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DOGS keep watch

Aubrey ISD expands program to include middle school grades

As the students came off buses in front of Aubrey Middle School on a recent morning, a man in a gray T-shirt was waiting to welcome them.

The kids gave the man smiles and high fives as they entered the school building. Most of them didn’t know exactly who he was, but they knew the gray shirt meant he was a WATCH D.O.G.S. dad and that he was going to spend the day volunteering at the school.

The Aubrey ISD has had WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) at Brockett and Monaco Elementary schools for the last six years. The program was recently added at the middle school.

“I like the presence of the dads,” AMS guidance counselor Tina Milacek said. “I think a lot of kids don’t have father figures at home, so I like having the men here. We need more men on school campuses as role models for all the kids.”

According to its website, WATCH D.O.G.S. is an innovative father-involvement, educational initiative of the National Center For Fathering. There are two primary goals of the WATCH D.O.G.S. program: to provide positive male role models for students, and to provide extra sets of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying.

The participants are fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other father-figures who volunteer for at least one day each year at an official WATCH D.O.G.S. school.

During the day, volunteers may read and work on flash cards with students, play at recess, eat lunch with students, watch the school entrances and hallways and assist with traffic flow and any other assigned activities where they actively engage with not just their own students, but other students as well.

On the day of their participation, the volunteers are given a brief review of their involvement and they wear an official WATCH D.O.G.S. T-shirt with a disposable ‘Dog Tag’ identifying them as WATCH D.O.G.S.

Milacek saw the program on the news about six years ago and thought it was a really cool idea. She sat in on a WATCH D.O.G.S. presentation at a conference and was convinced enough to buy a starter kit and begin a program at Brockett Elementary, where she worked at the time. She said the program took off and had a life of its own.

Milacek moved over to the middle school last year and has been working on getting the program up and running there.

“Last year we had 20 dads,” Milacek said. “I would love to have 100. My goal here is to have at least two or three dads a week. They go to class with their child, they help in the office, the cafeteria, help the coaches in the gym.”

Milacek and the middle school held a Watch D.O.G.S kickoff in mid-October to recruit more dads to sign up. More than a dozen dads stopped by the large calendar in the cafeteria and signed up for a day to spend with their kids and other kids at AMS.

Joel Whitley is a new WATCH D.O.G.S dad. He heard about the program through Richard Garner, the AMS dean of students.

“Mr. Garner encouraged me to volunteer because there are students who don’t have a positive male role model at home,” Whitley said. “That was one of the draws. And to see if I could help out in the school in general, not just for my kids.”

Whitley, who has two boys in the seventh grade, signed up to volunteer at the school for one day every other week through December.

With itinerary in hand on a Monday morning, Whitley had already greeted students at the door, helped out at breakfast and was on his way to the gym. He will also do some parking lot and building checks, making sure doors are locked.

“The kids recognized my shirt,” Whitley said. “They were giving me high fives. It’s been fun so far.”

The program is one of the nation’s biggest organizations that promotes family and community involvement in schools, according to the WATCH D.O.G.S. website. The program got its start in 1998 and has since grown to be included in more than 6,450 schools nationwide.

For more information about the program, contact AMS counselors Tina Milacek (seventh and eighth grade) and Jessi Whitfield (fifth and sixth grade).

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