A father and son bond during a Men’s Day event at Garfield Elementary School in Maywood earlier this month. | Photos by Shanel Romain/VFP
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
There’s something of a micro-revelation happening at Garfield Elementary School, 1514 S. 9th Ave., in Maywood, and it’s led by two men, Vincent Fields and Vernel Brown.
The two men, both fathers of students at the schools, comprise virtually the only male presence on Garfield’s PTO, but what they lack in numbers they make up for in energy and ambition.
Fields and Brown, the PTO’s vice president and president, respectively, are determined to get more men involved in the school’s affairs and the lives of its students.
Last April, they organized a Men’s Day at the school. The event involved at least two dozen male community members — from police officers and firemen to village trustees — greeting students on the playground as they streamed into the building to start the school day (there were also women in attendance).
Maywood police officers, firemen and elected officials were among the many male figures who came out for the second annual Men’s Day on May 9.
“Every morning, we see a multitude of women dropping off their kids. Now, I know there are a lot of kids who come from single-parent families, but there are men in their lives,” said Fields during last year’s event.
“I’ve learned from working with kids that when you have a male presence, especially first thing in the morning, kids have a different attitude throughout the day,” said Brown, the director of Atmosphere of Tumbling (a local performing arts organization for young people), during last year’s Men’s Day.
During an interview last year, Marsha Alexander, Garfield’s principal, said that she told Fields and Brown that she and her staff would benefit from a stronger male presence.
“So they took that and ran with it,” Alexander said.
District 89 Supt. David Negron, left, with Garfield Principal Marsha Alexander during Men’s Day on May 9.
And this year, they’ve gained momentum.
They organized a second annual Men’s Day on May 9. And just several days earlier, on May 5, they hosted a Father Daughter Dance in the school’s gymnasium.
“This is Garfield’s first Father Daughter ball,” said Alexander during the event earlier this month. “Since last year, we’ve wanted to try to get more parents, especially men, involved in our school community and what better way to get them to do so than to celebrate their little girls.”
Lee Brown with his daughter, Leeshatin Brown, during the Father Daughter dance on May 5.
“I love it! I wish we didn’t have to leave,” said Garfield student Leeshatin Brown, who giddily danced with her father, Lee Brown.
“This is most important for the kids,” said Rev. Marvin E. Wiley, pastor of Rock of Ages Baptist Church in Maywood, whose daughter works at Garfield. “Bringing the kids together, especially for the fathers and male figures in their lives, and letting them see their kids in this atmosphere, is so important.”
Joel Robinson was at the May 5 dance with his two granddaughters. “I’m always going to support my grand babies,” he said. “Any time, any day, I’m right there. They ain’t got to ask but once.”
Fields said that he and Brown came up with the concept, which the rest of the PTO got behind. More than 170 people attended the ball.
“This is to show that we can do better than what we see out there in the world right now,” Fields said. “We want to show our kids that the men in their lives are here to support them.”
Vincent Fields, left, vice president of the Garfield PTO, and Vernel Brown, the PTO’s president, during the May 5 dance.
Ashford James, an instructional aid at Garfield who danced with his daughter, Aamina, praised the the event as a model of community collaboration.
“This is exactly what our community needs,” James said. “We need more fathers involved and more people coming together as a community.”
If Brown and Fields have their way, there will be a lot more of that in the future. VFP
Shanel Romain contributed to this report.
Vernel Brown, Supt. Negron, Vincent Fields and Maywood Police Chief Valdmir Talley during the May 9 Men’s Day event at Garfield.