Dylan Silver
dsilver@tahoedailytribune.com

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January 18, 2012
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Group encourages fathers to become involved in children's schools

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. - There's no instruction manual thick enough to cover every aspect of being a father. So when it comes to volunteering in the classroom or taking a turn as playground monitor, dads might feel a little on their own.

But a new group, Watch D.O.G.S., aims to help fathers become actively involved in their children's schools.

"We want the men out there to know that there's a place for them at school," said Watch D.O.G.S. National Director Eric Snow. "And that they can have a tremendous positive impact on their and other people's children."

Nationally, Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) has more than 70,000 members and is active in more than 2,200 schools. The group has partnered with the National Center for Fathering and has received recognition from the White House Summit on School Safety, the U.S. Department of Education and the National PTA.

The group's newest branch meets Thursday at Lake Tahoe Environmental Magnet School.

"We do have dads that are involved in PTA and in the classroom," said Ryan Galles, principal at LTEMS. "But some dads are looking for an avenue to participate."

And so far, the interest has been overwhelming. Watch D.O.G.S. coordinator Zaak Wilson said more than 70 fathers have signed up to come to the meeting and dozens of local businesses have come up with support and raffle prizes for the meeting.

"I thought it was an awesome program, and we didn't have much going on in terms of father involvement," Wilson said.

Wilson, a single parent whose 7-year-old goes to LTEMS, hopes the program will inspire fathers to participate in their children's lives and give them a sense of pride for doing so, he said.

"Sometimes it's intimidating when you walk in the school door and they ask you what you want to do," Wilson said.

The program's goal is to establish a designated day for fathers to help out in schools and give them specific tasks to take part in.

"Men want to be a part of something that's well thought out," Snow said.

The benefits range from making schools safer to creating more positive learning environments, according to the Watch D.O.G.S. website. Having a positive male role model engaged in children's lives can increase their chances of graduating high school by 200 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. It can also improve dinner table conversations, Snow said.

"Just this wealth of information will come forward," Snow said. "When he or she talks about school, the dad knows what they're talking about."

Watch D.O.G.S. was founded in 1998 in Springdale, Arkansas. After a school shooting, students were scared to return to their classrooms. A handful of dads, including Snow, volunteered at the school to show their kids it was safe. The program took off from there.

"We really weren't thinking beyond one school. But before the school year was over, other schools began borrowing from what we were doing," Snow said. "There was this groundswell of interest."


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Jan 18, 2012 11:46AM Published Jan 18, 2012 11:41AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.