A dad working with Poynette Elementary School kids

Jason Koopmans works with his 4th grade daughter, Molly and her fellow classmates.

Poynette Elementary School recently implemented a program known as Watch D.O.G.S. – Dads Of Great Students.

Watch D.O.G.S. itself is a father involvement program offered by the National Center for Fathering. It focuses on providing positive male role models for young students. It also provides an extra set of eyes and ears to “enhance school security and reduce bullying,” according to a program overview from a kick-off event that took place Sept. 29.

Poynette Elementary School held the event, in which they offered pizza to the 250 guests who attended to learn more about Watch D.O.G.S.

How Watch D.O.G.S. offers hope

Watch D.O.G.S. pointed to research that children who grow up without a father, or father figure, don’t fare as well in adulthood as youngsters with a complete family unit. The kids often report feeling abandoned, depressed and anxious – and that’s just the emotional impact.

According to data from the United States Census Bureau, children living in father-absent homes are five times more likely to live at or below the poverty line.

And the U.S. Department of Education reported that 39 percent of all U.S. students from Kindergarten through 12th grade live in homes without their biological father. That’s 18 million students.

Research has also shown that the risk of crime among adolescents rises dramatically when the father is absent, as well as the risk of obesity and teen pregnancy in girls. Adolescents are twice as likely to drop out of school or repeat a grade as well.

The Watch D.O.G.S. program’s aim is to reverse the aforementioned impacts with its objectives to awaken fathers to the values and benefits of fathering, promote father involvement in local schools and provide positive male role models for students overall, according to the program overview.

“My hero is a Watch D.O.G.”

Since Sept. 29, 23 men – Poynette fathers, stepfathers and grandfathers have volunteered to spend the day with students, according to Laurel Schmudlach, art teacher and Meghan Visger, fourth grade teacher.

To honor the men for their support, the school put together a wall of fame that can be seen just inside the building. It displays pictures of the volunteers with their children. The men can be seen wearing Watch D.O.G. T-shirts.

If the volunteer has a child, the child sports a T-shirt as well that reads, “My hero is a watchdog.” The child and their parent borrow the T-shirts to wear for the day, according to both teachers.

Visger said all men go through background checks before they are accepted as volunteers, but all it takes is a simple phone call or email to be put on a scheduled time slot. The school offers them a free lunch, she said.

Schmudlach said she has noticed positive behavior changes whenever Watch D.O.G.S. are present in her classroom. She said her students seem to get “really excited” whenever one of the volunteers helps out.

“The kids are more on task,” she said. “(The volunteer) can remind them more about attentive listening and other expectations… At recess, from what I’ve gathered, is kids seem more likely to be kind to one another and follow the rules because there’s another set of eyes watching.”

If any men are interested in volunteering for the Watch D.O.G.S. program at Poynette Elementary School or for more information, call the main office at 608-635-4347 to schedule a time slot.

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