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A Different Kind of Watch Dog

A Different Kind of Watch Dog
Posted on 01/12/2018
Jeff Sager, a Belmar Elementary Watch D.O.G.S. member, helps students with a math exercise in the school library.It was morning drop-off time at Belmar Elementary, and lining the curb, just to make sure things go as smoothly as possible, are the Belmar Watch D.O.G.S., or Dads of Great Students.

“It’s a program through the National Center for Fathering. It’s a nationwide program. It’s gotten bigger every year,” explained Principal Meredith Leighty.

For part of the day or the entire day, the Watch D.O.G.S. are available to handle a wide range of assignments, including helping with the morning announcements.

“I think the dads wanted to tap into how they could help us. Moms traditionally know how to do that. It’s instinctual to volunteer at your kids’ school and dads I don’t think always feel welcome,” said Leighty. “We showed them how they could serve. They will run a barbecue on field day. They love to do security. We give them a walkie and they’re all over the building, but they love to feel useful and they love to feel helpful.”

Titus Blosser has two kids at Belmar. He’s in his first year as a part of the school’s Watch D.O.G.S. team.

“I think it’s super important to be as involved as possible in my kids’ life. I really didn’t like school, so the more I can push my kids to have a good time at school and know how important it is and be a part of that, I’m going to do every opportunity that I have, you know,” he said.

Another Belmar dad, Jeff Sager, has been a part of the Watch D.O.G.S. for three years.

“It sounded like a great opportunity to get to know some of the kids, to be able to spend some of the time at the school, get to know all the teachers, get to know the staff. Just be able to spend a little extra time with some son, hanging out at school,” he said.

“They always say, ‘I love knowing who my kids are talking about. I love knowing what they’re talking about when they come home.’ Really being a part of that, that’s really created that community feels that we really value here,” added Leighty.

Spending time in classrooms and helping out with story time are key parts of the experience. They’re not all dads, however. Some of these Watch D.O.G.S. are grandpas, stepdads, or uncles. Depending on a student’s particular experience, these men may also be the only father figure they’ve had in a very long time.

Sager said it reminds him of how blessed he is.

"It’s a reality check too, you know. It’s so important when you hear stories like that, the dad’s not around now. Even having the father figure that can walk up to him and say ‘hey how’s it going and how you doing,’” said Sager. “It’s so important because there are so many that don’t have that father figure and I don’t think we actually come in and try to be that. That’s never the goal, but it’s still coming in and hanging out with all of the kids, saying ‘hi.’ I love walking down the hall. There are so many kids that I’ve met and just being able to high five them and say hi to them by name. It’s a small thing for us, but it could be a huge thing for that kid.”

“You kind of get used to doing big things with your kids, but to see kids whose father or mother aren’t around, they’re like ‘this is cool to hang out with this dude’ and have this conversation with an adult,” added Blosser. “A lot of adults pass up conversations with kids and don’t say ‘hey, how are you doing today.’ Kids need that. They need human interaction. I think people forget about that with kids. It’s big that we as Dads have to be there.”

The program has been nothing but positive for Belmar.

“Active dads in the community help everything. It helps the graduation rate; it helps kids be successful in school, having more father figures” said Leighty.

“You’ve got to be able to come in and hang out with kids and just love on everybody that’s here and put a smile on your face. This is worth it. It’s worth the time coming in,” added Sager.

Click here to view the JPS-TV version of this story.
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