DOGS will be roaming Paroquet Springs

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By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - It’s time for a celebration with local students and the important men in their lives.

The Bullitt County Public Schools Family Resource Centers are hosting an event to celebrate and promote their Watch D.O.G.S. program.

Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is a program that allows male role models to visit students on school days as a way of introducing male role models to the students.

Since its inception in 1998, the program has spread throughout the country, including Bullitt County, where the first programs began two years ago.

Leigh Ann Lowery, FRC coordinator for Crossroads and Old Mill Elementary, first heard of Watch D.O.G.S. at a “Victory Over Violence” conference.

“The program has made a tremendous difference in several ways,” Lowery said. “It increased the number of men volunteers in school. It’s a positive experience and the men almost always return.”

Lowery said the opportunity allows male figures to feel more comfortable within a school environment, giving them a feeling of purpose that allows them to further help mentor and tutor the students.

“When I was a child, dads didn’t come to school,” she said. “Now, at both of my schools, we have dads coming every day.”

Watch D.O.G.S. received full support from the Bullitt County School Board and the idea was spread by teachers, principals and fathers. Lowery said many principals suggested to FRC coordinators that a program be established.

The programs received further push following a story on national television. NBC News with Brian Williams featured a Watch D.O.G.S. story involving Maryville Elementary and Adam Nalley, father of student Layla Nalley.

Today most county elementary schools feature a Watch D.O.G.S. program. Lowery said some of the middle schools have even started a similar program.

On a typical school day with a Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer, the guest will appear at the school’s entrance greeting all students as they arrive. If the school features a morning news program, the volunteer is introduced.

From there the volunteer visits the child’s classroom that he is related to. He may visit as many as three classes throughout the day.

Watch D.O.G.S. volunteers also perform lunchroom duties, visiting students at each table and offering support and encouragement.

“They’ll see every student during the school day,” Lowery said.

Watch D.O.G.S. volunteers are only asked to serve one day a year. Lowery said some of her volunteers will show up once each month. She said students with a volunteer at the school get the most excited.

“They love it when their Dad comes in,” she said. “Occasionally a dad will surprise the student, that’s always something to see. It’s like a big party.”

Lowery added that several students do not have fathers or adult male role models at home or are raised by grandparents.

“Those students are especially interested in the dads,” she said. “They receive more encouragement and they learn more about how education is important. They develop more self-esteem.”

The success of the Watch D.O.G.S. programs throughout the county led to the upcoming event, billed as “A night for kids and the important guys in their lives.”

All students and their male role models are invited to the fun, including fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles, older brothers or any special friends.

The nights special guest will be Eric Snow, representing the National Watch D.O.G.S. organization.

Fun activities include a performance by Steve O the Magician, along with Astro Jumps, face painting, fun activities, games with prizes and special treats.

The Watch D.O.G.S. event is scheduled for Monday, July 8, 6 p.m., at Paroquet Springs Conference Centre. For more information contact your local school or call 869-8000.