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Service with a smile: Harford Co. school encourages male engagement with Smile Maker Program

Posted at 11:13 PM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-10 23:15:07-05

Wanted: dads, uncles, brothers and other men to be role models for students in one Harford County school. It's part of a program that started this year at Bakerfield Elementary School.

Gavin and Gabby Harris go to Bakerfield Elementary School, their dad, Tony Harris, is part of The Smile Makers Program.

"When they come to school they might be having a bad day so it's up to me or any other Smile Makers to put a smile on their face and get their day started off on the right foot, said Harris.

"The dads feel like they're more involved and they get to see their child learn and grow up," student Madison Rudd, told WMAR-2 News.

"Everybody's happy and excited about going to school every day and just having fun," student Gavin Harris, told WMAR-2 News.

Principal Tara Dedeaux said the Smile Maker Program already has kids looking forward to school but also has a more important function.

"Parent involvement is such a huge part of success of students and especially male involvement or the lack of male involvement really impacts a student and their performance."

The program, spearheaded by staff, aims to build a greater sense of community, student morale and positive male engagement in education.

"The kids just light up when the dads are here, they're motivated, they're happy, they're encouraged it's positive!" said Dedeaux.

And it's not just dads, but grandparents, uncles and other male models in students' lives.

"I think men often underestimate how significant their role is not just as a father but as a role model to their children," said Smile Maker, Nathan McVey.

"If we can just be a positive influence and help them reach their goals and talk about goals and tell them that with hard work, dedication and focus they can achieve all the dreams that they have," said Harris.

That can make all the difference because these kids notice when male role models aren't around.

The hope is to spread this program throughout the county.