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Smiles and Welcomes for Gerard Students Through Dads and Doors Program

                A smiling face and words of welcome from a special group of school volunteers await Gerard Elementary car and bus riders every Wednesday morning.

                Dads and Doors, implemented through the Volunteers In Public Schools program at Gerard, the efforts of Parent and Family Engagement Liaison Alyssa VanWinkle and the blessing of Principal Tracy White, has quickly gone from a handful to a greeting machine.

                “This project was brought up when we did our parent and family engagement training,” VanWinkle said. “A lot of school districts offer something like this. I loved the idea of having dads on campus to welcome our kids as they start the day.”

                “We have lots of involved moms, and I’m glad to have some involvement opportunities for the dads of our students,” she said. “I think it’s very neat to have dads opening car doors and greeting kids when they get off the bus. My husband is one of those involved. He worked with older kids for a number of years as a high school administrator. It’s been fun for him to interact with the little ones, in addition to our own.”

                The Dads and Doors program has received quite a bit of response since it was introduced in January. VanWinkle rotates the list of greeters between the back of school, where Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Grizzlies are dropped off, to the front where the upper grades arrive.

                Bradley Cooper was among the first to sign up for the Dads and Doors initiative.

                “I liked the opportunity to be involved at Gerard—and my daughter asked me sign up,” Cooper said. “She brought in the paper with information and said, ‘can you do this?’”

                The unique form of involvement also appealed to Josh Breslaw.

                “I signed up because I wanted to be involved in my kids’ school,” he said. “I have two here. It’s fun to be able to smile, get kids into school and wish them a good day. I like that this is just for dads—but I try to be involved here at Gerard as much as possible.”

                Gerard granddad Wendell Morrow was looking for a new project, following his retirement. His daughter-in-law brought him information on the Dads and Doors program.

                “I haven’t found a lot to do since I retired,” he said. “I was looking for something to keep me busy. I have grandchildren here and I live right next door to the school and can hear the kids playing. When I volunteered for the first time, it went well. It was good seeing the kids and helping them get out of the car. You can never have enough ‘dad involvement.’ I’m glad I have time to do this.”

                With the response to the Dads and Doors program, Gerard is now looking to expand the volunteer initiative, according to VanWinkle.

                “All Pro Dads is another great project, in which parents can come in and eat breakfast with their kids and play an interactive game,” she said. “After the kids report to class, the dads stay behind for a brief character lesson in which ways to become better parents and strengthen the family unit are discussed.”

                “When we started this in January, we had no idea what kind of response we would receive,” VanWinkle said. “The ‘new’ of this program has not worn off—it’s still a wonderful sight to see our Gerard dads in action every Wednesday morning greeting kids, helping them with their backpacks. I’d love to have more volunteers and see the line of greeters stretch into the school and line the hallways, cheering our kids on as they head to their first class of the day.”