Third-grade students gathered in groups Thursday on the second floor of Nathan B. Young Elementary School in Opa-locka.
Their eyes were glued on Gregory Williams, 52, who read and acted out The Boy Who Cried Wolf.
“The sheep said WHAT?” asked Williams, as the 17 students erupted with a long “baaaa.”
Bringing father figures like Williams to schools is one of the main goals for Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida, a non-profit organization that aims to to get fathers more involved in their children’s lives. The Task Force held 14 workshops around Miami-Dade County last week, as part of Fathers in Action and Advocacy Week.
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“I see firsthand what the lack of fatherhood and proper guidance does to some of these kids,” said Williams, an officer with Miami-Dade Schools Police. “Our goal in working with these young kids is to turn them into productive citizens.”
Holly Zwerling, president and CEO of the Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida, is trying to change what she calls the paradigm in education.
“Fathers shouldn’t only be called in when their child is disciplined. They should be called in when their child does something positive,” Zwerling said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 23.6 million children in America — one out of three — live in biological father-absent homes.
This is a statistic Wilbert “Tee” Holloway, a Miami-Dade school board member, is trying to change.
“In any school, a father figure certainly strengthens that opportunity for a child to learn,” Holloway said. “The success is the repetition of the fathers participating.”
For Erlin Sawyer, 34, a father of two, volunteering his time to the Fatherhood Reading Squad is a way for him to give back to Dr. Robert B. Ingram Elementary in Opa-locka, the school he attended and the school his children attend.
“To do things in the community I grew up in makes me feel good,” Sawyer said.