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October 2, 2013
By Staff Sgt. Miriam Espinoza

DUPONT, Wash. - On a Friday night, when most people would be relaxing at home after a long week of work and planning the weekend ahead, more than 160 dads, most of them military, gathered at Chloe Clark Elementary School in DuPont, Wash., to learn about the WATCH Dads Of Great Students program Sept. 27.

WATCH DOGS program is an initiative that provides positive male role models by organizing fathers and father figures to spend time with students while enhancing school security. The program, which started in 1998 as one father's desire to increase male involvement in his children's school, has spread to more than 2,811 schools in 46 states.

Before getting briefed on the program and their possible involvement in upcoming school activities, dads spent a little time getting acclimatized to the school atmosphere by eating in the cafeteria with their children.

"By being here you are letting your kids know that they are priority, their education and safety is priority," said Jason Pierce, Chloe Clark WATCH DOGS coordinator.

As a father of five, Maj. Jackson Drumgoole, force manager, I Corps, got involved while he was stationed in Georgia and has participated in the program for six years.

"Just being involved in my children's education helped my oldest son graduate high school two years early," he said. "Most schools expect mothers to come to the school, but they respect a father who comes and gets involved."

By participating, these men demonstrate through their presence the importance of education while providing an extra set of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying.

WATCH DOGS volunteers have the opportunity to work on flash cards with students, play at recess, eat lunch with students, watch the school entrances and hallways, assist with traffic flow and any other activities assigned by the lead director.

"Since the start of the program, hundreds of thousands of fathers and father figures have been present in our nation's classrooms and hallways," Pierce said. "WATCH DOGS has created millions of 'in school' volunteer hours and continues to have a tremendously positive impact on the educational process."

According to Pierce, the fathers who volunteer in the program get a glimpse of their student's everyday environment and witness the increasingly complex challenges and decisions faced by today's youth. As a result, they learn to relate and connect better to their student.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, a U.S. based nonprofit organization that aims to improve the well-being of children through the promotion of responsible fatherhood, a father's involvement in school is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A's, and at the same time may decrease the child's probability of living in poverty.

"The rate of fatherless children in the student population today varies from 35-75 percent," Pierce said. "The U.S. Department of Education has identified the program as an effective way to increase male involvement in our nation's schools."

Drumgoole, a native of Augusta, Ga., said that participating in this program is a simple and easy way to join a huge team effort in contributing to tomorrow's generation.