Early Wednesday morning, students lined up outside Alachua County schools for the annual “Dad Bring Your Child to School” day, but this year, they did it in a very different way.
The school district decided this year, they were going to make sure every student had a dad on this special day. School resource officer Mose Rochelle invited first responders from all over the county, including Gainesville Police Department, UF Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, High Springs Police Department, Alachua Police Department, Florida Highway Patrol, EMTs and firefighters, to be stand-in fathers for students who don’t have a father figure.
Rochelle said she asked first responders to come out and be stand-in fathers for these students because she hopes by having the students interact with law enforcement in a positive light, they will learn to trust them more in the community.
“Law enforcement is a person who is dedicated to protect them,” Rochelle said. “A person that they can trust and they can depend on.”
At Duval Early Learning Academy, some of the other participants were in fraternities, as well as athletes at the University of Florida.
One of those participants was UF Track and Field athlete Grant Holloway. When invited to participate, Holloway said he couldn’t be happier to attend.
“Try to come make somebody’s day,” Holloway said. “Small things only matter with the kids, so to come out here and to do this, it’s a chance of a lifetime.”
The students started the morning with their fathers and stand-ins, enjoying some quality time over breakfast. Both students and stand-in fathers smiled and laughed together as they got to know each other.
At C.W. Norton Elementary School, the students were also surprised by someone the district hopes students will look up to.
Pro Football Hall of Famer and former NFL coach Tony Dungy showed the students what hard work and dedication can bring you.
“To see kids have that time, whether it’s an hour, whether it’s 30 minutes, anything to bond with your dad is really neat,” Dungy said. “I just thought this was a great morning.”
Duval Early Learning Academy’s Principal Catherine Barnes said the bonding was exactly what she hoped would happen.
“What I don’t want every is for a child to feel like a big day happens or a big event happens at our school, and then they can’t be a part of it, because of family dynamics or other things.”