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Million Father March rallies support for Isenberg students

SALISBURY — Isenberg Elementary students arrived at school Wednesday to a chorus of manly cheers.

Two lines of men lined the sidewalk leading into the building, clapping, cheering and handing out high-fives to every child who walked through. The group was made up of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, pastors, local athletes and fraternity brothers.

“We want our kids to have the opportunity to see positive (male role models),” Principal Marvin Moore said.

The showing was part of a national gathering — and Isenberg tradition — known as the Million Father March. It seeks to get fathers and men from the community more involved in local schools and their children’s education.

“A lot of time men don’t feel comfortable at school,” Moore said. “So we want to let them know they’re welcome.”

Many people think of school as a traditionally female environment, but schools need men, too — be it as teachers or volunteers, he said. Some children, Moore explained, have never had a male role model or have absentee fathers. Programs like the Million Father March can help correct that.

“It’s a wide gamut of emotions for kids,” Moore said. “You’ve got a lot of kids who have never experienced this before.”

During a short presentation after all the students arrived, Moore encouraged the men to get more involved — to come have lunch with their children or to volunteer with the school. Having more men involved in school can help inspire students or improve behavior, he said.

“I want the fathers to know this isn’t possible without them,” Moore said.

And seeing men in a positive light or men who are successful can show students what their future could look like. Moore said that when he was a child, he never had an African-American man as a principal, so he never considered that as a possible career until he was much older.

“Nobody showed me that it was OK to do that,” Moore told the group.

But fathers and other male role models can change that, he said. Moore asked the group to think about their strengths and encouraged them to volunteer — whether it be helping fix things around the school, helping with a carpentry project or reading to students.

“There are gifts that you have that you can give to any kid in our building. Trust me, they need them,” he said. “If you don’t work with them now, you will have to deal with them later.”

The group also got the chance to tour the school and visit classrooms. Moore asked the men to think about what they were seeing and how they might be able to help.

Fathers and others said they were happy to see what is happening at Isenberg. Brian Avery, who has a son in kindergarten, had just finished a 12-hour night shift before Wednesday’s gathering.

“I really wanted to know what my son was doing in school,” Avery said.

And if he could have a positive impact in another child’s life, that would be icing on the cake.

“I love it,” he said.

Horatio Everhart is a local community organizer and advocate. He doesn’t have a child who attends Isenberg but said he thinks it is important to be involved in schools, regardless.

“This is our future,” he said of the students.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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