A Texas school which asked for 50 male volunteers to stand in for absent fathers for a "Breakfast with Dads" event was left astounded after nearly 600 men turned up.
Billy Earl Dade Middle School in the city of Dallas, where 90 percent of children come from low-income families, put a call-out for around 50 male volunteers to attend in a bid to help those students who did not have a father able to take part.
Around 150 male students who were aged between 11 and 13 signed up for the first-ever "Breakfast with Dads" event and gained an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community.
"When a young person sees someone other than their teacher take interest in them, it inspires them. That's what we want to see happen," the Reverend Donald Parish Jr, the pastor of True Lee Missionary Baptist Church who organised the event, told the Dallas Morning News.
Kristina Chäadé Dove, who has worked on what is referred to as a site-based decision-making team for the middle school, issued a call-out for volunteers who would take on the role as mentors for students.
"Please share! Men needed! On next Thursday, December 14th at 8:30 am at Dr Billy Earle Dade Middle School we will host 'Breakfast with Dads'. The reality of a great event like this is a lot of our kids will not have a dad present," Ms Dove said in early December.
"We are need of at least 50 or more additional male mentors who can devote one hour of their Wednesday morning next week to this cause".
In the end, the school was inundated with men wanting to provide support for the boys - some of whom were volunteering for the first time.billy
Stephanie Drenka, a photographer and blogger based in Dallas who works with Dove at Big Thought, a non-profit organisation that works with partners across the city to deliver creative learning programs for young people, heaped praise on the event which was held in mid-December.
She said the unforeseen arrival of volunteers resulted in the event being relocated from the café to the gym in order to be able to take on more guests.
"Back in December, the team ran into some difficulty when planning their annual 'Breakfast with Dads' event," she said on her website.
"Dade's community liaison Ellyn Favors mentioned that student participation was low due to young men not having a father/father-figure available to attend the event."
"I will never forget witnessing the young students surrounded by supportive community members," she added. "There were so many volunteers, that at times I saw young men huddled in the centre of four to five mentors. The look of awe, even disbelief, in students' eyes as they made their way through the crowd of 'Dads' was astonishing."
"Jamil 'The Tie Man' Tucker led the auditorium in a hands-on icebreaker activity. He spoke of learning how to tie a tie as a rite of passage some young men never experience. Mentors handed out ties to the eager students and helped them perfect their half-Windsor knot. The sight of a necktie may forever bring a tear to my eye."
The middle school has worked hard to improve its academic position and Texas Education Agency test scores demonstrate some academic improvement at the school which is said to be working to get community leaders and organisations involved to also mentor students outside the classroom.
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