TUPELO – As the sun slid over the horizon Thursday morning, parents began to trickle into the gymnasium at Milam Elementary.
During the time that the school’s clock moved from 7 and 8 in the morning, roughly 150 of them congregated in the sixth-grade school with their children.
Making the size of the gathering more impressive was that all of the parents present were men.
Milam’s first Donuts for Dads event is part of a growing effort by schools to get dads more involved in their children’s education.
Stereotypically, mothers have been more involved in school activities. But Milam is just one of several Northeast Mississippi schools that have started to aggressively reach out to fathers.
“Moms are always going to be there, but to me, there is only so much a mom can do,” said Milam Administrative Intern Rashad Shannon. “The kid needs a male to look up to and to hear his voice in a positive way.”
Shannon worked with Milam Principal Travis Beard and teacher Stephanie Norwood-Wayne to promote the event. They encouraged several businesses to allow their employees to attend.
“Every household is not a two-parent household so we have to reach out farther than usual,” Shannon said.
The Early Childhood Education Center in Tupelo held a Donuts for Dads event last week and Shannon Elementary has one planned for next week.
Milam hopes to use the momentum from Thursday’s event to get dads involved in a new reading initiative.
The goal, said Norwood-Wayne, is to have dads at the school at least once a month to read a book in the library with their child and be present when the child takes an accelerated reader test.
Increase in scores
“When the dad is involved, research shows an increase in test scores,” Norwood-Wayne said. “It has not only an academic impact but also an emotional impact. It shows the child that his or her father cares and wants him or her to be successful.”
Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. attended Thursday’s event and said he was pleased to see so many fathers at the school.
“Mothers can do all they can and grandmothers can do all they can, but there is no substitute for a dad’s involvement in a child’s education,” Reed said.
“It is also good from a community standpoint for these fathers to see each other. We need more opportunities like this for people from around the city to get together around a positive goal.”
Milam student Nathan Stanley said he really appreciated having his dad at the school.
“It is pretty good since most kids apparently don’t have their dad around,” said Stanley, the son of Frank Stanley. “I’m glad my dad is here for me.”
Among similar projects elsewhere in Northeast Mississippi, the Alcorn Central Middle School is in the second year of its Watch Dads of Great Students – or Watch DOGS – program.
Dads volunteer to come to the school and spend the day with their children – sitting in the classroom, attending P.E. and recess, eating lunch with the students and walking the hallways.
Principal Dan Burcham estimated that the fifth- to eighth-grade school has had at least one dad participating in the program almost every day this year.
“It creates a bond between a father and his child,” Burcham said. “They can leave here knowing exactly what their child goes through, and they get to met the teachers too.”
Shannon Elementary held a Dads and Daughters dance in February that Principal Ida Brand said was well attended.
“Fathers are an integral part of a child’s education,” Brand said. “We need more male role models. They’re stepping up to that, and we appreciate it.”
Back at Milam, Calvin Braddock attended Thursday’s Donuts for Dads event to support his son Calvin Braddock II.
The elder Braddock said that in the past, schools made an equal effort toward getting moms and dads involved, but the women were more receptive.
Now schools are making a concerted effort to specifically target dads.
“We didn’t have programs like this when I was growing up,” Braddock said. “It is really encouraging to see that schools are getting dads more involved.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal