementary.

“This program has been a life-changer for so many kids and dads, me included,” says Chad Brisky. “I have been involved for five years and still get kids that walk the halls and give high-fives. Every student at every age are going into a tough time or coming out of one and a high-five might just be what makes a child’s day.”

Brisky is part of the father-led effort that has partnered with Everson staff member Kirsi Antunes to get the Watch DOGS program growing this year. Antunes says the purpose of the pizza night is to inform dads and father figures of the opportunity to be a role model, support students academically and add a level of security to the schools. Every participant is encouraged to sign-up for one volunteer day during the school year.

Brisky says he wants other dads to become part of a turn-key program that lets dads do something he wasn’t ever exposed to when he was a student: “being a part of our children’s lives in school.”

Having dads help run the program has shown, in Antunes’ past experiences, that dads take more ownership and help the program become more successful. “Students are extremely proud of having their dad or father figure at the school,” she says. “Watch DOGS wear a special shirt that identifies them as one and they have an opportunity to volunteer in their child’s class, eat lunch together and play at recess. We also take a picture of dads and kids together as a memory.”

When a Watch DOGS volunteer arrives at school, they receive a detailed schedule of which classrooms they will visit and activities they will be involved in during the day. “The teachers know ahead of time and generally involve them in direct one-on-one or small-group student support,” Antunes says. “The most common feedback I receive at the end of the day is that their time was extremely rewarding. They didn’t expect students to be so excited to see them.”