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All Pro Dad program helps fathers earn an 'A' in bonding with kids

LARGO — For at least 30 minutes each month, you can find Eric Kemerer spending one-on-one time with his daughter Amy at Ridgecrest Elementary.

The two eat breakfast, chat and do some activities together.

But they're not alone. They are usually surrounded by other fathers and their children, who also are spending time together.

Welcome to All Pro Dad, an effort founded by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy that organizes monthly breakfasts and activities in schools for fathers and their children to help them bond.

"This program is a great opportunity for me to learn about her and for her to learn about me," said Kemerer, who lives in Safety Harbor and is the human resource director for Bright House Networks.

That's just what Charles Derexson like to hear.

Student success rate in school is "higher when fathers get involved," said Derexson, a member of the executive board of the Pinellas County Council PTA/PTSA.

He started Ridgecrest Elementary's chapter of All Pro Dad in 2005. The program has chapters in 46 states with 244 chapters in Florida, according to its website.

Derexson, who also works as a bookkeeper at Ridgecrest, first embraced parental involvement in education when he volunteered at his stepsons' school. For the past 15 years he has been involved in the local, county and state Parent Teacher Associations. Currently he is legislative chair for the PCCPTA.

A former restaurant manager, Derexson changed careers and was hired as Ridgecrest's volunteer coordinator six years ago, before becoming the school bookkeeper a year later. He was named Pinellas County school district's Support Person of the Year earlier this year.

At a recent All Pro Dad breakfast, Derexson showed students how they can help their families set up tables for upcoming Thanksgiving feasts. Dads got different lessons.

"They featured some videos from the All Pro Dad program. They're mostly inspirational," Kemerer said. "It puts life in perspective — the meaning of what it is to have family, the importance of the role of being a dad, and how much our children look to us to be role models. It's a great reminder of how much our kids mean to us."

An average of 60 to 80 dads have attended the sessions at any given time, Derexson said. But any male relatives is welcome, he said.

"At this day and age, an older brother, an uncle, a male cousin, a grandfather, any male involvement is a huge opportunity for kids," Derexson said.

Ridgecrest principal Donna Benkert appreciates the program for bringing the whole school together.

"We are a magnet school, but we also have a general (education) population, so this was a program that appeals to both populations," she said.

Kemerer also likes the monthly breakfasts because they help keep him up to date on what is going on at school. "Charles Derexson would make announcements regarding school activities, and they remind me to stay connected with school as well," he said. "Not only does that benefit me and my daughter, but it benefits the school as well."

But more than anything, Kemerer says, All Pro Dad events have become special moments with his daughter. "Having that one-on-one time makes it very unique. It's hard to schedule that time," he said. "This is a way to force us to do it, but it forces us in a way that we enjoy doing it."

. fast facts

All Pro Dads

These Pinellas County public schools have All Pro Dad chapters. For more information, visit allprodad.com.

Clearwater: Ponce De Leon, Leila Davis and Belcher elementaries; Life Force Arts and Technical Academy (charter school).

Dunedin: Dunedin, Curtis Fundamental and Garrison Jones elementaries; Dunedin Middle School.

Largo: Fuguitt, Anona, and Walsingham elementaries; Largo High School and Plato Academy (charter school).

Madeira Beach: Madeira Beach Fundamental.

St. Petersburg: Bay Vista Fundamental, North Shore, Northwest, Sanderlin, Sexton, Shore Acres, 74th Street and Westgate elementaries.

All Pro Dad program helps fathers earn an 'A' in bonding with kids 11/26/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 26, 2011 3:23pm]
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