Monday, January 28, 2008

Watch D.O.G.S?

Dads ditch offices for quality time

National program debuting in Maryland invites fathers to volunteer, visit their children at school

Motivational speaker Dan Jenkins

Students of Bellows Springs Elementary and their fathers gather for pizza night to kick off the WATCH D.O.G.S., or Dads of Great Students, program. Motivational speaker Dan Jenkins (foreground) gave a presentation to the 200 fathers, uncles, grandfathers and other men in attendance. (Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam / January 23, 2008)

Mark Moran works in Washington and doesn't get home to Howard County until 7:30 p.m. most days. Because of his schedule, he rarely volunteers in the classroom or goes to events at Bellows Spring Elementary School, where his son, Josh, is in third grade.

But on Wednesday, Moran worked from home instead of commuting to his office so that he could take part in a program for fathers called Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), a national program making its Maryland debut at Bellows Spring in Ellicott City.

Moran and nearly 200 other Bellows Spring fathers, uncles, grandfathers and other men filled rows of fold-out seats in the school cafeteria, munching on pizza and cookies while learning about the program, designed to increase fathers' involvement in schools. Children were invited, too. After watching a video promoting the benefits of Watch D.O.G.S., the kids went to the gym to learn about fire safety, while the men heard more details about how they could get involved.

A cornerstone of the program is encouraging men to volunteer at school, both to improve school safety and to provide male role models

"My wife showed me the brochure and she said, 'Here's a great opportunity for you to go as a dad,'" said Moran, who added that he plans to sign up for volunteer time. His company allows a paid community service day, he said, and he thinks being in his son's school will qualify.

"Josh loves when I come to school for something," he said. "I think it's great they're doing it here."

Laurie Lerman, the PTA president, said her goal was to get 20 men to attend the event. Nearly 200 came.

"We never expected something like this, but it doesn't surprise me," Ed Cosentino, the school's assistant principal said to the audience.

He said team leaders and other school officials were overwhelmingly in favor of the idea. "Our goal and Laurie's vision is to institutionalize it and make it part of our normal day," he said.

Joseph Thweatt attended the event with his twin 5-year-old daughters, Lindsay and Nia, who are in kindergarten.

"I think it's great," he said. "When they sent the information home, I said, This is something I'll definitely do.'"

Lerman heard about the program through a friend, Jodi Westrope, who had moved from the Bellows Spring school district to West Virginia. The program was started by the National Center for Fathering, initiated by parent Jim Moore in response to a 1998 middle-school shooting in Jonesboro, Ark.

The first Watch D.O.G.S. program was in Springdale, Ark. Now, the program is in more than 500 schools in 25 states. Westrope and Dan Jenkins, who both attended the Bellows Spring kick-off, started the program in a Martinsville, W.Va., elementary and middle school. When Westrope saw the positive response in her home town, she began promoting the program to Lerman.

"She had been telling me about the program," said Lerman. "We didn't know something like this existed."

Lerman said fathers bring "a unique set of skills" to the school. For example, they are more likely than mothers to help out with recess games, she said.

"The idea is we have at least one Watch D.O.G.S. [member] in the building every day," Lerman said.

The volunteers wear Watch D.O.G.S. T-shirts, and are promised time in their child's class.

"Please know that when you are here, you will not be doing clerical work," Amy Colman, the Gifted and Talented Resource specialist told the audience. "You will be with the children."

As the program grows, a Donuts and Dads morning event probably will be added, as well as an end-of-year celebration, Lerman said.

Andy Echague, father of kindergartner Christian, 6, volunteered at the school for the first time when he helped hand out pizza slices before the presentation. At the end of the evening, he was leaning over his pizza table, filling out a registration form so he could volunteer in the Watch D.O.G.S. program. He said he hopes to visit the school four or five times before the end of the academic year.

"I just thought it was a neat program," he said.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


2008 cry: 'I want to be a man'

I am a MAN.

Humbling and awesome, it was the slogan of the Memphis black sanitation workers fighting in 1968 for better working conditions and pay and the benefits enjoyed by their white counter- parts.

The simple, red-lettered signs include a detail often overlooked: The "AM" was underlined -- a present tense manhood. They were due respect and dignity. Now.

