Fathers show up around Cleveland Metropolitan School District to walk with their child
(Plain Press, October 2012) Ivan Salcedo had his second-grade son in tow as he walked last Thursday on a day he couldn’t pass up.
No, Salcedo didn’t walk his son to Louisa May Alcott School for the doughnuts and drinks that awaited him and other fathers. He was there with his son to support “Fathers Walk,” a countywide initiative that shined a spotlight on fatherhood.
Committed to being a first-rate father, Salcedo said he understood the importance men like him play in the lives of children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He understood the importance, as did the hundreds of other fathers from the East and West side who took part in the walk.
Fathers matter, particularly in a boy’s life.
“Boys always imitate what their fathers are like,” Salcedo said. “I always believe, if you aren’t there for your son, in the future, he may feel he shouldn’t be there for his son.”
However, Fathers Walk was deeper than a male-to-male bonding experience. The event was a reminder that fathers are central to a child’s emotional and social development, said Eileen Mangan Stull, principal at Alcott.
“The whole purpose is to help the children to understand that their fathers, their families and everybody else values their education,” Stull said. “Everybody wants them to do their best.”
Countless fathers echoed Stull’s sentiments. They were willing to share their thoughts about being at their child’s side.
“I had that growing up,” said Lawrence Funkerburke, who walked his kindergartener to Alcott. “It’s very important; it teaches structure. Mom can’t do everything; you can’t expect mom to do everything.”
Ryan Head, who walked his kindergartener to school, said people can tell the difference in children who do have that male figure and those who don’t. Head saluted his father’s involvement in his life.
“It gave me something to look up to; it gave me something to respect,” said Head, a teacher at Alcott. “I think there was a little bit of fear. I didn’t want to screw up for my dad.”
On the other side of Cleveland, fathers offered much of the same.
At Michael R. White School, Chris Harden Jr. sat at a table next to his father in the school’s cafeteria. Harden Jr. had something he needed to tell him.
“I love you, dad,” the son said.
Harden Sr. had spent the morning showing his son how much he loved him. He knew the walk encouraged men – fathers, grandfathers, uncles, male friends of the family, stepfathers, big brothers and nephews — to actively participate in a child’s life.
Harden Sr. embraced his participation. “It’s very important because there are a lot of kids who don’t have male-role figures in their lives,” he said. “You can tell the difference.”
Indeed, you can. Research has shown that fathers who take an active role in their children’s education see their sons and daughters produce better grades, score higher on achievement tests, enjoy school more, graduate on time and then go on to college.
Fathers Walk promoted paternal involvement.
“Men look at things differently than women,” Stull said. “So sometimes you need to have that different perspective.”
So here at her school on Baltic Road were dozens of fathers and father figures, all having made the walk on an autumn-like morning. Their walk was symbolic of a larger theme: caring.
“It really does work,” Stull said, “because the children know that everybody is involved and checks on them.”