Father figures seeing progress with FIRE initative in RCSD schools

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — A group of Rochester dads is doing their part to help stop the violence in schools and encourage students in the city in a positive way.

The volunteers are a part of the group F.I.R.E also known as Fathers Initiating Restorative Engagement
Operation F.I.R.E started about two weeks ago, with dads taking time out of their day to come to the schools every Monday.

Right now, the mission and plan is for these father figures to be an ear for the students and help get schools more safe.

“At first the students treat you like some adult that doesn’t belong and then once they see we’re from the community, it’s nice to see the students that know us from the community break the wall,” volunteer Mitchell Harris said.

These community fathers and male figures will soon be a familiar presence to these students.

“Once they figure out that we’re here to just welcome them, say hi, that we’re supporting you and our community then they’re more open to converse with us,” Harris said.

Harris has been leading the charge at Franklin High. While his kids are no longer in school, he wanted to be role model for the community and other students in the district.

“We want to make sure the students know that we still believe in them and even though there’s a lot of things going on, we’re still here for them,” Harris said.

The volunteers say it’s just one small step, whether it’s a fist bump, handshake, or hello to make positive changes while students get an education.

“We’re growing slow but we’re doing it the right way think so you can see that we’re making progress,” RCSD Director of Youth Engagement Tony Jordan said.

Jordan said right now they are focusing on Franklin High and Edison Tech because those two have seen an uptick in recent violence. He said so far the students are receptive.

“For one of the lunch breaks we sat down and played Uno with a group of students so it’s been really good a cool opportunity to just go hang out with students,” Jordan said.

Now that it’s in full force, their goal is to double volunteers and make an impact for these students for years to come.

“It’s more important that students see their friends’ fathers here. It builds up a community,” Harris said. “It builds up a sense of family and when you have a sense of family with the fathers in place it just gives them a great model for how things are supposed to be."

Jordan said the goal is to expand to all RCSD schools and make this a more common occurrence for more than just one day a week. He said to make that happen they need more volunteers.

If you are interested in volunteering, you can reach out by email at fire@rcsdk12.org or call 585-262-8362.