Fast forward nearly four decades to Monday, the federal holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., killed in Memphis after he'd come to the aid of the striking men.

On Monday, "I AM A MAN" will get an update that speaks to the struggle's shift: from undoing what white institutions did to black people to undoing what black people, particularly black men, often do to each other.

"I want to be a man."

It's the mantra of Memphis Cares, a budding mentorship movement in Memphis, and reflects a desire for a future state of being. The addition of just three words to the iconic slogan of garbage men declares that manhood doesn't result simply from sufficient passage of time.

"To be a man means to be responsible," says Kareem Ali, 30, who in August led the local effort of the Million Father March, which encouraged dads to take their children to the first day of school. "His job as a man is to maintain his family, to provide them, to be a leader and a guide for his community."

But it's a message not heard by many black boys who, absent a father or father-figure, are susceptible to the lure of drugs, crime and self-destructive living.

Ali, the father of an 11-month-old son and a member of the Memphis Cares steering committee, remembers a talk he had at a local middle school with a roomful of about 100 black boys. He asked how many of them lived with their father -- and only three did.

"For those who have a passion for these children, it compels the mind and spirit to want to get up and do something and be a servant to these boys.

"That's why I love the phrase -- I want to be a man, I need a mentor -- that's a cry for children."

Ali has enlisted dozens of children and adults to participate in the annual march Downtown on Monday that honors King. When the march ends at the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Cares will make its formal debut at 9:30 a.m.

Memphis Cares is the local outgrowth of a national mentoring crusade led by Susan L. Taylor, formerly of Essence magazine, who will be at the museum Monday.

In the next year, organizers will recruit 3,000 black women and 3,000 black men to mentor black children. (That said, white people who want to mentor will not be turned away.)

Ali, who speaks with the zeal of a preacher, finds hope in the prophecy in the last speech King delivered, at Mason Temple on April 3, 1968. "I've seen the promised land," King said the night before he was assassinated. "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!"

Biblical scholars will note that the Israelites' entry into the promised land was delayed in part because of the people's fear of the giants in the land.

Forty years after King was killed, Ali asserts that black America is "worse off because we have not gotten together as a community to solve our own problems and our own issues.

"Our giants today are drugs, black-on-black crime, AIDS ... black male incarceration," Ali says. "Those are the giants that we've got to fight today. And if we don't destroy those giants now, within the next 10 years, (there) may not be a promised land for us."

Contact: Wendi C. Thomas at 529-5896 or e-mail

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hiking 4 Fathers

Blended Family Dad Hiking Across America on Behalf of Fathers

A south Georgia blended family father of many has a plan to promote the valuable impact fathers make to the family, community and nation. The 49-year-old veteran long distance hiker will use his experience hiking the famed 2,172-mile Appalachian Trail as the basis for a new series of inspirational books called, "My Fathers Voice." This book series is geared toward encouraging fatherless children with the stories and father's advice gathered during his upcoming six-month "Hike4Fathers."

Brunswick, GA (PRWEB) January 10, 2008 -- William Bateman, a Christian blended family father of many, is preparing to hike the historic Appalachian National Scenic Trail on June 1, 2008. A veteran long distance hiker, Bateman embarks on his six-month journey at Baxter State Park in central Maine. He will continue hiking south bound through 14 eastern U.S. states until he reaches the end of the trail at Amicalola Falls, Georgia -- a distance of 2,172 miles.

William Bateman, who goes by the trail name "Spanky", hiked more than 1,000 miles of the A.T. in 2002 on behalf of Florida's foster children. That effort was a learning curve for Bateman and cemented his desire to repeat his efforts in 2008, albeit, a different reason.

"When I first hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2002, I quickly discovered there was more to hiking the A.T. than beautiful vistas and small towns." Mr. Bateman continues, "I was deeply moved by the many strangers I talked to along the way, who shared with me their strikingly sad recollections growing up without ever hearing their father's voice. Their stories gave me the inspiration for a unique series of books that could be a kind of solace for that hurting soul."

