BY AMANDA MOSES
On September 19th, fathers throughout the tri-state area participated in Dads Take Your Children to School (DTYCTS), an event that strengthens the relationship between students and parents. This campaign was created by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services in 2013. The event focuses on promoting fatherly involvement in both a child’s education and participation in extracurricular activities.
For the fifth year in a row, P.S. 346 partook in DTYCTS. Caifa believes this campaign is crucial for families because it honors the unsung heroes, the fathers and father figures, who are supportive and are active in their children’s lives. Gathering in P.S. 346’s cafeteria for a delicious breakfast, the dads, grandfathers and male guardians were able to bond with their children, discussing school assignments, new friendships and so much more.
In light of DTYCTS’ campaign, Abe Stark Primary School 346 (PS 346) encourages fathers to read to their children every night and continuously requests that they participate in afterschool activities, such as sports and the arts. “As a dad, I feel we have an opportunity and responsibility to be there for our children,” said PS 346 Principal Kevin Caifa.
Both parent volunteers and staff members assisted Parent Coordinator, Onika Hawker, in distributing activity sheets and crayons for the children and their fathers. On these “All About My Dad” activity sheets, children were asked to interview their fathers on their age, weight, favorite color, super hero and why they love their dad. Many in-depth conversations filled the cafeteria as children conducted their interviews. Some learned a lot about their family history while others impressed their father’s with how much they knew about their favorite things.
“This is my first year participating, and I knew how important it is to my daughter to be here right now. I always want to be involved in her life, whether it is taking her to the Girl Scouts or amusement parks,” said Damon Walker, father of first grader Hannah.
Just across the hall from PS 346’s DTYCTS event, Frederick Douglass Academy (FDA) VIII held their own breakfast with middle-school fathers. “Hosting an event like this is important because it’s all about fatherhood having an impact in your children’s lives, and the example fathers set for their children,” said FDA VIII Vice Principal Robert Burnside.
For FDA VIII Principal Chantal Grandchamps, DTYCTS holds a special place in her heart because her father played an integral role in the person that she is today. “Dads are essential, having a male figure in children’s lives impacts them because they learn respect and discipline. Especially for our girls, who are learning how they should be treated respectfully and not let anyone put them down,” Grandchamps said. She also invited her own father to the DTYCTS, so that other fathers could see how their words of wisdom and support are never forgotten.
Aside from a free breakfast, all of the fathers and male caregivers received a certificate of participation after the festivities ended. Both FDA VIII and PS 346’s events featured a presentation from ManUP! Inc., a nonprofit community-based organization that services inner city residents throughout New York City, about increasing father involvement in children’s lives and family oriented services offered to East New Yorkers.
Parent Coordinator Onika Hawker would like to offer special thanks to the parent and staff volunteers who worked hard in making sure all the fathers and children had a wonderful time at the event: Ms. Gurley, Mrs. Shinder, Mrs. Dove, Mrs. Kersey, Mrs. Waddy, Ms. Noyes, Mrs. Jones, Ms. Willie-Mae, Ms. Alston, Mr. Caifa, Mrs. Balkaran, Dr. Vafiadi, Mrs. Joanne, Ms. Charles, Ms. Carmen, Ms. Emily, Ms. Sierra, Ms. Marjorie, Ms. Debra, Mrs. Coombs, Mrs. Peters, Ms. Schaefer, Mrs. Walsh, Mrs. Tsamis, Mrs. Owens, Ms. Aurbach, Ms. Forman, Mrs. Thomas, Mr. Vertus, Ms. Greene, Mrs. Ava and Ms. Shelly.
Photos by Amanda Moses