When Ted Rupert arrived at Fritsch Elementary school, he was greeted by high-fives and “hellos” as soon as children got off the bus. “The kids at the school are just excited you're there,” he said. “They're jazzed.”As a volunteer with the Watch DOGS — Dads of Great Students — program, Rupert spent the day with his own children Jett, 6, and Keela, 7, as well as other students in the school, playing kickball and monitoring turns on the swings.“All the kids want to show you what they can do,” he said. “Most of it is just being there.”The national program is aimed at encouraging fathers and father figures to be more involved in schools. Volunteers spend an entire day at the school, helping out in classrooms and during lunch break and recesses.Jerry Garrett, grandfather to fifth-grader Hailee Whitten and fourth-grader Bailey Garrett, is coordinating the Fritsch program, which kicked off Nov. 1. At an initial meeting, Garrett said about 60 men expressed interest and 30 have registered for the program. Nine dads volunteered this month, with more scheduled through February. He's spent several days at the school and has found it educational for himself as well. “Certainly, it's different than when we were in school,” he said. “It's a real eye-opener to see how much has changed.”And with teachers trying to do more with less, Garrett said having more volunteers serves a practical purpose. He said one key benefit is that having men interacting with kids at recess cuts down on incidents of bullying and other discipline problems. “Schools need additional male role models on the school grounds,” he said. Ultimately, Garrett said the most important reason to be a Watch DOG is to help and encourage the children. “Your kids see how much it means to you to take time away from your schedule and spend a day with them,” he said. “It really means a lot to them.”You Can HelpTo learn more about the Watch DOG program at Fritsch Elementary School or to volunteer, call coordinator Jerry Garrett at 408-656-3194.
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