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Watch D.O.G.S. are big dogs when it comes to helping youths in schools

01/06/2019

When Joe Mitchell was growing up, his parents sat with him at the dinner table and talked about school or helped him with his homework.

So when Mitchell took son to Heights Elementary and proposed that same idea to the principal, he received a bit of culture shock.

“I wanted to invite the dads and asked, ‘How many boxes of pizza do I need to buy?’“ Mitchell said. “The principal told me there about 900 students and half don’t have a dad.”

That’s why Mitchell feels the Watch D.O.G.S. program is so important.

Watch D.O.G.S. stands for Dads of Great Students. It’s one of the nation’s largest and most respected school-based, family, and community engagement organizations in the country. Since the program’s creation in 1998, more than 6,450 schools across the country have launched a Watch D.O.G.S. program of their own.

Fathers, grandfathers, step-fathers, uncles, and other father figures are Watch D.O.G.S. They are asked to serve at least one day a year in a variety of school activities as assigned by the school principal or other administrator.

In 2010 Mitchell introduced the program to Heights school administrators who loved the idea and immediately got on board.

“When we first started, we wanted to be there for a bunch of kids whose parents aren’t at the dinner table,” Mitchell said. “A lot of the dads aren’t around and the moms are working.”

Rich Perez, who learned of Watch D.O.G.S. through Mitchell, started the program at Lexington Middle School where his son Richie was a student. He said about 25-35 dads go to the initial kickoff while there’s a core group of five to 10 dads.

“I just liked being involved with these kids and having the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with teachers and administration,” Perez said. “It was a nice way to get in school and volunteer and this program made it easier for dads to do it.

“Often you see the moms there, in PTA. The dads would go there when something is wrong. This offers the opportunity to go for positive reasons.”

There are a variety of local honorary Watch D.O.G.S., which include mayor Randy Henderson; former sheriff Mike Scott; former NBC-2 weatherman Robert Van Winkle; superintendent of Lee County Schools Greg Adkins; Fort Myers High athletic director Carl McAloose; and former North Fort Myers football coach and former Tampa Bay Bucs running back Earnest Graham.

“My kids were in elementary school at the time and I wanted to spend more time with them,” said Mitchell. “As it turns out, I enjoyed spending time with lots of other kids at Heights Elementary. Greeting them in the car line, helping them with their straws at lunch-time, spending time assisting with PE and field days…there are so many things we get to help them with. It’s such a rewarding experience for both students and D.O.G.S.”

As of December 2018, the Watch D.O.G.S program has taken root in 13 schools in Lee County with financial assistance from the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce (also known as the Education Chamber). Mitchell’s goal is get it introduced in every elementary, middle and high school in the county.

“When we first started, we wanted to be there for a bunch of kids whose parents aren’t at the dinner table,” Mitchell said. “A lot of the dads aren’t around and the moms are working.”

Rich Perez, who learned of Watch D.O.G.S. through Mitchell, started the program at Lexington Middle School where his son Richie was a student. He said about 25-35 dads go to the initial kickoff while there’s a core group of five to 10 dads.

“I just liked being involved with these kids and having the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with teachers and administration,” Perez said. “It was a nice way to get in school and volunteer and this program made it easier for dads to do it.

“Often you see the moms there, in PTA. The dads would go there when something is wrong. This offers the opportunity to go for positive reasons.”

There are a variety of local honorary Watch D.O.G.S., which include mayor Randy Henderson; former sheriff Mike Scott; former NBC-2 weatherman Robert Van Winkle; superintendent of Lee County Schools Greg Adkins; Fort Myers High athletic director Carl McAloose; and former North Fort Myers football coach and former Tampa Bay Bucs running back Earnest Graham.

  • What: Watch D.O.G.S. Day At The Game
  • When: Jan. 12
  • Where: Suncoast Credit Union Arena

Notable: All dads and students are invited to attend Florida Southwestern College’s women’s and men’s basketball games at 2 and 4 p.m. Jan. 12. When they identify themselves as Watch D.O.G.S. members at the ticket office, they’ll received free tickets.

Honorary Watch D.O.G.S.

  • Mayor Randy Henderson
  • Former sheriff Mike Scott
  • Former NBC-2 weatherman Robert Van Winkle
  • Superintendent of Lee County Schools Greg Adkins
  • Fort Myers High athletic director Carl McAloose
  • Former North Fort Myers football coach and former Tampa Bay Bucs running back Earnest Graham

This article was originally written by Craig Handel and published on News-Press.com on January 6, 2019.

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