Lowcountry school calls on fathers to help with student success

JOHNS ISLAND, SC (WCSC) - A new program at Haut Gap Middle School is bringing dad into the classroom.

Named WATCH D.O.G.S, which stands for Dads of Great Students, the program is part of a national effort to engage fathers and inspire children.

Volunteers undergo training and screening, before committing to at least one day a year as a school volunteer.

Service ranges from helping out in the classroom to monitoring hallways as an added measure of security.

"Students automatically come to attention," said 5th grade teacher Chelsea Speights.

"Any parent relationship that we can have in the building is just key to helping the kids," she continued.

The idea is based on research from the National Center for Fathering which says children thrive when they have an active father.

Haut Gap Middle School counselor Melvin Wright has seen the benefit for volunteers as well.
"Fathers feel a sense of belonging," he said.  "They feel like they have a purpose here."

WATCH D.O.G.S. volunteer Michael Mack was among the first to receive the call.  Mack says the program is a chance to offer his son something he didn't have as a child.

"I came from a single parent," he said.

"There was never anyone to come around the school, sit in the classroom, sit at lunch, or be in the hallway to support me."

Students at Haut Gap have responded positively to the extra eyes and ears.

"They talk to him because he's an outsider, like normal person," said 8th grade student Tyasia Simmons.  "They don't see teachers as normal people."

"It's great to see that they're coming in and participating to help all students, all around in every grade," added Thian Frasier.

More than 40 volunteers are signed up as WATCH D.O.G.S. at Haut Gap Middle School.  The program is now one of nearly 4,000 nationwide.

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