Neighbors | Jessica Harker .A sign welcomed dads to the Donut for Dads event at Austintown Intermediate School in the cafeteria.
Neighbors | Jessica Harker .Dads gathered at Austintown Intermediate School to have a doughnut breakfast with their students on Oct. 15 for the Donuts for Dads event where relatives were encouraged to sign up for the Watch D.O.G.S. program run throughout the year at the school.
Neighbors | Jessica Harker .Students met with their dads and other male relatives on Oct. 15 for the Donuts for Dads event where Austintow Intermediate School encouraged positive male role models to sign up for their annual Watch D.O.G.S. program.
Neighbors | Jessica Harker .Maleah and Sean Bailey are pictured at a doughnut breakfast together at Austintown Intermediate School on Oct. 15 during the schools Donuts for Dads event.
Neighbors | Jessica Harker .The cafeteria at Austintown Intermediate School was full the morning of Oct. 15 with dads and other male relatives who came to have breakfast with their student during the Donuts for Dads event where male role models were encourgaed to sign up for the Watch D.O.G.S. program run by the school.
Neighbors | Jessica Harker .Ivan and Malia Thomas ate breakfast together for the Donuts for Dads event at Austintown Intermediate School on Oct. 15.
Neighbors | Jessica Harker .Donuts for Dads was offered before school on Oct. 15 at the Austintown Intermediate School. The school aimed to sign up dads present for the annual Watch D.O.G.S. program.
By JESSICA HARKER
Austintown Intermediate School is preparing to kick off its annual Watch D.O.G.S. program in November.
Watch D.O.G.S. or Dads of Great Students, is a national program designed to provide a positive male presence in schools.
“Not a lot of males who go into K-5 education, we have some but it is not proportionate to the real world,” said Principal Angel Owens.
She explained that the ratio of male to female employees at AIS is highly skewed, with 15 female employees to every one male.
“It just brings such a different feel because in a female-dominated building male energy is just different,” Owens said. “It just helps it balance out.”
To volunteer as a Watch Dog at AIS you do not have to be the father of a student, according to Owens, who said they get a lot of uncles, grandparents and step-parents interested in the program.
“We have quite a few families who don’t have a dad. So you can be a relative, there really is no restrictions on that,” she said.
The program runs from November through March this year, ending before state testing begins in the school district.
Each day, up to three Watch Dogs volunteer their time in the building. Watch Dogs spend their day in a supervisory role. They greet students getting off busses, help during lunch, walk the perimeter throughout the day and participate in each lunch and recess period.
At the end of the day they volunteer will take a picture with their student and put it up on the Watch Dogs Hall of Fame bulletin board.
Owens said each day the volunteers begin in the office with a detailed schedule of where they should be throughout the day. While they are allotted chunks of time each day to sit in class with their student, its not the whole day.
“We try to let dads know that its not necessarily a day to sit with your kid,” Owens said. “You’re here to mingle and give students a positive interaction with a male.”
Owens said that the impact on students has been positive, allowing students to interact with a non threatening male presence without being in trouble.
“We really have a pretty diverse population in the building, more and more over the years we have more students who struggle with an absent male figure,” Owens said.
She explained that many of the Watch Dogs who volunteer regularly become staples in the building, with students looking forward to seeing them and greeting them when they come in.
“Kids gravitate towards them, it is about providing a positive male presence to the building on the days they are here,” Owens said.
She said that a lot of the volunteers look to sign up on their students birthdays, but that they can sign up for as many days as they can get off of work for.
Volunteers are welcome to stay for the full school day, but Owens said the program is flexible if volunteers have other commitments during the day.
AIS has run multiple orientation events as well as “Donuts for Dads” days to encourage volunteers to sign up for the program.
Owens said they used to kick off the program with a pizza party, but have decided to wait until the end of the year to hold a party to thank volunteers.
Also new this year the school will pick a Watch Dog of the year at the party.
“I think we want to make sure we are holding up a volunteer in particular that is an exemplary version of a watch dog,” Owens said. “Some of them really go above and beyond.”
She said the goal of this is to encourage more volunteers to be interactive with students, greeting them and providing a positive presence throughout their time at the school.
“Certain ones are high-fiving and talking to kids, and we want to promote that kind of behavior,” Owens said.
She explained that the reason the program has been able to grow and improve over the years is Austintown schools commitment to the social and emotional health of their students.
“We understand that family dynamics have changed, it can be very easy to get focused on testing and report cards. This is one of those things that may never show up in a data point but we know each day that it effects the kids,” Owens said.
She explained that while this may not be an educational portion of a students day, having a positive male presence can greatly enhance their emotional well being throughout their lives.
“There’s not much that we can do with what’s going on with mom and dad and that dynamic but this is something we can bring to the kids,” Owens said.