Conway School welcomes dads to campus
CONWAY — Conway School third-grader Adam Luvera likes long division, especially when he gets help from his new friend Mike Ebersole.
“He’s fun,” Adam said as Ebersole helped him check his work.
Ebersole is a volunteer with the school’s newly revamped Watch DOGS program, which brings dads into the schools for support, safety and fun.
“It’s fun to be here with my kids and their friends and see the smiles on their faces,” said Ebersole, whose son Aydan is a classmate of Adam.
The program, which stands for Dads of Great Students, was reintroduced this year at the urging of dad Micah Kelley, whose children attend the school.
“(It’s) spending time with your kid,” Kelley said.
Wearing blue and yellow safety vests, the dads who sign up to participate in the program spend a day in the school making sure kids get to class on time, helping with schoolwork and playing with the kids at recess.
“It’s a new appreciation for everything that goes on,” said Watch DOGS volunteer Jono Orange.
The school tried to launch the program a few years ago, Kelley said, but didn’t get the support it needed for the program to be sustainable.
“I really enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of the school in a more meaningful way,” Kelley said.
This year, with a new superintendent and new principal — both of whom had seen the program in action in their previous school districts — the program has taken off.
“The involvement that the dads have here is incredible,” Principal Tim Dickinson said. “Here, they’re really involved in having that positive experience.”
After the first informational meeting about the program in November, about 50 dads signed up, Kelley said, filling the program’s calendar for three months.
“It was just an amazing response,” Kelley said.
More and more dads are signing up every day, he said.
“My kid eats it up,” Watch DOGS dad Mike Gillis said of his 6-year-old son. “It’s a familiar face to them.”
Most importantly, the dads said, they get to spend more time with their kids.
“It’s just meaningful to have your dad involved in your life at school,” Orange said.
When it comes to a child’s education, the dads said, mothers have traditionally been seen as the ones responsible for taking the proactive approach.
This program make the kids feel more important to their dads, they said.
“It moves them up a peg in their own minds where they belong,” Kelley said.