For Principal Dr. Linda J. Carr, the first day of school is her favorite time of the year. The night before, it’s hard for her to sleep because of all the excitement.
“The children are completely excited, full of energy, rumbustious and ready,” she said. “It’s not school without the children, so it’s just an empty building. I want the school to be full of children and teachers.”
And through a national campaign, that enthusiasm comes with fathers and other male role models walking students through the doors. Union Elementary’s Welcome Committee is keeping the tradition going through the 2017 Million Father March.
Carr said it’s a positive and great way to start the school year. She believes the initiative is a way to show that it takes homes, schools and the community to make good students.
“We’re looking forward to it and we want them to have a great year,” Carr said.
The project was created 14 years ago by The Black Star Project, a nonprofit founded in 1996 to provide educational services to improve the lives of less-advantaged black communities and to provide economic opportunities. One of the goals is to keep children safe in schools. This year, schools in more than 400 cities across the United Sates are participating. Another aim is to encourage fathers an families to be engaged with their children’s education.
During the year, Carr and other teachers hope to see more fathers involved in events such as reading events or meetings for the Parent Teacher Organization.
“It’s a little easier to get moms involved with school than it is dads,” Carr said. “It’s a national movement in order to help fathers understand how critical they are to their children’s success.”
Officials also said research shows that children do better in school when fathers are actively involved in their education. Their research also shows that students have fewer behavior problems.
According to officials, participants in the Million Father March may include fathers, grandfathers, foster fathers, stepfathers, uncle, cousins, big brothers, male caregivers, mentors and family friends.
On the first day, participants are being asked to accompany their children to school and register for 10 volunteer hours at the school. According to the organization, elected officials are invited to visit schools to give information about public policy and to inspire parents to fight for adequate funding.
For the first day, organizers are requesting that business leaders give fathers and other men participants at least two morning hours off, with pay, so they can take children to school.
Local churches are assisting Union Elementary with the kickoff. Faith leaders are also being asked to pray around schools and to have members of their congregation get involved by adopting a building. Parents and grandparents are helping too. The event is being organized by Al Carr of Snowhill Baptist.
“We really want to promote school as a great place to be,” Carr said. “It’s a kickoff for the year and with well wishes.”