Bay Ridge

Bay Ridge’s P.S. 102 boasts high number of male volunteers

Learning Leaders group says dads tutor kids, coach sports, join P.T.A.

May 14, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Volunteer Brian Doherty and his daughters get set to enjoy a talent show at P.S. 102. Photo courtesy of Learning Leaders

Fathers are becoming more and more involved in the education of their children, according to a nonprofit group that works to get families and community leaders to take an active interest in New York City public schools.

Learning Leaders, the group that runs volunteer programs in more than 200 schools in New York, said P.S. 102 in Bay Ridge is an example of the growing trend of dads becoming an important presence in their kids’ schools.

P.S. 102, at 211 72nd St., boasts one of the highest numbers of male volunteers in the Learning Leaders program, according to the group.

Nine out of 68 Learning Leaders volunteers at P.S. 102 are men — more than 13 percent. Citywide, between 7 and 8 percent of the group’s volunteers in schools are men at any given time.

The high number is a result of the commitment by P.S. 102’s administration to welcome dads and male community members, according to Learning Leaders. The organization’s leaders point to the fact that the school provides a variety of opportunities for getting involved that fit in with men’s particular skillsets. Educators also work to assure men that they have a valuable role to play.

The male volunteers work with students one-on-one as classroom tutors, run clubs and workshops on everything from flag football to astronomy, and are active members of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The guys also help with special projects such as read aloud events and working in the school’s vegetable garden. Currently, the volunteers are helping create a mural at the school.

One of P.S. 102’s Learning Leaders is Brian Doherty, is a retired New York City cop and father of threeDoherty’s youngest daughter is a second grader. His older children have moved on to middle schools. Doherty began volunteering at P.S. 102 in 2012. He tutors fourth graders in reading and writing and helps out at school clubs and events. The busy dad is also vice president of the PTA.

“Volunteering in the classroom has been a very fulfilling experience for me, enabling me to get more involved in my daughters’ lives while continuing to serve my community.” Doherty said in a statement. “I admire Learning Leaders’ ability to identify and provide help to the children that really need it, as NYC’s school system is huge and it can be easy for students to fall through the gaps otherwise.”

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Doherty said he and other fathers feel comfortable at P.S. 102 in large part because of the welcoming they received from Margaret Sheri, the school’s parent coordinator.

“Dads are often reluctant to get involved, even when they do have the time, because the traditional view is still that women run this aspect of family life. However, there is a place for men in schools, and Ms. Sheri welcomes and values dads,” he said. 

Sheri called Doherty “an asset to our school community,” and said the retired cop brings energy and ambition to whatever project he’s working on.

“He has a lot of energy and great ideas and is committed to making our students’ learning experiences excellent and memorable,” she said.

Having male and female Learning Leaders working side by side at P.S. 102 has many benefits, according to the organization. The mix enables a wider range of skills to be introduced to the students, provides the kids with important male role models and strengthens the entire school community, education experts said.

The experience is equally rewarding for the male volunteers, who develop skills needed to support their own children’s academic development. 

“Male volunteers add a great dynamic to the school’s learning environment and community, and we actively encourage their involvement,” Sheri said. “Dads are attracted by the Learning Leaders program as it provides training and offers lots of choices for helping out, enabling them to bring their individual talents to the table.” 

Founded in 1956, Learning Leaders is the city’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging families and communities to support students. The organization has 4,000 volunteers working in public schools across the five boroughs.

Learning Leaders also offers family education workshops to help parents foster their children’s education.



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