It's a dad thing: School programs get fathers more involvedFARGO – Students at Kennedy Elementary School think of their dads as superheroes of sorts. Once a month, students get to wear stickers that read “My Dad is an All Pro Dad” if their dad comes to school for a morning breakfast and bonding program called All Pro Dad.
By: Anna G. Larson, INFORUM
FARGO – Students at Kennedy Elementary School think of their dads as superheroes of sorts.
Once a month, students get to wear stickers that read “My Dad is an All Pro Dad” if their dad comes to school for a morning breakfast and bonding program called All Pro Dad.
“It really gives children that sense of ‘My dad’s cool,’ like they think their dads are superheroes,” says Marti Jenson, Kennedy PTA member and team captain of the school’s All Pro Dad program.
Launched at Kennedy in February, the program focuses on opening communication between dads and kids. They gather once a month to hear a guest speaker, eat breakfast and talk. The large attendance at Kennedy’s first event pleasantly surprised Jenson.
“We aimed for 40 or 50 dads and kids when it started,” she says. “We had 200 in attendance at our first event.”
The program averages 130 to 180 dad and children attendees most months. Fargo resident Scott Klimek attended the October breakfast to support his three foster daughters. The girls were excited to have Klimek at their school. All three of them wanted to sit by him, ask him questions and get hugs.
“I think this is a great program,” Klimek says. “This is the start of something good.”
While the program is called All Pro Dad, grandpas, uncles and other male figures in a child’s life are welcome to attend, Jenson says.
“Moms are usually the ones involved in school,” she says. “This gives dads something that they own. They get to hang out with their kids, and the program gets them talking.”
At each morning gathering, cards geared toward that month’s theme have questions for both dads and kids to answer. The cards encourage a back-and-forth exchange of information.
“It helps dads relate to kids, and kids relate to dads,” says Kennedy Principal Jerry Hanson. “We’re always looking for more parent involvement in school.”
Parental involvement by a father figure affects a child’s performance in school, even if the mother is already involved. The child learns more, is involved more in activities, exhibits healthier behavior and expresses more enjoyment for school, according to research by the National Center for Education Statistics.
“When dads and parents in general support education, kids take it more seriously,” Hanson says.
The dads who attend also have the opportunity to network with each other. At the September lunch kickoff, Hanson says the dads started an impromptu football game.
“They seemed to be having just as much fun as the kids,” Hanson says. “It’s neat to see.”
Another Fargo elementary school, Lewis and Clark, recently launched the program. The first All Pro Dad breakfast on Oct. 30 had 45 dads and kids, filling the meeting room at the school to capacity.
“A lot of dads do want to have more opportunities to spend more time with their kids,” says Lewis and Clark All Pro Dad team captain Ryan Schroeder.
At the inaugural breakfast, each dad or father figure got to say what they were most proud of about the child they accompanied. Schroeder says each child waited anxiously to hear the positive reinforcement.
“Kids are proud of their dads,” he says. “Once a month, we’re getting dads talking about important topics with their kids. It’s a necessity.”
Kennedy and Lewis and Clark are the only North Dakota elementary schools registered on the All Pro Dad website.
All Pro Dad was founded by former NFL coach Tony Dungy and is a program of Family First, an organization aimed at strengthening the family. Jenson says the impact of All Pro Dads goes beyond the family.
“It impacts the community,” she says. “It creates a legacy, and both dads and kids learn life lessons.”
The next All Pro Dad breakfast at Kennedy is at 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 28. Lewis and Clark’s next All Pro Dad breakfast is scheduled for 7 a.m. on Nov. 27.