Durham, N.C. — Hillside High School in Durham kicked off the start of the 2013-14 school year Monday with a call to action for dads to become more involved in their children's lives at school.
Fathers, male relatives and other caregivers escorted their children to class on the first day as part of the nationwide Million Father March – a movement for black men to commit to volunteering at least 10 hours during the school year, mentoring students, helping them with their studies and being part of school activities.
More than 600 cities in the United States take part in the program.
"A lot of research shows that when a father is present in a child's life, it helps promote successfulness at school," Eric Becoats, superintendent of Durham Public Schools, said.
According to The Black Star Project, a Chicago nonprofit that started Million Father March, studies show that children who have men regularly involved in their education and social development have higher standardized test scores, grades and graduation rates and lower rates of suspension, expulsion, arrest and violent behavior.
Timothy Primus, assistant principal at Hillside High School in Durham, brought Million Father March to the school.
"I just saw a lack of having fathers in a lot of the students' lives," he said. "A lot of the kids that only have mothers have a lot of anger and aggression, and I just feel having a positive influence on their lives is going to help them."
Although Million Father March was only at Hillside High this year, Becoats is encouraging fathers across the school district to get involved.
"Me, myself, being raised in a single-parent household, I see the importance of having a male in your life, having someone to work with you," he said. "It's also a way to have more men involved in the schools throughout the year. So, it's not just bringing your child to school today, it's really advocating men to volunteer throughout the year."
Ronald Singletary went to school for his daughter, Asia.
"I didn't have a father growing up, and I'm here to support my child, to be a better dad than what my daddy was," Singletary said.
For Hillside junior Bobby Hill, showing up with his father to homeroom was a bit embarrassing, he said, but he added that he appreciates the support.
"I'm one of the few that can have a dad, so I'm very honored that he could walk me to class," Hill said. "I don't really want him here in front of my friends and stuff, but at the end of the day, I'm glad I can have somebody, and at the end of the day, I'm proud to say he's my dad."
Hill's father, also Bobby Hill, said being involved is important to him.
"I was one of those young men who grew up without a father, and every day that he wakes up, I want him to see that he has someone that looks like him, talks like him and is here to protect him," the elder Hill said.