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CROFTON, Md. (AP) — Parents hugged, kissed and waved to their little ones as they dropped them off at Crofton Meadows Elementary School on the morning of Aug. 29.
Robert Davey didn't have to say goodbye.
He spent the day with his kindergartner, McKinley; second-grader Kennedy, and fourth-grader Reagan as part of the Watch D.O.G.S. — Dads of Good Students — program.
Watch D.O.G.S. is a national program that allows a father to volunteer at his child's school, acting as a male role model and providing a sense of security. There are 4,049 Watch D.O.G.S. schools in 46 states.
Jonathan Boniface, lead coordinator of Build Crofton High School, has two daughters at Crofton Meadows and was approached by a Parent Teacher Organization member to bring the Watch D.O.G.S. program to the school.
Last year, the program started at Crofton Meadows. The 75 dads who participated contributed 550 volunteer hours in one year.
"It's phenomenal to get that many dads," Boniface said. "It's one of those things where the dad can walk away and say 'I made a difference today.'"
Boniface volunteered twice last year.
"My youngest daughter was thrilled to see me there. She actually wore her 'My hero is a Watch D.O.G.' shirt. Once the kids saw other dads there, it became cool."
Davey applauded Boniface for coming to the school.
"He definitely sets an example for the rest of us."
Staff members at Crofton Meadows said they appreciate the paternal involvement throughout the year, especially because the school has no male teachers.
"The idea is to have father figures more actively involved in the school setting and to also present a sense of security for the students," Principal Julie Little-McVearry said.
Danielle Walton, Kennedy's second-grade teacher, also finds the program valuable.
"I appreciate the moms, but I love having the male role model, especially when we get to go to recess and the students get to interact with the dads in a less structured environment," Walton said.
Last year, Davey kicked off the school year as the first dad to have a Watch D.O.G.S. day.
"It was convenient because I just retired from the military, so I was able to jump in right away," he said.
Davey's Watch D.O.G.S. day coincided with the first day of kindergarten of his youngest daughter, McKinley.
"Daddy, I'm going to beat you!" McKinley said.
McKinley rolled Play-Doh in the shape of a letter.
"I know all these letters!"
Next, she instructed her father on what to do.
"Daddy get D! D for Daddy!"
Throughout the day, students talked with Davey.
"How's Kennedy?" a fifth-grade girl asked.
"I remember you from last year," said another child in the hallway.
"Hey, Watch D.O.G.," said a male student.
Teaching assistant Brenda Eppinger created a schedule for Davey that included assisting with student arrival, patrolling the grounds and hallways, helping out with classes and catching up with his daughters in class, at lunch or at recess.
Davey watched during recess as his fourth-grader, Reagan, and a group of girls sang:
"Tarzan, monkey man, swinging from a tree.
Fell down, broke his crown.
What color was his blood?
"Do you get it now?" Reagan asked one of the participants.
"I don't and I just watched the whole thing," Davey responded.
"It's nice to get a chance to see how the school operates and how the kids are doing," Davey said.
A pizza night will be held at Crofton Meadows Elementary School on Tuesday at 6 p.m. for fathers interested in volunteering for the Watch D.O.G.S. program.
Information from: The Capital of Annapolis, Md., http://capitalgazette.com
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