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Fathers join forces in Lapwai

Lapwai schools are safer and relationships between parents and school officials are better all because one father decided to be a part of positive change in his community.

His child was pressured by peers to make a bad decision that had a negative outcome. Instead of complaining to school leaders, this father decided to get involved. He rallied dads, grandfathers, uncles and other male role models into joining a volunteer group dedicated to helping at school.

“The key to the success is the parents started it,” said Teri Wagner, the elementary principal in Lapwai.

The father started WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) — a father involved initiative of the National Center for Father that organizes fathers and father figures in order to provide positive male roles models and to enhance school security. Today, more than 2,276 active programs in 41 states participate. At Lapwai, 65 are participating, which is about 50 percent of the district’s population.

The men sign up for one day a year to volunteer at school. They tackle bus duty, read to students, provide extra adult supervision, work in the hallways, play with the children during recess and attend and participate in P.E. They spend the whole day with their child and their child’s classmates. They inspire and engage, reduce bullying and enhance the educational environment.

“Once they came one time, they often asked if they could come again,” Wagner said. “The men want to be here.”

School leaders are already seeing positive benefits from the program launched just three months ago.

“It gets adult male role models into the classroom,” said fourth grade teacher Beau Woodford. “The dads are mentors, positive role models, and they give safety and security to all. The program is building bridges between the community and the school district.”

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