“Father’s Day” came early in White Plains Tuesday, when a joint initiative—between the City of White Plains, the , the and the African American Men of Westchester—brought fathers into their children’s schools.
A 30-minute reception—titled “Dads: Take Your Child to School Day”—was held at each of the district’s nine school campuses, as part of a statewide initiative to empower fathers, grandfather, uncles and other male guardians to take a more active role in their children’s lives.
“We’re fighting social ills if you will—dropping out of school, incarceration, poverty, teen pregnancy—[this ties] into that these kids are coming out of homes where their dads are not present,” said Edwin Scott, Program Coordinator for Kids Excel at the White Plains Youth Bureau.
White Plains Mayor Tom Roach, whose son attends George Washington Elementary School, participated in the event at the school, which included a breakfast and story-telling in the school cafeteria.
“If you go to a PTA meeting, [there are] no guys there,” said Roach. “I think what we’re trying to do is send a message for all of us to come out.”
GWES Principal led a read aloud of the book “What Daddies Do Best” by Laura Numeroff. After, the dads and their children were able to take paper, pencils and crayons to write their own version of the story—what GWES students think his or her dad does best.
“We’re going to be making a book of what GW dads do best,” she said. “It will be a way to have a good memory of what the children did this morning.”
When finished the children will be able to read their collective work in Klemm’s Korner, a comfortable reading area in the school dedicated to the previous principal Dr. Terri Thomas Klemm.
Superintendent Dr. Christopher Clouet also stopped by GWES to offer words of encouragement to city fathers.
“It is so important to have fathers involved in the lives of children,” said Clouet. He went on to describe, in Spanish, the significance of the strong men present.
“I never get a chance to take her to breakfast,” said White Plains father Mark Newman, referring to his 5-year-old daughter India. “I always have to be at work by 8 o’clock. I took some time off just to [come here], and I hope this is one of many opportunities that we can do this at this school.”
White Plains Youth Bureau Director Frank Williams encouraged fathers to take their child into school not just for one day, but every day that they possibly can.
“It’s important that you participate, that you get to know your child’s teacher, and that you visit the principal,” Williams told fathers at the event.
The event served as part of the youth bureau’s “,” which encourages fathers to be responsible role models for their families. Scott believes that fathers will be empowered to act as a guiding presence in their children's lives with the help of positive events focused on fatherhood in the district.
“We’ve seen a greater involvement of dads coming out to talk about the issues that they are having, [of them] being able to say ‘I want my child to do well and go to school,’” Scott said.
Mothers, however, still seem to outnumber fathers on the drop-off and pick-up lines in school parking lots and on school PTAs.
“It’s still mostly the mothers that are going in. We hope that this year is the springboard when a lot of men [will] join the PTAs,” Scott said. “This day has been historically a day with less violence in the schools. This stuff resonates."
Each of the principals in the district participated in making this occasion a success by encouraging the fathers show up in droves. Flyers were handed out in classrooms for parents to RSVP for the day’s event. White Plains parents received a pre-recorded phone call by Clouet on Monday, Sept. 19. It was also advertised on the local news.
A whopping 900 to 1000 White Plains dads have come out for the "Dads: Take Your Child to School Day" in the past. This year's crowd looks to maintain that remarkable number.
“They [the fathers] are really proud," said Scott. "We’ve seen some dads come out in tuxedos.”
Check out our video and photo gallery to see pictures of the proud fathers and their happy children had to say about the event.