Bateman's plan is simple, yet profound in scope. He will use his journey hiking along the A.T. as a means for interviewing people of all ages and all walks of life, journaling each person's recollections of sage advice passed down from a father figure from their own past -- and compiling those same responses into a book form for fatherless children called, "My Father's Voice."

"I meet so many young people today, who sadly miss never having a deep relationship with their own fathers, for whatever reasons." He goes on to explain, "There are many reasons why a dad does not or can not invest in his own family. Untimely Death. Separation and Divorce. Incarceration. Misplaced career priorities. The reasons for a fatherless family are many but the common denominator always seems to be one thing." When pressed to share what that was, Mr. Bateman replied, "Each person needed their father's voice at a critical point in their lives ... and their father was not there."

William and his wife Elaine, have mentored numerous young adults over the last 13 years; watching them develop in faith and responsibility toward raising their own families, investing in their local communities and serving their country. A number of their "kids" have served with the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and as Christian missionaries to Costa Rica, south Florida, Ireland, Uganda and western Montana.

Bateman thoughtfully added his own sage fathering tip; "Fathers show sons how to become husbands, daughters how to be wives and children how to be parents."

William Bateman has previously appeared as a featured guest on National Public Radio, numerous Christian radio stations, the International Univision Television and Telemundo Television Networks and Faithwriter's Magazine. He is available for single, single-again, stepfamily, family and men's conferences. Bateman also is seeking financial sponsorship of his "Hike4Fathers" effort to promote the role fathers contribute to their families, communities and nation.

Elaine Bateman
Hike4Fathers Coordinator
P.O. Box 131
139 Altama Connector
Brunswick, GA 31525

Monday, January 07, 2008

Teen Suicide

Teen Suicide
Teen suicide has risen 300 percent in the last three decades. Know how to recognize the signs that a teen in your church is troubled--and the best way to help them.
By Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D.

Did you know suicide is now the third leading cause of death among people age 13 to 24? According to a recent survey of high school students, teens (60 percent) often think about killing themselves, and some (9 percent) say they have made an attempt at least once. In the last three decades, teen suicide has risen 300 percent. In light of such dramatic numbers, it is imperative that parents as well as those in ministry who work with young people know the signs signaling a troubled teen.

Depression is behind suicide. Signs of teen depression include but are not limited to: sleeping more than usual; not sleeping well and feeling tired; appetite changes; restlessness; and isolation from friends and family.

Following are some steps parents can take to prevent teens from becoming a statistic. Church leaders who work with youth should be aware of these as well.

Talk with your teen about his suicidal feelings. Talking about suicide does not cause someone to do it. Ask if he has a plan. If he does, he is more at risk.

Don't promise to keep suicidal feelings a secret. Make it clear people must be told so help can be given.

Communicate there is a way out of whatever he faces. Options need to be presented. The lie of hopelessness must be confronted.

Don't lecture. Teens will talk if you listen. Make yourself available.

Reassure him that he is not a burden. Assure him you want to hear what he is thinking and will take it seriously.

Remove any means for self-harm. If there are guns, pills, knives or ropes available for harm, get rid of them.

Identify the lie that is telling him to self-destruct, and ask God to reveal the truth to him. Speak the Word of God into his life. Pray and intercede.

Teach him the Word of God. Scripture is a powerful weapon against any attack. Fill your teen so full of the Word that he recognizes the truth. The truth will set him free. Begin at an early age.

Tell your teen he is loved unconditionally. Communicate there is nothing he can do to make you stop loving him.

Spend time with your teen. The single best prevention against any teen risk behavior is a meaningful relationship with a parent. Know your teen. Be involved.

Be direct. Problems aren't solved by death. Instead people are hurt. Discuss how those alive suffer.

Give hope. God will never leave or forsake that teen. Ask God to reveal His truth whenever the lie of self-destruction appears.

Get professional help. Suicidal teens suffer from depression. They may need intervention from people trained to work with depression and/or suicide issues.

There are many sources of help. Check your local mental health agencies, and ask for Christian therapists trained to treat teen depression and suicide.

Youth leaders should be involved as prayer partners. If you need help related to this issue and don't know where to begin, contact your family physician or community services.

Linda S. Mintle, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical social worker and author of the new "Breaking Free" book series (, from which this article was adapted.