Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- It is not the parent volunteer program you're used to, fathers are stepping up and playing a big role at North Springs Elementary for the school's Watch D.O.G. program.
For Stephone Berry, it is a great way to be a part of his son's life.
"I've been deployed four times. I missed two birthdays in one deployment, so this was a good opportunity for me to get involved in his life, and not only in his life but in kids that may not have a father or their father's deployed," he said.
With his retirement from the U.S. Army approaching, he wants to make a difference through the school's Watch D.O.G. Program, otherwise known as Dads of Great Students.
"It's a great feeling, anytime that you get to not only in your children's life, but other children's lives it's a great and awesome feeling you can have," said Berry.
This is his first year serving as a Watch D.O.G. He and about 40 other fathers, grandfathers, uncles and even staff husbands spend time with the children doing everything from reading, eating lunch, checking doors and helping with projects and events.
Program coordinator Jim Seeger helped launch the program last year.
"Through time we all know that mom's been the one showing up to the school, child's in trouble, child's sick. It's a way for us to get fathers and grandfathers and uncles, back into the school system and it's a mentoring program because it's a lot of children that really need to have a strong role model that's available to them," said Seeger.
Principal David Holzendorf says volunteers go through background checks, training and wear their Watch D.O.G. on school grounds. He says the program has changed the culture at the school.
"We've noticed that a lot of our boys struggle in school, so having male role models in our school is very important to us. Being en elementary school we have a lot of great female role models, but there's not as many male role models so the watch dogs serve as those individuals," said Holzendorf.
As for Berry, becoming a watchdog does not just help the students and the school, it leaves an impact on him as well.
"I love it you know, you see the smiling kids faces as they see you walk through the halls and says 'hey watch dog' or 'how you doing sir' so it's a feeling that just overwhelms you," said Berry.
Many of the watch dog volunteers say they would like to see the program expanded to the middle school and throughout the county.