By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – Among the most exciting days at Elkhart Elementary School are those on which Principal Tana K. Herring announces, “We’ve got a Watch D.O.G.S. on campus today!”

While many people hear the word “watchdog” and imagine a tough-looking police dog decked out in a K9 officer vest diligently sniffing for contraband, the Watch D.O.G.S. program works to bring visitors of an entirely different variety to schools across the nation.

An acronym for Dads of Great Students, the program – an initiative orchestrated by the National Center for Fathering – focuses on providing opportunities for fathers, grandfathers and other positive male role models to volunteer their time at the schools attended by the youngsters in their lives.

As Herring explained, Elkhart Elementary School began participating in the program this year.

It’s just volunteers that come to the school for a day – they can volunteer as often as they want – and they patrol the hallways and the parking lots, and they help with duties,” Herring explained. “They greet the kids, and then, they go into different classrooms throughout the day.”

Volunteers also interact with the students by reading with them and distributing goodies such as pencils, stickers and high-fives throughout the day. Each Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer is presented with a special T-shirt to wear during their time on campus, and their child receives a kid’s version of the shirt.

“It can be any male role model; we don’t limit it – you know, because some of the kids don’t have dads that are in the picture,” Herring said. “This year, all of mine have been actual dads, but we had one grandfather, and then, we have one guy that is not actually married to the mom, but he’s a part of their life, and I think he’s been here three times this year.”

“It’s been really beneficial,” Herring said of the program. “We’re all women at my elementary; we have no males. So, to have men in the building helping the kiddos – it has been so precious to watch.”

Parents, Herring said, have shown favor toward the program as well.

“And the guys love it,” she added. “They participate in everything we do. It’s just been really neat to see the kids respond to them.

For more information or to become a Watch D.O.G.S. volunteer, call Herring at 903-764-2979.