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'Watch Dogs' program puts dads in the classroom at Red Hawk Ridge

redhawkridge1.JPG It didn’t take long for Cliff Julian to make his first circuit around Red Hawk Ridge Elementary School in Aurora on July 28.

Wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Dads of Great Students” spelled out on the back, Julian eyed entrances and checked doors, making sure every point of entry was safe and secure. The safety check was only part of the Colorado Army National Guard member’s standard duties during his first day as a volunteer in Red Hawk Ridge’s Watch Dogs program.

The initiative draws on the work of volunteer dads like Julian, a parent of a 7-year-old second-grader at the four-track school. Watch Dogs participants work in classrooms alongside teachers, they offer added security on the playground and they sit with their kids during lunch time.

The volunteer program started at Red Hawk Ridge last year, and school officials say it’s helped make the school more secure, even as it’s strengthened Red Hawk’s ties to the community.

“Getting our dads into the building is a big deal. We want our kids to have that positive male role model,” said Kait Whitaker, assistant principal at Red Hawk Ridge. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be your dad – it can be anybody’s dad.”
About eight fathers currently take part in the Watch Dogs program, but Whitaker said the numbers will likely grow as the school year progresses.

For parents like Julian, the program offers a unique opportunity to take an immediate role in their child’s everyday routine and take a firsthand role in making the school safer.

“By the time I get home, he’s already done with his school work. I also don’t get to partake in school activities because of work,” Julian said. “When this opportunity came around, I thought it help me to get face time with my son and his friends and get to see what’s going on with the curriculum.”

Julian didn’t have to wait long to get that opportunity on his first day as a Watch Dog. He spent his first 30 minutes at the school in Brittany Eaton’s second-grade classroom, working directly with his son, Joseph. As the students started their daily writing exercise, Eaton knelt at Joseph’s side and answered questions from the whole table.

Julian took a temporary exit to make his first security circuit around the school, a task that wasn’t completely alien to this member of the National Guard. He’s planning on being at the school three to four times a month as part of the Watch Dogs program, and he was excited at the prospects.

“Fathers should be part of this,” he said. “It’s another way to share personal experiences with their kids. It also allows teacher and staff to see the fathers. I know a lot of us don’t get to mingle with them.”

As exciting as the new gig was for Julian, it was even more promising for his son. Julian said his 7-year-old was ecstatic at the news that his dad would be in his classroom, in his cafeteria and on his playground.

That kind of enthusiasm is big part of the program’s appeal, Whitaker said.
“Kids get excited when their dads come into the building,” she said. “It’s that opportunity to build up the students’ self-confidence.”

Posted 7/28/2014 1:34 PM

 Content Editor ‭[2]‬

“Fathers should be part of this ... It’s another way to share personal experiences with their kids. It also allows teacher and staff to see the fathers. I know a lot of us don’t get to mingle with them.”

-- Cliff Julian

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