The program was designed in response to the Westside shootings in Jonesboro in 1998 to help keep area schools safer WATCH D.O.G.S. is an innovative father involvement, educational initiative that began in 1998 in a single school in Springdale, Arkansas, and has since grown into a nationally recognized program Today more than 2,200 schools in 41 states participate in WATCH D.O.G.S.
Hundreds of men enjoyed pizza with their children at the drop in party at the A.L. Hutson Center, socializing before signing up for days to volunteer for the program.
Blake Medlock was among the dads at the kickoff reception who volunteered for WATCH D.O.G.S. since the program began in 2008. This year, he has children in both schools and said he will be volunteering in both.
"Recess usually gets a little spooky. They have so much energy to burn off. You have to figure out how to help them do that. We also help the kids in the elementary school cafeteria. It is great watching the progression," Medlock said.
Marty Ross was also present with his daughter Mattie. As a newbie, Ross, signed up for two days. He is not sure what to expect and said "I will just show up and do whatever they tell me to."
Adam Zeiger, who in his third year with Watch D.O.G.S., signed up with his son Jacob for one day. "I just signed up for one day but I call and try to fill in if they need me. It is an enjoyable time, the kids always look forward to it. It is so nice to be appreciated," Zeiger said
Meg Barnes, Assistant Principal/Counselor at Cherokee Elementary, who organizes and coordinates the volunteers for the elementary program said, "We kind of did a drop in sign up because there was a lot going on, gymnastics, boy scouts and a football game, but we had a great turn out." Kim Sample, middle school counselor organized the program for the middle school students.
Large calendars placed on long tables were well covered with men's names indicating the day they will volunteer at the school.
Throughout the day, the dads serve as positive role models to the students, and help increase the sense of security in the building.
Some of the activities volunters do include welcoming students to school, reading, tutoring and playing games with them at recess. By sharing personal knowledge about such things as careers and life lessons, the men are not only protecting the students, but also providing an extra set of eyes and ears to creatie a great environment for learning.
During 2003, WATCH D.O.G.S. conducted a survey of 50 participating schools nationwide and found that 89 percent of those surveyed agree that WATCH D.O.G. S is a valuable component of a school's efforts to promote a safe and positive learning environment for students.
Additionally, 79 percent agreed that, since implementing the WATCH D.O.G.S. program, the school has experienced an increase in father involvement in areas other than the program, such as parent-teacher conferences, volunteerism in the classroom or after school and PTA/PTO involvement.
Barnes said dads can sign up any time throughout the year to come to volunteer. She encouraged all parents of children in the Cherokee Elementary School and Highland Middle School to participate in the program.