FANNETT, Texas — Beginning this school year Hamshire-Fannett Elementary School is unleashing a pack of "watch dogs" to help students on the campus.
The school is implementing "Watch D.O.G.S," a nation-wide program made up of fathers and father-figures who want to make a positive impact on students.
The program began in 1998 and has spread to almost 6,500 schools across the country.
Michael Parise, lead Pastor at Grace Community Church in Fannett, started working with Hamshire-Fannett Elementary Principal Byron Miller last year.
It started with simply opening car doors, high-fiving students and making sure they saw a friendly face when they got to school every morning Parise said.
Over the summer, the duo wanted to find a way to make an even bigger impact.
"We just thought it was a wonderful program to be able to have positive male role models, as well as an extra set of eyes and ears here on campus," Parise said.
Their goal is to make sure students feel safe and equipped to get the education they need when they get to school daily according to Parise.
Volunteers start their morning opening car doors, welcoming students, and helping to make sure the drop off line run smoothly. Ideally, from there they spend the rest of the day on campus.
Volunteers are never left alone with students, but but they do assist teachers, spend time in classrooms, gym, cafeteria, and playground. At the end of the day, watch dogs write a report on how their day went.
Volunteers can be dads, granddads, uncles, or anyone who wants to be a positive influence in the school.
They often see moms really involved PTA, and in some cases, there isn't a dad in the picture accodrinf to Parise.
"Having a dad or a male role model on campus lets them know, especially the young men, especially the boys, how to be a man," He tells 12News.
Marcelo "Mo" Molfino, who has a first-grader at Hamshire-Fannett Elementary, is one of the watch dog volunteers.
Parents have to be leaders if they expect their children to be leaders Molfino says.
They already have a great school and staff at Hamshire-Fannett, but it has to be a team effort. Both moms and dads work in this day and age, and they all have to play an active part in investing in their kids, and community he says.
"For the purpose of this program, we have to show them and not just tell them, we have to lead by example," Molfino said.
One of the biggest problems with the youth today is a lack of communication according to Molfino.
By being at the school and engaging in communication, the watch dogs are giving students a platform they're comfortable with he says.
Dwayne Devers also volunteers as a watch dog. He has no kids on campus, but his wife works at Hamshire-Fannett, and suggested he volunteer.
"When I first started I was kind of confused, and I would open up the car doors and a lot of the kids made my day, they were already happy to get out, but there was a few that I could make their day," Devers said.
Devers hopes the interaction in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day in class. He considers the time he spends volunteering an investment into the community, and would encourage other men to step up and be apart.
The program is already making a huge impact at Hamshire-Fannett according to Miller, principal at the school.
"Starting off the day with a positive interaction has been a huge impact on our kids, our staff, and our community," Miller said.
To be a watch dog, volunteers need to have a love for the community, high moral integrity, and a "volunteer servitude attitude," he said. All volunteers must attend orientation, fill out paperwork, and pass a background check.
Volunteers are never left alone with a child he said. They personalize schedules so that a staff member is with them at all times.
September 17th, they're having a "Watch Dog Pizza Cook Off," starting at 5:30. Miller is asking people to come out and hear what watch dogs is all about.
People interested in becoming involved beforehand should get in touch with Pastor Parise, Molfino, or Miller.
"This is an amazing community, you cannot beat Hamshire-Fannett community," Miller said.
Parise hopes to see the program expand across Southeast Texas. He'd love to help make it happen for interested schools.