The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
At Hugh Mercer, dads find time to make a difference
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
After spending the day at Hugh Mercer Elementary School with his 7-year-old son, Jason Whiteman says he feels like a rock star.
Whiteman and more than 50 other men are part of a new program at Hugh Mercer called Dads Who C.A.R.E. It encourages more dads to volunteer at their children’s school.
The program is to show the children positive male role models—dads, stepdads, grandfathers, uncles and big brothers.
The men spend a full day volunteering, doing things like helping with morning and afternoon bus or car rider duty, reading to classes, helping with lessons, and breakfast and lunch duty.
Libba Greenup White, a guidance counselor at Hugh Mercer, helped organize the program. She said dads signed up at orientation and on back-to-school night, and there has been an overwhelming, positive response.
“I didn’t know how it was going to be received,” she said. “I could not believe how many we had at orientation night—all taking off a day of work.”
She said many of the dads who have participated since the program began in October have already signed up for another day in the second half of the school year.
White said she had the support of the whole school—from teachers to administrators to parents—who were willing to help out and get it rolling.
Friday was Whiteman’s turn to spend the day at Hugh Mercer. A motivational speaker by trade, he said he is often at the school to volunteer and have lunch with his son, second-grader Sakorii.
This was his first time spending the full day, and he said it was important to him to be able to do it.
“This is the most important time in your child’s life,” he said.
He said he wants to build a good foundation and be a positive role model for future classes. He said his dad volunteered in his school, and he wanted to do the same thing for his son.
Whiteman said his favorite time of day to spend at the school is lunch.
“The kids are energetic and taking a breather,” he said.
White said she wanted to keep the dads busy—so they’re in three classrooms before lunch and four after, for a half-hour each.
She said that at the end of the day she often hears about how fast the day went and how tired they are after doing so much.
In the morning, Whiteman spent time in three different classrooms.
In the first one, Tobin Traxler’s class, he helped students—including his son—with a math lesson using coins and dry-erase boards.
In Sandra Jones’ kindergarten class, Whiteman first put projects into the students’ cubbyholes and then helped students with a handwriting assignment.
In Aude Mann’s class—where there was a substitute—he read the story “A Turkey for Thanksgiving” to the class.
“It was a good program,” Whiteman said. “I would recommend it to anybody who sees what is going on in the community and wants to make a difference and definitely get involved.”
Whiteman said that at the end of the day, his son was proud—and only a tiny bit embarrassed—to have him there, and had his chest puffed out a little.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413