Graham Mesa Elementary dads in the classroom program taking off | PostIndependent.com

Graham Mesa Elementary dads in the classroom program taking off

Theresa Hamilton
Garfield Re-2 Director of Communication

Dan Ward and his second grade daughter Molly have a secret.

Molly is a student at Graham Mesa Elementary, and every couple of weeks she and her Dad get to spend the whole day together, but don't tell Mom. Dan is the "top DOG" in a new program at Graham Mesa called Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students).

The program is a national family and community engagement initiative, focused on providing positive male role models for students, and it provides extra sets of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying.

"It has been a good way for me to hang out with my kids in school and it's a great opportunity for me to be able to do something with my kids that my wife doesn't get to," laughed Ward.

New GME Principal Brian Sprenger experienced the Watch DOGS program at previous schools, and Dan, new to Rifle, also had experience with the Watch DOGS program in his children's schools. It became a perfect match.

"When we moved to Rifle, it took me some time to get adjusted, but I reached out to Brian before school started and see if he had heard of the program," Ward explained.

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"I've had this program in other schools," Sprenger added," but I haven't seen the acceptance and the initial success of it like it has taken off here at Graham Mesa."

In the first two months of the program, 17 Dads of Great Students have spent more than 180 hours with students at Graham Mesa.

Watch DOGS spend the school day with their child. Ward said that in general, the Watch DOGS help the teachers in the classroom, perform door checks, be visible before and after school and primarily are there to support and learn with their kids. And, they get their very one designated parking spot in front of the school doors.

"Most of the dads seem to spend the day with their kid. They follow their kids from class to class, they spend time with them on the playground and push kids on the swings. It's really a way to have dads – or any significant male role model – present in the children's lives outside of the home."

DOGS don't have to be dads.

"One of the goals of the program is for kids to have more positive male role models. We want to bring more caring adults into their circles," Sprenger said. "We want to get more men involved in our schools as well. But we don't just want to limit to dads. It can be grandpas, brothers, uncles, or family friends. The idea is to get positive male role models in school with kids."

Feedback from both Graham Mesa and the DOGS has been exceptional.

"I try to reach out to the dads after they complete their day, Typically, they say, 'I showed up, it was super awkward, but by the end of the day, it was the best experience I have ever had.' The teachers have been phenomenal in welcoming us in the classroom. To watch our kids and teachers work together every day so hard at learning and watching our kids become young men and women is to me, really cool."

Graham Mesa thinks it is working out well too.

"Having the Watch DOGS here really adds our school," Sprenger concluded. "I have dads leaving with nothing but praise for our teachers and the work they put in. They get to see their kids in a different environment and it has created some powerful conversations. The pride shines in the kids' eyes when their person comes to spend the day with them. Not only the Watch DOGS are rock stars but the student they are supporting are rock stars too."

If you have a student at GME and would like to participate or would like more information contact Dan Ward at gmewatchdogs@gmail.com.