In the wee hours of the morning, Andy Scantlebury, a member of the New York City Police Department, dons his uniform and then heads off to work. On September 16, he changed his routine and spent the morning helping his 10-year-old son, Andy Jr., to get ready for school so that they could go together to “Dads Take Your Child to School Day” at P.S. 346.
The proud father was among 200 who escorted their children to school that day. “I’m usually working and do not get a chance to take him to school. My wife takes him,” said Scantlebury while straightening his son’s tie before sending him off to class after having breakfast together at the school.
Throughout New York State, fathers and their children participated in “Dads Take Your Child to School Day.” The celebratory event was held to encourage fathers and other significant male caregivers to become more involved in their children’s lives and education.
“In the whole nine years that I have been working here, I have to say that today is the best ever,” an enthusiastic Kevin Caifa, Principal of P.S. 346, proclaimed during a rousing address to the huge assemblage of fathers, who had not been deterred by the morning rain that started their day.
There were so many fathers and children present, the cafeteria and auditorium were both needed to accommodate everyone for breakfast service. It was a lively and happy gathering that gave fathers an opportunity to see and meet their children’s friends and fathers.
Emmanuel Annan, Jr. was overjoyed to participate in the celebration. “It was great having my dad there. I was excited; he got to meet my friends,” said the 8-year- old, who added, “My favorite part was just hanging out with my dad.”
Annan, Sr. takes his two children to school every day. “I saw more unfamiliar faces today then I have throughout the year, and it warms my heart to see them take this campaign seriously,” he said. The 45-year-old security guard is a firm believer that fathers need to be present in their children’s lives, “It will help to build their confidence and pave the way for success.”
Social researchers have found that children whose fathers take a more active role in their lives “have better outcomes related to academics, behavior, and social skills.”
Andrew Roberson’s nine-year-old son, James, walks to school every day with friends. Last Tuesday, his father joined them for their morning trek.
“Being involved in your child’s life, especially their education, should not happen just once a year,” Roberson said. His participation in the day’s celebration, he said, was an extension of his involvement and another opportunity “to become closer” to his son. Every night Roberson reads tales from the Goosebumps series to James. “Fathers should [participate] in as many activities as they possibly can with their children,” continued the Delta flight attendant.
“I received about 75 signed participation sheets,” said P.S. 346 Parent Coordinator Joan Charles, who was surprised and impressed by the actual number of fathers who attended. In addition to the note sent home with the children, she and colleagues spread the word about “Dads Take Your Child to School Day,” by handing out flyers and speaking to parents and children. Last year only four fathers participated, this year there was 200.
All the fathers and male caregivers received a Certificate of Participation that they proudly accepted as a Thank You from the P.S. 346 school family. “These dads are the unsung heroes of our school, and [it was] a day to celebrate them and their children,” Caifa told the Spring Creek Sun. They also received gift bags filled with books and activities for them to use and enjoy with their children.
“Dads Day” will not be the only fathers and children school activity at P.S. 346 this year. Caifa said he would like to have three other events that may include basketball or baseball games. “We want to have more activities to keep the dads involved,” the principal said.
ABOUT “Dads Take Your Child to School Day”: It is a collaborative initiative of educational and social agencies and non-profit organizations, such as the NYC Dads/ The Mayor’s Fatherhood Initiative, Department of Education, and NYS Office of Children and Family Services. The first dads’ day was in 2006 at one school.
By: Amanda Moses, Agnes E. Green
Photos: Amanda Moses