Brought together for pizza, a Giants game on the radio, (can’t ask a guy to miss a game) and a video featuring the National Center for Fathering’s WATCH D.O.G.S. program, a small group of Tahoe dads decided to get more involved. Inspired by the WATCH D.O.G.S. film they viewed on that October 2014 evening, the Kings Beach Elementary fathers organized a volunteer schedule to spend time in their child’s school.
WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is a father involvement and educational initiative that started in 1998 in Arkansas. It has since expanded into an international program with more than 4,512 participating schools in 46 states and in five countries. The program’s mission is to provide students with positive male role models who, by their presence, demonstrate that education is important and provide an extra set of eyes to prevent bullying. According to the National Center for Fathering, many school principals report that the mere presence of a WATCH D.O.G.S. dad dramatically reduces reports of bullying. Conversely, the center states that children without a father figure are more likely to become involved with drugs, alcohol, and crime, and show decreased emotional and physical health.
When Kings Beach Principal Kyle Mohagen left his previous position at a school in Tacoma, Wash., he took this program with him to Tahoe. Kings Beach Elementary counselor Jessica Darkenwald helps Mohagen with the newsletter and scheduling.
WATCH D.O.G.S. asks dads or male relatives to volunteer at least one day during the school year, though they’re welcome to help out more if possible. The men play games at recess, help in the lunchroom, and read to the children.
“Reading with a group of kids is pretty effective,” said Mohagen. “Anything the dad wants to do we are open to. Most dads like recess best.”
To date, Kings Beach Elementary has 17 dads in the program who have logged more than 90 hours in total.
Barry Giansiracusa has a daughter in the first grade and comes to the school whenever he can to wash the classroom tables and help with special events. His daughter Maile loves when he’s on campus and begs him to come every day.
“I do what I can to help out the teachers who do a lot of work already,” said Giansiracusa.
Filipe Guevara is at the school almost daily to be with his kindergartener and fourth grader. After volunteering all day at the school he works the night shift at North Tahoe High School as a custodian.
“Before the program I was already volunteering,” said Guevara. “My parents never showed up to school … This is something [for me] to do with my kids.”
For more info on Kings Beach Elementary’s WATCH D.O.G.S., contact Principal Kyle Mohagen at (530) 546-2605. To bring this program to your child’s school, visit fathers.com/watchdogs.