Seeking to be more involved at his son’s school, William Arata attended "Macho Nacho Night" at Ina Arbuckle Elementary to learn about the school's new program,
Watch D.O.G.S. As the introductory video played, William knew he had to sign up. “[This is] one of the good ways that I can give back, not just to my son, but to the school,” he said.
Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is an educational initiative that encourages fathers and father figures to volunteer at their children's schools. Troth Street Elementary was the first JUSD school to launch the program in February, with Ina Arbuckle following in March. “Watch D.O.G.S. brings in the fathers, the uncles, the grandfathers that usually wouldn't come to school,” shared Jovanka Martinez, Troth Street Community Schools
Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA). “Usually it's the moms who come to volunteer, but this provides an opportunity for the dads to come in and see what's going on.”
Watch D.O.G.S. greet students during arrival, help teachers in the classroom, and join recess and P.E. activities. Each father figure has something unique to offer his school. One of Troth Street’s volunteers was hesitant to sign up because he is not a strong reader, but after Ms. Martinez convinced him to participate, he became a hit when he taught kids to play soccer and conversed with Spanish-speaking students in their primary language.
School administrators understand how crucial parent involvement is for a child’s education. “We see students [with] better attendance. We see them doing better academically. We see them doing better socially,” said Dr. Maria Gadsden, Ina Arbuckle Community Schools TSA. “The kids that have their dad at the school are just so proud and excited.”
Volunteering at school is also an opportunity for parents to observe their student’s learning habits and interests. “I joined because I wanted to be part of my kids’ [lives] as much as possible,” shared Rogelio Cisneros, who has two daughters at Troth Street. “You’ve got to know about your kids, watch them grow up, because they only grow up once.”
Ms. Martinez believes that Watch D.O.G.S. fits perfectly in the Community Schools movement because it engages a portion of the community historically left out of youth education. She is especially interested in welcoming more grandfathers because they, along with grandmothers, often help raise the children of working parents. “Both my daughters grew up with their [grandparents] in the home. I saw the benefit in my own children and how if they didn’t feel comfortable coming to me, they felt comfortable going to their grandmother or grandfather,” she said.
The JUSD Watch D.O.G.S. have grown popular across grade levels, and William and his fellow volunteers recognize the impact a positive male role model can make now and in the future. “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me,” he shared. “The biggest impact that I have on my environment is the legacy I leave behind with what I teach my children. So if I am there for my son, he’ll grow up and he’ll be there for his.”