Dads take the lead volunteering at Flint schools

FLINT, Michigan — The auditorium at Durant-Tuuri-Mott Elementary School is buzzing this morning with youngsters wiping powdered sugar from their faces and sipping fresh cider while excitedly gabbing with the men in their lives. 

This is Donuts with Dad.

Sitting with his daughter Brooke, 5, on his knee, Monté Collins reads “Cows in the House” aloud and relishes these moments with her. “Our kids really need to see that, to see fathers come out to spend time with them and see other fathers talking together and working with them,” says Collins, a truck driver and father of six. 

Some 60 fathers packed into the auditorium for the event. In some ways it was a simple gathering: Fathers sat with their children for an hour, enjoying a snack while either reading a book or doing a craft. 

The impact though is multifaceted. See each of these men also stayed after the event with their child to sign up to be school volunteers, to be role models, to stress the importance of education, and to invest their time and talents in the next generation.

Organized by Chris Collins, the community school director at Durant-Tuuri-Mott, this is one of several Donuts with Dad events at Flint Community Schools. These events stress the importance of literacy and build bridges for more parent engagement inside and outside of school. 

“We want families reading together and learning together, and this is just another opportunity, especially for our fathers, to learn about ways they can get involved in their child's education. Getting these guys helping and being role models in the classroom just makes a big, big difference,” said Collins, who is not related to Monte.

And, just as important, it provides the dads an opportunity for fellowship and friendship with one another. As community school director, Collins works with teachers and staff at Durant-Tuuri-Mott to coordinate volunteer efforts, family support, and after-school activities for the school. 

Engaged families also lead to better attendance, improved grades, and fewer behavioral issues for students, Collins said.

On the other side of the long tables, Derrick Munson sits with his son Brandon, 6. “You know my dad wasn’t really around when I was a kid, so I make it a point to be there whether its sports or events like this or maybe playing a video game. Whatever it is, I want to be there for him.” 

Munson, who works in auto sales in the Detroit area, said he doesn’t mind taking time off work to have a donut and read a book. “It’s really important we can all come out here and take the time,” he says. To be there for Brandon and the other children, too. Even with such a large turnout, Munson was all too aware that there are still lots of children whose fathers couldn’t make it. He saw three boys peer into the auditorium. Being a volunteer means he will be there for them, too. 

As the morning rolls on, James Dunigan wipes off layers of powdered sugar from the face of his son Elijah, 5. “Just hanging with my son today for Daddy’s Donuts, right?” Dunigan says, throwing a grin to his son.

“It's about showing him a positive outlook on male figures. He’s got to see me as a role model and that's my job as his father,” Dunigan says. “There’s a lot of negativity out there, so just hanging out reading a fairy tale book is a good thing — and you know we like donuts.” 

With another large grin at his son, Dunigan says, “I like the cinnamon sugar donuts, myself, but he likes the powdered ones, so we got a little distracted. And, as you can see, he made a little mess, but that's part of the fun.” 

The Community Education Initiative operates in all Flint Community School buildings and the International Academy of Flint. It is coordinated by the Crim Fitness Foundation through a grant from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. For more information, go online to crim.org/communityed

Read more articles by Jake Carah.

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