Fathers stand for education:…Students take fathers to school for day of bonding

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When it comes to school and the parents’ role in their child’s education, many say where are all the Black men? But on May 21, the Pittsburgh Public Schools demonstrated that fathers have a role and are stepping up at the district’s 12th Annual “Take A Father to School Day.”

Schools within the Pittsburgh Public School System invited students to bring their fathers or any male role model in their life to school for a day of activities.

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PRECIOUS MOMENTS—From left: Troy and Natala Gonzalez share a bonding moment as he lends a hand with a classroom assignment.

“It was unbelievable. We are extremely proud and happy (at the participation). We are still getting the numbers in, but this event proves that if people want men to get involved, they just have to ask,” said Mark Brentley Sr., event founder and Pittsburgh Public School board member. “This day shows students that someone is interested in them and their education.”

It is not known whether last year’s figures of about 4,800 fathers was surpassed this year, because they were not available at the time of publication, but Brentley said he is sure that there was more participation. He visited about six schools and said the turnout that he observed was great. “At Faison school there were about 250 fathers and there were still fathers coming in when I left. At CAPA there were more than 150, and that is rare for a high school and at Allegheny School there was a line waiting to get in the building.”

The day of dedication began as a challenge to fathers to get as involved in their children’s education as mothers are. “This event is great for the school district, students and families, especially African-Americans, because the day is an opportunity for fathers to rededicate themselves to their children and their children’s education. It allows them to get active and get involved.” He said there is numerous proof that when fathers are involved, grades go up, acts of violence and the need for discipline goes down and extracurricular activities increase. “I believe that this is the secret weapon to attack some of the problems plaguing the schools.”

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GOOD TIMES—From left: Bryant Reese and his daughter, Chante Holmes, and classmate Catara Moore walk together during the march to Pittsburgh Northview School from Bethany House.

The day included various events at each school, such as fathers attending classes with the students, guest speakers, a career fair, creative activities, athletic activities and the more popular, Take A Father to School Day march, which took place in the Northview Heights community. This year, the march began at the Bethany House on Chicago Street and ended at the elementary school.

Lenell Hale, Parent Engagement specialist for Pittsburgh Northview and march organizer, said participation seemed to be down from last year, but there was still a decent turnout. “We did some things different this year. Since we were not able to get T-shirts like we had last year, we had the men and their child create signs about what the day means to them and then we took our usual group picture when we arrived at the school.” At Northview, Hale estimates that there were more than 110 fathers who signed in and that does not include those who may not have. After the march, the guests listened to a speaker, which gave homework tips, and then did an art project where the students and their guest made a picture frame together to house the group photo they took earlier in the day.

Now while this day is great to see the faces of those who have fathers or role models in their lives, it unfortunately is also a reminder for those students that do not have one. “I have seen this in prior years and was aware, but it did not hit home until this year (how it is for students that do not have a male role model),” Hale said. He explained how there were several students who started to cry during the activity because of the lack of male figure in their life. So he and another male staff member, took the time to make frames with those students.

Hale says this day is important because, “A lot of African-American men get a raw deal, they say we do not value education. But there is a large amount of us that do. And it is events like this that get them in here and get them to interact.”

Brentley says that with the success “Take A Father to School Day” brings each year, he would like to see more support from the school board and the administration. His hope for next year is that it will continue to grow and in the future he’d like to hire a research company to see and document what the benefits have been to the district since the event has started. That way we have results to attach to the event. He would also like to join with the Million Father March in Chicago, which encourages fathers to go with their children on the first day of school.

Hale says, “Hopefully this gets those men that do come out for the event, to come out to the schools on a regular basis, not just on one day.”

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