The students at Austin’s Catalyst Circle Rock elementary charter school, 5608 W. Washington Blvd., got a special treat on the morning of Sept. 13.

As they walked toward the building, a large group of men stood on the doorsteps, greeting every child with thunderous applause. They were fathers, uncles, grandfathers and guardians of many of the current students. 

Gordon Hannon, the Catalyst Schools charter school network CEO, said that this has been a regular event for the past three to four years and started because school officials wanted to do something positive for students, their families and the wide Austin community. 

“I think what this means for the students is that they look up and see the amazing power and inspiration in their fathers,” Hannon said. “They recognize [that] their fathers are leaders, their fathers are awesome and their fathers have their backs.”

The event is also one of the ways Circle Rock tries to give back to the community, Hannon said.

“We’re here to serve this community, and the more this community steps into the role of power, the role of ownership, the role of leadership, we’re here for it 100 percent. It’s just a beautiful opening event for our school. It’s driving momentum and gaining strength.”

James Borishade, the Executive Director of Circle Urban Ministries, which partners with Circle Rock and shares the building with the school, told the participants that he was proud of all of them. 

“Being involved in a child’s life is literally a key to success,” he said. “Take [this] message to your friends – when you’re not involved, your child is likely to fail.”

Borishade said that he understood that fatherhood could be challenging, which is why his ministry holds support groups on Sunday mornings. 

“We would love to wrap your arms around it and support you,” he said.

Darryl Stokes said that he was there to support his son.

“Anything in school that goes on for him, I want to be involved,” he said.

Tommy Gymbus was there for his son, Jayden. He said that he was proud of his son and happy that Circle Rock put the event together.

“It’s just awesome to see them doing good things for us in the community,” he said.

Joseph Green was there to suport his niece, who was also starting third grade.

“It’s [creating] a great feeling of support, what they’re doing,” he reflected.

Charles Strong is a custodian at Circle Rock who happened to be eating breakfast during the tail end of the event. He said that in the 20 years he’s been working at the school, he’s seen many things change for a batter and parental involvement is one of them.

“Parents, man, they’re invested,” Strong said. “Especially our men; they’re really stepping up to the plate. When [the school] needs volunteers, they step up. They’re really outstanding. They love their kids. Those men and women – they really love their kids.”


Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...