At the beginning of recess it starts with a trickle of kids. Soon Glen Akers is surrounded by a sea of children and an endless stream of high fives.
"You’re like a celebrity out here,” said Akers. “All the kids want to say ‘hi,’ and give you high fives. It's really fulfilling.”
Akers is not your typical parent volunteer. He's a practical pied piper on the playground. And in the classroom, he gives one on one attention to kids who need it the most.
Akers takes time away from his trucking company to come to this Kent’s Soos Creek Elementary twice a week. It’s not just to see one his sons, who attends the school. He takes part of Watch D.O.G.S., which stands for Dads of Great Students, a program designed to engage fathers and grandfathers in school activities, and to inspire children.
Of the 60 staffers at Soos Creek Elementary, only five of them are men, including two janitors.
The principal says Akers helps to fill a simple but pivotal role.
"A lot of schools have a lot of single mothers, but not a lot of single dads who come in,” says Principal Patty Drobny. “So we have a lot of kids who don't have a positive role model, a male role model, in their lives.”
Nine elementary schools in the Kent School District have the Watch D.O.G.S. program. Akers is just one of more than 350 dads who volunteer each year.
When his son suggested he become a part of Watch D.O.G.S., Akers admits he was reluctant.
“I was kind of leery at first,” said Akers."Selfish reasons, I guess, of wanting to do my own thing.”
But after a couple of visits, his outlook changed, especially after seeing the impact he could have on certain kids, like 6 year old Jamil Thomas.
“Me and Mr. Akers are best friends,” said Thomas. "If someone doesn't have a friend, he will play with them.”
"Makes me wonder what their home life might be like, or what they're going through,” said Akers. “It's just great giving to the kids.”
To the teachers, he's a hero of the hallway too. At 6’1”, 280 pounds, Akers reminds kids to behave without saying a word.
"He's formidable,” said Drobny. “He's a big man. He steps into the room and all of a sudden kids quiet down, sit a little straighter.”
"I like how he plays games with people,” said 7 year old Kekoa Talaiga. “We play four square together, and just now we play basketball one-on-one.”
Akers can't really explain his appeal.
"Quite a few kids actually look for me, like ‘When are you coming again? When are you going to be here again?’”
Fortunately for the kids at this school, the answer is very soon.