Wylie has its Bulldogs, its Lady Bulldogs, its Mama Dawgs and even its Little Bulldogs.
Well now it also has its Watch D.O.G.S.
Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is a national program in which fathers volunteer a full day at their child’s school to provide a positive role model. The program is in 4,700 schools across the nation, and this year, Wylie is one of those schools.
It’s just coincidental that the program’s name matches Wylie’s mascot.
“Everything about the program screams Abilene Wylie,” said Wylie dad Zach Vassar, who helped bring Watch D.O.G.S. to town. “I am passionate about what the whole program stands for. I’ve seen the difference a male role model makes.”
Vassar moved his family to Wylie last year from the Metroplex. He spent 10 years in the school system, where he first saw the program, and then a few years ago, his family moved to Frisco, where he joined the program as a dad.
“When I moved here, one of the first things I was looking for was a way to get plugged in to the Watch D.O.G.S. program,” he said. “Then I realized they didn’t have one.”
So Vassar spearheaded the effort to start a local program, and with the green light from administrators, he held an introductory pizza party for the fathers of students who attend the Early Childhood, Elementary and Intermediate.
More than 200 dads showed up.
“Out of that meeting, we initially had real close to a hundred dads that signed up,” Vassar said. “It’s taken a while to get the ball rolling.”
To participate, dads must pass a background check, buy a Watch D.O.G.S. T-shirt and commit to spend at least one full day at their child’s school each year. Vassar said he hopes to eventually have two dads at each campus every day.
“They are an extra set of eyes and ears in the hallways and in the library and even in the classes if the teacher wants that,” Vassar said. “We are really just eyes and ears. The fun part is that recess and lunch block. You are being active with kids. There is so much opportunity to be a role mode.”
Corey Ruff was one of the first dads to try out the program. He spent the day at the Early Childhood Center, where his daughter, Bradley, is in kindergarten.
“We helped unload buses and helped kiddoes get out of cars and helped get them pointed in the right direction,” Ruff said. “We were blessed with pretty good weather, so I got to spend some time at recess. We spent the majority of our time at PE and recess. We got to do all the cool things.”
When Watch D.O.G.S. arrive at school at 7:30 a.m., they are given a schedule to keep for the day. They get to spend some time with their own child’s class, but not the entire time.
“It’s not following your own child around,” Vassar said. “The program is not set up just for that. It’s really for the fatherless.”
Vassar said the program began because dads wanted to provide a role model for children who don’t have fathers. Most elementary schools have very few men on campus.
“You are a dad and you are the male influence that these schools don’t have much of,” Vassar said.
The program is also a good way for dads to get involved. Ruff said his daughter was thrilled to have him on campus.
“She thought it was awesome,” he said. “She really loved having me there.”
When Elmo DeHerrera volunteered at the Elementary School, his sons Eli (1st-grade) and Skyler (2nd-grade) were really excited.
Skyler said it was “really cool” having his dad on campus, especially when he played football during recess with students in Skyler’s class.
Second-grader Brian Culifer said he likes having dads on campus.
“I like how they come to school and try to help everyone be safe,” he said.
DeHerrera said the experience definitely made him appreciate teachers.
“It really helped open my eyes to what the teachers and faculty go through,” he said. “Sometimes parents take it for granted.”
Ruff echoed those thoughts.
“You think it’s just one day – but that’s a long day,” he said. “Those kids have a lot of energy. It definitely gives you a new perspective on how big an impact the teachers have on their lives. It was great to be there to support our teachers, but it was definitely an exhausting day.”
Vassar said dads are not the only ones who can participate in the program. Uncles, grandparents, even moms, can participate if they are so inclined. He said he expects to see even more dads get involved once the kids come home talking about the program. Anyone who wants to get involved can contact their school office or go to www.wyliewatchdogs.com to sign up for a day to volunteer. You can also search for Wylie Watch DOGS on Facebook.
Ruff said he would highly recommend dads get involved in the program while their children still want them around. Time with your kids is fleeting, he said, and that’s one reason he loves the program.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “I would encourage every dad to sign up. We’ve got to take time to be that positive influence in their lives.”