• Mackenzie Maki, 6, eats pizza with her father Navy Collection Cryptologic Technician 1st Class Matthew Maki at the WATCH D.O.G.S. Dad/Kids Pizza event at Pershing Hill Elementary School on Oct. 23.

    Mackenzie Maki, 6, eats pizza with her father...

    Mackenzie Maki, 6, eats pizza with her father Navy Collection Cryptologic Technician 1st Class Matthew Maki at the WATCH D.O.G.S. Dad/Kids Pizza event at Pershing Hill Elementary School on Oct. 23.

  • Col. Rich Patterson gives his 8-year-old daughter Katherine a hug at the WATCH D.O.G.S. Dads/Kids Pizza event. More than 90 men signed up to volunteer at the school as part of an initiative to encourage fathers to be more involved in their children's lives.

    Col. Rich Patterson gives his 8-year-old...

    Col. Rich Patterson gives his 8-year-old daughter Katherine a hug at the WATCH D.O.G.S. Dads/Kids Pizza event. More than 90 men signed up to volunteer at the school as part of an initiative to encourage fathers to be more involved in their children's...

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (Nov. 8, 2012) -- One of the things Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jamir Burton missed most during his six-month deployment to Afghanistan was being involved with the education of his two school-age children

So after his recent return home, Burton was one of more than 90 men to participate in a kick-off for the WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program held Oct. 23 at Pershing Hill Elementary School.

WATCH D.O.G.S. is a father involvement initiative of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit educational organization based in Kansas City, Mo., that provides research-based training and resources so that men are equipped to address their children's needs.

The organization's goal is to reverse the cultural trend toward fatherlessness by helping every dad learn how to be a father. WATCH D.O.G.S. organizes fathers and father figures to volunteer in local schools to provide positive male role models for students and to enhance school security.

Pershing Hill hosted a Dads/Kids Pizza event in the school's cafeteria to encourage fathers and father figures to join the initiative and pledge to volunteer at least one day during the school year.

Pershing Hill Principal Tasheka Green said the school adopted the program because it benefits students and encourages parental involvement.

"The positive partnership between home and school increases student achievement both academically and socially," Green said.

According to the National Center for Fathering, 72 percent of Americans consider fatherlessness to be the most significant family or social problem facing the nation.

A 1997 study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics found that when fathers are involved in their children's education, children are more likely to get good grades, enjoy school and participate in extracurricular activities.

Sgt. 1st Class Algrish C. Williams, an administrative supervisor with the Defense Programs Support Activity, is the WATCH D.O.G.S. coordinator. He organized the Dads/Kids Pizza event, which included a short film about the program's objectives. Participants then signed up to volunteer at the school.

"The men in attendance were very impressed with the overview of the program," Williams said. "This is an excellent way for dads to connect with other dads and help build a network community with a safety net for our children while in school and outside of school."

Williams, whose daughter Regine is a third-grader at Pershing Hill, said he wanted to help launch the program because his parents were not involved in his education when he was a child.

"As a father of three, I will be in the schools as long as I have children going," Williams said. "... The bottom line here is that dads make a difference. We can do that by getting involved with our children and those that don't have dads available in their life."

Green said volunteers will assist teachers and staff in the classroom, hallways and front office. Volunteers also will monitor students when they arrive at school and during lunch and dismissal.

Staff Sgt. Eric Avelar, of the 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion, came to the event with his two children.

"It sounded like a good program," Avelar said, noting he is unable to attend school functions because of his work schedule.

Avelar said he wanted to be more involved in his children's lives.

"This was a good opportunity," he said.

Avelar's 9-year-old daughter Alejandra Cervantes agreed.

"I feel happy," the fourth-grader said. "I'm happy that he came."

Page last updated Thu November 8th, 2012 at 00:00