Thursday, Nov. 08 2012 5:29PM
Their eyes are watching
Nationwide fatherhood volunteer group takes root in Lee’s Summit
By Toriano Porter
Wardell Murray and Brian Martin are just two of many, many males in Lee’s Summit that are a part of the Watch D.O.G.S. group.
Watch D.O.G.S. – the acronym stands for dads of great students – is the father involvement initiative of the National Center for Fathering, a national organization that organizes fathers and father figures in order to provide positive male role models for students and to enhance school security.
More than 2,276 active programs in 41 states participate in the Watch D.O.G.S. program, according to the NCF, and members are fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles, and other father figures who volunteer to serve at least one day a year in a variety of school activities.
Four schools in the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District participate in the program, including Hazel Grove, Meadow Lane, Pleasant Lea and Westview elementary schools.
Summit Christian Academy also participates in the program.
Murray estimates he’s inside the entire school day at Meadow Lane – where he has two children at the school – at least once every other month.
“It was almost a life changing experience,” Murray, volunteer coordinator for the Watch D.O.G.S. program at Meadow Lane, said of when he first started volunteering nearly four years ago. “You go in different classrooms – and you spend time in your child’s classroom, which is great – but you go to these other classrooms and there are so many kids there that want to soak up the attention of a male. Once they get you started there is no turning away in being a part of it.”
Martin, who also has two children at Meadow Lane, helps Murray coordinate activities during their time at the school. The duo said at least 73 men are on the program’s roster at Meadow Lane, and they expect the number to grow to at least 100 by next school year.
Volunteering, even if it’s just once a year for some, is a worthwhile experience for Martin and Murray.
“I got involved by asking questions about Watch D.O.G.S. before we had it,” Martin said. “I have a friend with kids in the Blue Springs school district and Watch D.O.G.S. is big there. I asked about it and Lee’s Summit did not have it, but the very next year, it started. I love the program. I go away respecting teachers more and more every time I do it. I love it. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Watch D.O.G.S. program at SCA has been very successful at the school said Kimberlee Gill, SCA’s academic dean.
“We love our dads, and the students are excited to see them in the classrooms and throughout the school,” Gill said.
SCA started the Watch D.O.G.S. program in 2007 and currently has more than 100 Watch D.O.G.S. who take a day per school year to volunteer.
“We love having them on campus,” Gill said. “At the elementary we have a lot of moms who we are so thankful for who volunteers. (The) program has allowed our dads to embrace and participate in their child’s classroom experience. They not only serve to protect the campus but, engage and help the teachers and students at recess, in the lunch room and throughout the day.”
“I love serving as a Watch D.O.G. at SCA,” added SCA parent Larry Lee. “I enjoy walking the hallways and having the kids give me hi-fives and saying thanks. You really feel like a superstar for the day and you can tell that the students enjoy having you around to be part of what is going on at school.”
Lee’s sentiment was shared by both Martin and Murray.
“The kids love it,” Martin said. “What I have found too in being a Watch D.O.G. is I can’t go to Wal-Mart without some little (child) running up to me and saying ‘Mommy that’s a Watch D.O.G.’ They know you probably a little better than you know them, but I do it and my kids love it. I do it for my kids, but I also do it for the kids who don’t have a dad in their life.”
Added Murray: “As you can see, I get excited talking about this program. It’s something special. I would like to see all 18 elementary schools in the Lee’s Summit district have it, not just four.”