Men step up to volunteer at Edahow Elementary

By Michael H. O’Donnell

POCATELLO — On a normal day Edahow Elementary only has two adult males in the entire building: principal Nick Muckerman and a custodian. That will change several times during this coming school year because of the WATCH DOGS Program.

The DOGS stands for Dads Of Great Students, and it is a voluntary effort to get more male role models to spent at least one day visiting and helping out at their child’s school. The group recruits fathers, grandfathers and uncles and it is beginning its second year at Edahow Elementary.

Bribed by a little free pizza, 31 adult males and their respective children showed up at the school Wednesday night for an orientation about the program and a chance to commit at least one day to the school.

“It’s a lot of fun and the kids love it,” said WATCHDOGS organizer Rory Erchul.

Erchul presented a slide presentation on some facts about how many children in the U.S. live in households without a positive male role model. One out of three youngsters or 25 million live away from their biological fathers.

Statistics show that children who grow up without a male role model are two to three times more likely to grow up to be poor, engage in criminal behavior, use drugs and not finish school than children who have a father figure in the home, according to statistics compiled by the National Center for Fathering.

“Men provide something to a child’s development that women can’t,” Erchul said.

Erchul became involved with WATCHDOGS while living in a suburb of Omaha, Neb., for five years. The concept came from two fathers in Springdale, Ark., who saw a need for men to get more involved in the educational endeavors of their children back in 1998. WATCHDOGS now has groups in 46 states and more than 3,100 schools, including Edahow Elementary.

Once a volunteer adult male has signed up for a day at school, he arrives early and is given a WATCHDOGS T-shirt. He helps students safely get off school buses, chats with students in the halls and classrooms, helps with assignments, joins the youngsters for lunch and recesses and becomes part of the school day.

Earl Stoddard was a WATCHDOG last year and he was back to sign up this week.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” he said about his volunteer day at Edahow. “You kind of become a celebrity. My kids really beamed.”

Stoddard has a first grader and a fourth grader at Edahow Elementary and he said time spent as one of the DOGS made him realize how much a little volunteered time can mean to youngsters.

He said the joy he felt reminded him of Christmas and watching children open gifts.

Erchul told all the men attending the pizza orientation that the key to the success of the program is simple.

“There’s nothing complicated about this,” Erchul said. “It’s one day out of your lives. It needs you.”

Principal Muckerman said he’s glad the WATCHDOGS program has taken root at Edahow and he really appreciates the volunteer efforts of those who donate time to the school.

For more information about the program, people can contact Muckerman at 233-1844.

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