Pictured: Students from William Adams Middle School work on an art project during the Dad/student Interdistrict Conference. MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

First interdistrict event held in Robstown

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Robstown - Nearly 1,000 parents and students participated in the First Interdistrict Dads/Student Grads Celebration at the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown on Wednesday.

Six area school district and 10 campuses participated in the three-hour event.

Alice ISD students included those from Dubose and Memorial intermediate schools, William Adams Middle School and Alice High School.

The districts participating belong to the Texas Education Agency's GEAR UP Students Training for Academic Readiness partnership grant and sponsored the event.

Fathers Active in Communities and Education (FACE) has implemented father/student programs in each of the districts.

Anabel Marquez took time from her busy work schedule to join her three daughters at the event and said spending time with her children is important. Her children said they enjoy sharing the games and lessons with their mom at the dad/student events.

"I have four kids, so I have to alternate. I've gone to maybe seven events the whole year. We try as much as we can to put some time in together," Marquez said.

Her daughter Joanna, in eighth grade, said her mother is always working so it's nice to have her there.

"She has a morning job, and then in the afternoon she has her other job, so she comes home from one and then changes for the other," Joanna said.

"It makes me feel like I know she loves me, and that she cares about my education," Carlie, Marquez's sixth grade daughter said.

The push to see success in post secondary education is one of the main goals of the program, organizers said.

Doris Teague, a contractor for the Texas Education Agency, said the purpose of the six-year grant is to follow students from seventh grade to graduation and provide college awareness to them and their parents.

"When both parents are involved, we know that students have a better chance at success because the students hear the same message over and over again. It's reinforced and supported, a lot of follow through. Dads seem to follow through very well," Teague said.

At first, it's difficult to get fathers involved because traditionally, Teague said, schools communicate with the mother. But they have been trying to break that mindset over the last few years with the dad/student program.

Jacob Gelista makes it a point to attend as many dad/student events as possible at Memorial Intermediate School, where his grandson Jason is a fifth-grade student.

"I've been coming to these since the beginning with my grandson, and they've been great. I like the activities they got; they got me closer to my grandson. He's with me all the time. He's been getting better grades since we've been communicating more," Gelista said.

In Jason's family, education is placed as the first priority. Gelista said it is important for Jason to interact with the other children at the these events, and that he gains a lot himself from the experience of working with other parents.

"I was kind of nervous at first. I didn't know what to expect. But as the months progressed, I think I came out of my shell and Jason came out of his, and now, we can't stop talking to each other, you know," Gelista said.

Jason has plans for himself.

"Coming to these meeting, they help me do better in school, and I have better grades now. I want to go to UT and become an engineer," Jason said.