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News Item: Homepage

Hayward: Million Father March an annual reminder for students, parents
By Darin Moriki, dmoriki@bayareanewsgroup.com
The Mercury News
Posted:Thu Sep 01 10:14:28 MDT 2016

On most mornings, Paolo Ferretti is at work by the time his children wake up, but he made a special point to take them to school with his wife on the first day of classes as part of the Million Father March.

The Hayward Unified School District's annual back-to-school event, now in its sixth year, encourages men to accompany children to their first day of school as a way of building family bonds and bolstering educational involvement

"You have a peace of mind knowing that the kids are at school and they're safe, and going to be in a safe learning environment," Ferretti said as his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children, Gabriel, 11, Michael, 10, stood outside Longwood Elementary School.

The Million Father March is the brainchild of the Black Star Project, a Chicago-based nonprofit that, according to its website, seeks to provide "educational services that improve the lives of less-advantaged black communities and to close the racial academic achievement gap."

Hayward school board trustee William McGee said he discovered the Million Father March by chance nearly six years ago, when he ran into organizers at an educational conference. He brought the idea back to Hayward school administrators, and it quickly took hold.

"By default, a lot of times mothers or women are automatically in the lives of their children educationally," McGee said at an Aug. 25 back-to-school assembly for Longwood Elementary parents.

"Fathers, we know, want to be there, but sometimes they have to work, and they're the ones having to do different things, and they can't get here, so we brought this march to our district six years ago," he said.

The school district estimates more than 1,000 Hayward parents participated in the annual march last year.

"We also encourage everyone, including fathers, brothers and uncles, to volunteer in our schools, because it really makes a difference," McGee said.

"We've seen that, when the men are more active in the educational part of their child's life, the child does a lot better," he said.

Acting Hayward schools Superintendent Matt Wayne said the march hits home for him as the father of a 15-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son.

"My daughter isn't quite as excited to have me walk her to school and hold her hand anymore, but I've got to tell you, taking her to school is so important," Wayne told parents at the assembly.

"When she went to middle school, I stopped taking her to school because it was in a different direction from my house, but now that she's in high school, I'm taking her to school again -- it's only about 15 minutes in the morning, but that is incredibly precious time, because that's time that I have just with her alone" he said.

"Most of the rest of the time, like on the weekends or after school, she's with her friends, on her phone or doing different things, but in the morning, we have this opportunity to go to school together and we really talk and share, so it keeps that connection," Wayne said.

Hayward resident Cleveland Mitchell lives close to Longwood Elementary and said he tries to find time to take his sons, Kyree, 6, and, Albert, 7, to school in the morning.

"There's some pretty good love to see all of the parents out here and officers from the community," Mitchell said.

"Our kids are our future, and we need to be a part of that -- it's as simple as that," he said.

Contact Darin Moriki at 510-293-2480 or follow him at Twitter.com/darinmoriki

Posted by: Sabrina Aranda, District Admin, Hayward Unified School District Published:9/1/16
Audience: Homepage and Homepage