TAKE A FATHER TO SCHOOL—Frank Battles with daughter, Amaya Springs. (Photo by J.L. Martello)
More than 5,000 were expected to turn out for the Pittsburgh Public School District’s annual Take a Father to School Day this year. And at Weil PreK-5 in the Hill District, school staff said they saw the greatest participation they’ve ever had.
“We’ve never had a turn out like this,” said Princess Hughes, a parent organizer at Weil. “We always get a lot of moms but we’ve never had this many dads.”
Now in it’s 15th year, the nationally recognized event, which received the MAGNA Award from the American School Board Journal, the National School Boards Association and Sodexo last year, was held at schools around the district on May 17. At Weil many of the dads have been involved with the event since it’s inception.
“I’ve been here every year since it started,” said James Williams. “They won’t let me miss it. My kids are my world.”
“It’s important to give my sons as much support as possible. It’s important for us to be role models for our kids,” said Richard Hutchins who also attends the event every year. “You see a lot of non parenting going on. And me growing up without a father, I’ve always wanted to be there for them.”
Weil has seen an increase in parent participation across the board over the past school year thanks to an open door policy and family events led by Hughes who also organized the school’s Take a Father to School day activities.
“I think it’s important for kids to see that their parents are here and sometimes it actually changes behavior,” said Weil Principal Holly Ballard, who invited parents to visit any day of the year. “Once we get the parents in here, we also get to address any problems.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly 70 percent of nonresident fathers and 50 percent of fathers in two-parent families are not involved in school-related activities. Researchers agree this lack of parental involvement can have detrimental consequences.
A recent study of 6,000 males age 14 to 22 found that boys with absentee fathers were twice as likely to end up in prison. However there are also negative consequences for girls. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 71 percent of pregnant teenagers lack a father.
“I came to support my daughter,” said Curtis Pryor who attended two schools the day of the event. “Every child needs a father in their life.”
The event is open to fathers, uncles, grandfathers and other male role models. Some of the men at Weil were mentors and spiritual leaders.
“We have a commitment to our young guys because we can’t lose anymore,” said Keith Moncrief, pastor of Missionary Temple Ministries. “We all know it’s so important for male role models to be in a child’s life.”
This year, the even was funded by a $45,500 grant from the Heinz Endowments as part of the Male Fatherhood Involvement Project.