Watch D.O.G.S. look out for students

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As a Watch D.O.G. at Gateway Elementary School in Woodland Park, Doug Zurek spearheads the local branch of a national group dedicated to providing positive male role models for youngsters.

A three-year volunteer at the school where his daughter Palisade, 6, is a student, Zurek hopes to encourage more fathers to be involved. “When I was growing up, the only reason my dad came to school was if I was in trouble,” he said. “That’s how it worked.”

With the DOGS, Dads of Great Students, Zurek beckons not only fathers and stepfathers but uncles, grandfathers and other father-figures to volunteer at least one day a week.

“Our goal is one dad per day for 160 days,” he said. “Some kids don’t have a dad so, with this program, they’ll have a male role model at school.”

The DOGS spend time in each classroom and their volunteerism includes reading to students and watching school entrances and hallways or just engaging in play. “When I’m on the playground with Palisade and her friends we’re all having so much fun running around,” he said.

While Zurek may be a natural volunteer, his service to the school is strengthened by statistics:

• Children with fathers involved are 40 percent less like to repeat a grade

• Children with fathers involved are 70 percent less likely to drop out

• Children with highly-involved fathers mostly get A’s and B’s through 12th grade

• Children with highly-involved fathers are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extra-curricular activities.

The statistics apply to fathers and stepfathers in addition to other male models.

Gateway’s principal, Kay Lynn Waddell, brought the program to the school, which has only three males on staff. “Getting as many positive male role models in front of kids is a strong part of their development,” she said.

The Watch D.O.G.S. program is an initiative started in 1998 by the Center for Fathering to provide positive male role models and an extra set of eyes and ears to enhance school security and reduce bullying.

Zurek and Waddell will officially launch the program from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 27 at the school.

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