EVERETT — Liz Stevenson hopes to make a difference at the school.
Lately she’s been visiting Evergreen Middle School a few times per week. She’d like to be there for students who might need to talk to an adult.
“I know the kids want to see me,” Stevenson said. “Some just give me a hug and shed a tear.”
One of their classmates, Summer Rae Dolman, died by suicide in April. The seventh grader was Stevenson’s granddaughter.
About a month ago, Stevenson joined a group at the school called Watch D.O.G.S. It’s a national program that’s new to the middle school. The acronym stands for Dads of Great Students, although anyone can join.
Those interested in volunteering must be older than 18 and pass a background check. Applications are on the Everett Public Schools website. The idea is that more adults in schools can help reduce problems.
Young people might be afraid to tell someone when they see something wrong, Stevenson said.
“Bullying is just pushed aside. It’s very secretive,” she said.
She and Mike Desimone have been the only people to sign up for the program so far.
Desimone didn’t have any connection to the school. He moved to Everett about a year ago to be closer to his grandkids. He decided to spend his time volunteering after retiring from an electronics company in April.
He started visiting schools in the area to ask if they needed help. He met with Linda Taylor at Evergreen about a month ago. She signed him up that day.
Taylor is the school’s security officer and runs Watch D.O.G.S. She encourages everyone to join, but would like to see more father figures in the school.
“Women have been in the classroom,” she said. “We are just asking these guys to step up.”
Taylor has worked at the middle school for almost two years. She was a corrections officer before that.
“Being on both sides of the school system and the prison, this is where it needs to start,” she said.
Volunteers can choose when to come in. Desimone has been spending eight hours at the school each Wednesday.
Stevenson runs a sewing business and is able to be there during lunch and after school a few days each week. She still goes to clubs that Summer used to be a part of.
It can be difficult to visit the campus some days. Spending time with the students has helped.
Students and their families are invited to learn about Watch D.O.G.S. at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Evergreen Middle School. There will be free pizza and refreshments.
Others can apply at www.everettsd.org/volunteer.