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Watch DOGS program brings fathers to campus

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
Jan. 12, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 14, 2011 at 7:15 p.m.

Chandler Elementary School first-grader Eric Reyes, center, walks to recess with his dad, Jesse Reyes. Eric's father served as the school's watchdog for the day.

DID YOU KNOW? The D.O.G.S. in Watch D.O.G.S. stands for Dads of Great Students

The program began in 1998 by a group of fathers to help prevent violence on campus after a middle-school shooting in Arkansas.

The program is at the following schools in Victoria: Chandler and Schorlemmer elementaries and Shields and Dudley magnet schools.

For more information about the program, contact Bonnie Williams at 361-788-9295, or the school office.

Snickering first-grade faces crinkled into smiles at a lunch table as Eric Reyes, a first-grader, rolled up his father's sleeves and exposed his dad's tattoos.

Later Eric's father, Jesse Reyes, slapped hands with students and patrolled the hallways of Chandler Elementary.

Reyes is a campus "watchdog," and part of a team of Watch Dads of Great Students, or Watch D.O.G.S. who are taking fatherhood to school hallways to bring male support and campus security.

"It's a pretty good opportunity to get closer to the kids, to help out and give them a chance to communicate with a dad," Reyes said.

The Watch D.O.G.S. program, an international initiative, kicked off last month at four schools in the district. The program was spear-headed by Kim Barker, Chandler Elementary principal, who brought the idea from a former school where it helped change student academics and behavior.

"There's a sense of pride when it's their father or an excitement when there's a watchdog on campus," she said. "They're excited to have something new and special on campus."

Barker believes the fathers change the dynamic of the school which has no adult males on staff.

"There's just something about that father figure that encompasses things like being protected and being a positive role model," she said. "Outside of Chandler, they don't have a consistent male role model in their lives, and that's something we want to provide, if we can."

The volunteers can be anyone associated with a student, and grandfathers, uncles or close male friends can participate. The men schedule a time to visit and spend their time walking the hallways (dressed in a Watch D.O.G.S. shirt), visiting classes or working with students. About 70 male volunteers were interested in the program, and the school has at least one male volunteer a day, Barker said.

Agustin Galvan, a Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer and parent, patrols the school at least once a week and believes the men-only program will catch on because the men form a sense of brotherhood.

"It's a group of guys," he said. "We're all dads, fathers, and we want our kids protected as well."

Back in the lunch room, Eric shows off his father to friends. The kids laugh as they play with their food.

"He's watching you," Eric said, about his dad. "That's what he keeps on doing."

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