RBR fatherhoodGuest speaker Matthew P. Stevens conducted several interactive exercises with RBR fathers and their sons during the “Fatherhood Initiative” program at Red Bank Regional.

Press release from Red Bank Regional High School

What happens when fathers are not at home?  That phenomenon accounts for 90 percent of the homeless and runaway children; 71 percent of high school dropouts, 75 percent of youth with chemical dependence, 70 percent of the incarcerated juveniles; and a five-fold increase in the suicide rate.

To mitigate these dire statistics, a group of Red Bank Regional High School fathers were invited to come to their son’s school earlier this month, to take part in “The Fatherhood Initiative” — an evening of activities and discussion  to explore ways in which they can play a more active role in their child’s education.

“You are the secret weapon,” Matthew P. Stevens told his audience of more than thirty fathers at the event, which was sponsored by the Boys 2 Men group at the school-based SOURCE program. An educator and consultant on the subject of youth and family development, Stevens is the author of several books, including Raising Him Alone: Things Black Women Can Do to Raise Boys to be Men.

As RBR Principal Risa Clay told the fathers in attendance, “This is your school building…we are here for you and it is vital that you have a voice at our school.”

She added, “As the mother of two sons, I know there is nothing more important for them than to have a steady male influence in their lives.”

The Fatherhood Initiative program was conducted simultaneously with parent-teacher conferences, and many of the dads also used the opportunity to meet with their sons’ teachers beforehand.

Stevens enumerated what he called “the three most important things” dads could do with their sons to enhance their academic achievement. The first one cited is to read to them often (he explained that college-bound students should read at least 25 books a year) — and he specifically recommended they read Sean Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens with their sons.

Second, he suggested they read the New York Times, because the finest writers in the world write for the Times, and would expose the young men to good writing skills. Third, he advised the fathers on the use of technology— celebrating it for all its value, including e-books, research and Skype — but also cautioning them to monitor their use of social media and their cell phones, stating, “Don’t subscribe to the notion that your children have privacy. They don’t! You bought the phone and pay the phone bill.” Most of all, he encouraged the fathers to just do things with their sons.

“The time goes by so fast,” he stated. “Take him to games and engage him. Fathers do make a difference, and you make a difference.”

Sean Macon, the Boys 2 Men facilitator and SOURCE clinician, used the opportunity to familiarize the fathers with the myriad of school tools and services to help them guide their children including an on-line parent portal where they can see their grades and assignments. He also encouraged them to seek out the many tutoring programs available through both the school and the SOURCE.

RBR’s Boys 2 Men program offers an interactive forum for young males featuring discussions and programs on topics that encourage responsibility and accountability in all areas of their lives. Such topics include: maturity and growth, family relationships, the importance of education, career planning, fatherhood — as well as the life choices that can either empower an individual, or lead to devastating consequences.