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Tropic Isles kicks off Watch DOGS program

September 28, 2016
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Fathers who want to become more involved with their children's education now have a program all their own at Tropic Isles Elemenatary.

On Wednesday, Tropic Isles Elementary School kicked off its Watch DOGS - Dads of Great Students - campaign, a program that gets dads of students involved in the school as positive role models.

The event featured North Fort Myers High School football coach Earnest Graham as a guest speaker, food, drink and activities for dads and their children to take part in.

Anne Willan, parent involvement specialist at the school, said Watch DOGS is a nationwide program that helps fathers, grandfathers and other male role models get more involved and engaged in their child's school through volunteering and mentoring students.

"We're trying to get more male figures to volunteer. They work in the school and can volunteer as many hours as they want," Willan said. "They're father figures who help as much as they can."

Willan said the fatherly involvement is important to the children themselves because it shows how important education is to their dad and it gives them pride to know their father is at school, playing football with the kids during physical education or doing something else.

Watch DOGS started at Tropic Isles in March, toward the end of the school year. The school made it a permanent program for this year and nearly 200 fathers have signed up to help.

Melissa Castro, a mom whose husband, Mike Bell, is a Watch DOG, said she is happy to see him engaged in the school.

"It's beneficial for the kids. My son is really excited for having his dad there," Castro said. "It's to show them that dads are cool, too. Even if it's for just 30 minutes a day."

And the volunteers get called on to help. One teacher has requested a father to read to her classroom. It's often hard for dads due to work hours, but they still have many active volunteers.

The program is a product of the National Center for Fathering, with more than 5,300 schools in 47 states involved. Canada, Barnados, China, Puerto Rico and Mexico are also involved.

Cape Coral has several Watch DOGS programs, including at Gulf and Christa McAuliffe elementary schools.

It has been featured on the Today Show with Matt Lauer, and ABC World News Tonight with Charlie Gibson, among other places.

For more information, contact Willan at 995-4704 or go to



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