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More male role models participating in local education

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Following the success of the Pequot Lakes Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program, Pine River-Backus Elementary and Nisswa Elementary schools are now reaching out to local dads to increase adult male role models in schools.

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Eagle View Elementary School has had a Watch D.O.G.S. program since 2010. The program spread to the Pequot Lakes Middle Level grades after the first two successful years.

The program brings fathers, grandfathers, uncles and other responsible adult male role models into the schools to encourage learning and positive behaviors in children. PR-B and Nisswa are both organizing similar programs.

Nisswa launched its Watch D.O.G.S. program Nov. 7 by inviting interested father figures to the school to sign up to donate time to the school. The school’s goal was to get Watch D.O.G.S. signed up for each day of the remaining school year.

Top D.O.G.S. Luke Waln, father of two, and Randy Capelle, father of three, led the launch. Waln and Capelle each believe the program is good for students and parents alike.

“It’s important to get fathers more involved in their kids’ education. If you springboard them into getting involved in school then they also get more involved at home with their kids’ school work. It’s going to be a benefit for not only the kids but also the father, and definitely the school,” Capelle said.

Waln and Capelle said statistics show that active positive male role models can decrease teenage pregnancies, keep kids in school longer and improve grades. Overall, having positive role models of both genders results in better rounded individuals.

“Kids that also have an active male role model actually excel even more,” Waln said.

The Watch D.O.G.S. program does allow dads some time with their own kids, but the program also schedules time where the D.O.G.S. work with other students by reading to them or being read to, or simply by serving as an additional monitor in playgrounds and hallways.

“Volunteers will be working with kids from the moment the kids get off the buses at 7:45,” said Nisswa principal Erin Herman. “Our teachers have put together some pretty valuable volunteer opportunities during the day. That parent will be able to be with their child for part of the day, but then at recess and the cafeteria, and then be part of reading groups and learning centers throughout the day.”

“It’s also an extra set of eyes and ears. It’s extra eyes on the playground where sometimes problems can come up. It helps everybody. You have that Watch D.O.G. looking over you, you’re a little less apt to bully. You’re less apt to cause problems,” Waln said. “I do think that other kids will benefit just because some of them don’t have a positive male role model. There will be a different guy every day. That’s just showing these kids there’s a lot of good guys out there.”

Last year, Pine River-Backus Elementary School adopted a similar program, but with key differences. PR-B’s Men of March differed from Watch D.O.G.S. in duration and origin. Because the Watch D.O.G.S. program is proprietary and owned by a franchise, the PR-B PTO opted instead to run its own program using the same principles, but a different name.

“We’ve been kind of wanting to do something similar to what Pequot does, only on a smaller scale. So we experimented last year by doing the Men of March. We had men volunteer every single day in March and it ended up continuing into April,” said Tina Hanneken, organizer and PR-B mother.

Volunteers for the program wore orange T-shirts that read, “Real men volunteer here at PR-B,” so they would stand out in a crowd. Though the event was successful last year, Hanneken said there will be changes made when the program is used again this school year.

“We plan to do that again, but we want to pick weeks to do it this year, instead of a month,” Hanneken said.

As a result, the name will change but organizers have not yet decided to what.

The PR-B program operates much the same way as the Nisswa and Pequot Lakes programs.

“When they volunteer we try and make sure they are in their child’s classroom. They volunteer during gym time. A lot of time they are within the classroom,” Hanneken said. “Depending on the grade level they would help kids catch up with work, help other students in the classroom with reading. They go out to recess with them, have lunch with them. Basically they just shadow their child or children during the day.”

Though fathers are encouraged to volunteer for these programs, Pequot Lakes, Pine River-Backus and Nisswa accept other positive male role models, including uncles, grandparents and close family friends or pastors.

For more information about the PR-B program, contact Tina Hanneken at thanneken@prbschools.org.

Nisswa School had 20 D.O.G.S. sign up at the launch with more still coming in. Herman said there are 45 days open through the end of February waiting to be filled. There will be another event later in the school year to invite more men to volunteer at Nisswa School.

To sign up or for more information about the Nisswa Watch D.O.G.S. program, contact the school at 961-6860.

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