One Thursday morning each month, while other parents are racing to work or getting their children ready for school, about 150 dads and their children already are at Southwest Elementary for breakfast and quality time together.
But for some children, their fathers can’t attend, either because they are working or are away. So school officials reached out to the community.
Southwest Elementary is not the only local school to have an All Pro Dad program, but it is one of the largest, with an average of 100 to 150 attending each month, school media specialist Steve Corbin said.
This year, Corbin and student services adviser Kenna Frink wanted to expand the meetings so students whose fathers couldn’t come to the monthly breakfasts still were able to participate. Greenwood administrators reached out to local workers to see who would be interested in attending the meetings, and nearly two dozen quickly responded, Corbin said.
Story continues below gallery
Now, fifth-grade students whose fathers cannot attend serve as table hosts and socialize with different community members and workers each month, Frink said. For some of the students, their fathers are in another country, out of town or have to be at work early in the morning.
“It’s a privilege to be a table host because we get to talk to the guys about what they do and their daily life and their jobs,” fifth-grader Brandon Coffey said.
Fellow table hosts DeShay Thompson, Jaiden Means and Stefan Soto said the local workers are fun to be around, friendly and easy to talk to.
“When our dads don’t come, half of the time, they’re across the world or they’re working, so we get to hang out with somebody in the morning,” Coffey said.
Being able to talk to the men in the morning can lift students’ moods, Means said.
“After you go and talk to them, if you aren’t having a very good day normally, you’ll start having a better day afterwards,” Means said.
Coffey talks to them about sports, politics or what’s in the news, he said. Other table hosts will talk about that day’s lesson, they said.
“They came into my life, (and) it became better. They helped me become a better leader,” said Thompson, who started attending All Pro Dad in November.
The workers are getting just as much out of the monthly meetings as the students are, Endress + Hauser employee Brandyn Ferguson said.
“These are smart, caring, interactive boys who are just a delight to be around,” Ferguson said. “One cool aspect that I have picked up on is the boys we are connected with that morning go out of their way to make us feel welcome, at the same time we are focused on making sure they feel special.”
Frink can see the students learning new habits and traits that will make them successful later in life, she said. For example, the students are learning how to network with others, and they could eventually send their résumés to the businessmen they connect with when they’re older, Frink said.
Since all table hosts are in fifth grade, Frink and Corbin are trying to find a way to extend the program to keep students in touch, they said.
The program also connects fathers with their children. Corbin, a father of two boys, participated in All Pro Dad with his youngest son at Southwest Elementary about five years ago, he said.
“I’ve still got pictures of he and I at breakfast,” Corbin said. “You don’t get these times back.”
Greenwood Community High School teacher Blaine Williams, whose daughter Lily is in first grade, cherishes the time that he can spend with her before the school day starts. Since the high school’s schedule starts earlier, another teacher is able to cover for Williams when he’s at the breakfast, he said.
“As a high school teacher, I see a lot of kids over there who wouldn’t give their parents the time of day,” Williams said. “They don’t want to hang out with their parents, they don’t want to be seen in public with their parents. To have her be that excited about hanging out with me for an hour, that’s been awesome.”
One year, Patrick Watkins brought both of his children, and it was a monthly battle of who he got to sit with that month. But now that only one child is still at the elementary school, he can get that individual relationship back, he said.
“What makes the program special is seeing other dads and male role models show up every month for their sons and daughters, engaging in loving and supportive dialogue around the theme for that month, seeing how much heart and soul Steve and Kenna put into the program, and seeing how much fun the students have at the event,” Ferguson said.