Chris Weber high fives a student in the Mason Early Childhood Center hallway. Next, he's asking a first grader about his writing. Then, he's greeted by second grader Adeline Weber - his daughter- who lights up when she sees him and bounds over to give him a hug. Chris is MECC's "Top Dog" - and is the father behind the school's new MECC Hero Dads program. The main goal of MECC Hero Dads is to promote positive male role models within the school. They’ve partnered with Watch DOGS (Dads of Great Students) and are bringing a one-of-a-kind, school-based father involvement program to the halls and classrooms of MECC.
Almost two years ago, the Weber family moved to Mason. They loved this community and the school system, and couldn't wait to get involved. When Weber approached MECC Principal Melissa Bly and the school counseling team about a program he had been involved with in Virginia, Watch DOGS, the school staff was thrilled to give it the green light!
"I experience three things every time I volunteer as a Watch DOG. The first is that I get to see the look on Adeline's face when I walk into the classroom. It's impossible to describe, but it's as close to pure joy as I've seen. The second is working with the kids I don't know. Everyone has a story, and Watch DOGS give me an opportunity to help a couple of students who might need some additional attention, learn their story, and maybe learn a little something about myself along the way. The third is that I get a window into this world. My wife volunteers regularly and this gives us another shared experience while also teaching me some tricks-of-the-trade as it relates to school-specific parenting," Weber shares.
Weber hopes the program will become part of the MECC culture, and will work its way into Mason's other elementary schools. He notes that he has a special insight into his child's life that he wouldn't have if he wasn't volunteering regularly.
"I think being a Watch DOG gives a window in what a "normal" day is like, which is often very different than the special occasion days. Just watching the dynamics of classrooms, playground, lunchrooms - I wouldn't have know [how those things go] if I wasn't a Watch DOG. Definitely more so than a typical party volunteer, or field trip volunteer," he explains.
Weber also appreciates that his company, Vanitiv, supports its employees in allowing them to give back to important causes.
Over 25 fathers have already signed up for the program.Weber expects more to continue to join, especially as students have Hero Dads in their classroom and then go home and ask their own dad to join.
MECC kindergarten teacher Susan Ossim shared the positive impact that Weber had on her students in the Bumblebee Classroom. "They kept asking when Mr. Chris would be back to play with them," said Ossim. She also explained how it was the biggest, quickest impact she has seen in all of her many years of teaching.
How to Become a MECC Hero Dad
The traits of a MECC Hero Dad include being a good listener and encourager, honoring moms, affirming children, modeling good behavior, and helping kids to overcome their fears.
MECC is currently looking for Hero Dads to volunteer for a half-day or a full-day on Wednesdays between now and May 2017. During this time, the dads will spend time in classrooms of different grade levels during the day, while working with children to promote positive relationships and foster learning. All Hero Dads must undergo a full background check. Contact school counselor Katie Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you would like to be a MECC Hero Dad.