Catalyst Circle Rock Charter School, 5608 W. Washington Blvd., welcomed 200 fathers and men from the community to celebrate students as they walked into the school building on Sept. 15 during the K-8 school’s Dads Take Your Child to School initiative.
Catalyst previously held the ceremony last year to showcase the positive male role models within the Austin community, said Catalyst Circle Rock Principal Elizabeth Jamison Dunn.
“We really did it as a response to the negative feedback and press that our community often gets, especially in regards to young black boys and black men,” said Dunn. “We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to show that black men do care and do matter in our community.”
Dunn said one of the school’s goals is to make the celebration of students an annual event. She said she wants to make men a staple presence in the school.
This year, Catalyst Circle Rock will launch “Daddy & Me,” a program that will bring men into the school on a monthly basis for reading activities, inspirational workshops and to assist on field trips, among other activities.
“It takes a village to raise a child and so we want to make sure that the entire village is present for different events like this so the children know they matter,” said Dunn.
Austin resident Julius Lumpkin, who shares a connection to Catalyst Circle Rock with numerous family members, was proud to participate in the celebration. His five-year-old son is a student there and his daughter Megan is a third-grade teacher. Lumpkin stood outside of the school with his son’s godfather, Charles Dell, and Lumpkin’s son-in-law, Dell Harrison.
“All the men coming out as one is a powerful movement for the Austin community,” said Lumpkin. “You hear so many negative things and this is a positive event, so I wanted to participate.”
Charles Dell attended the celebration after he was asked to come by his godson. Dell said he wouldn’t have missed the event “for the world.”
“I think doing things like this show our kids that we love them and that they need to see positive male role models,” said Dell. “I want to keep giving back to the kids, because they need our help nowadays.”
Vincent Price, coordinator with the Black Star Project’s male mentoring program, Young Black Men of Honor, was invited to assist Catalyst officials during the event. He stressed the importance of men taking active roles in the household and community on a regular basis.
“I’m excited to see the brothers out this morning,” said Price, who works directly with young men ages 8 to 18 throughout the year. “I hope they take it seriously to get involved in one way or another in the schools and in the neighborhoods and take back our rightful place in the city.”
The Black Star Project is a non-profit organization that strives to provide educational services to improve disadvantaged African American and Latino students.
Walter Mendenhall, program director of Circle Urban Ministries, meets with young men weekly to mentor them and discuss the issues they face throughout their development.
As part of Catalyst’s program, fathers will meet on a frequent basis to serve as guest speakers to share their life experiences, said Mendenhall. He hopes to take the mentoring program to new heights by instituting a curriculum with team-building and items that develop the youths in a holistic approach.
“If the men, the fathers can come share their experiences, the good times and the hard times, hopefully, it can help change some of our kids and help them make better decisions,” said Mendenhall. “There are a lot of resources and a lot of good brothers that we can pull from. The more good brothers we have the better it is for our students.”