Engagement Toolkit: Tips for building a school-based male engagement program


Research has proven that male involvement at school is important to student’s success. Henrico County Public Schools recognized this and through a planning grant in 2008, created the Henrico ManUp Fatherhood Initiative. Our objective is to strengthen families by inspiring men in Henrico to become better fathers to their children and role models to others in the community. We also hope to inspire men to be more engaged and involved at schools in Henrico. This will be accomplished through collaborative efforts of Henrico County Public Schools, families, and community partnerships.

This toolkit seeks to help schools in Henrico better understand how to build working relationships based on mutual respect and retain men in being positive figures for students. We do not promote father engagement at all costs. If there are times when a father’s involvement is not a positive presence in the life of the child or family that must be taken into consideration to move forward. However, there are too many times where this is not the case, and the father is not engaged.


Our mission is to actively engage men in order to enhance the well-being of students by increasing the number of children growing up with an involved, responsible, and committed father/male figure, through proactive and educational programs.

Why Male Involvement Matters

When men are involved in the lives of their children, especially their education, their children learn more, perform better in school, and exhibit healthier behavior. Even when fathers do not share a home with their children, their active involvement can have a lasting and positive impact.

• Preschoolers with actively involved fathers have stronger verbal skills.
Radin, N., 1982, “Primary Caregiving and Role-Sharing Fathers,” in Non-Traditional Families: Parenting and Child Development, edited by M. Lamb, Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum, pp. 173–204.

• Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Amato, P.R., and Rivera, F., 1999, “Paternal Involvement and Children’s Behavior Problems,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375–384.

• Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
Radin, N., and Russell, G., 1983, “Increased Father Participation and Child Development Outcomes,” in Fatherhood and Family Policy, edited by M.E. Lamb and A. Sagi, Hillside, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 191–218.

• Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
Biller, H.B. 1993, Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development, Westport, CT: Auburn House.

• Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Pruett, Kyle D. 2000. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. New York: Free Press.

Barriers for Engaging Men 

There are many barriers that negatively impact some men’s ability and/or perceived ability to be involved. It is important to recognize and acknowledge these barriers, while simultaneously working to find ways to navigate through them.

12 Steps to Engage and Involve Men at School 

  1. Create a school culture that is intentional about building relationships with fathers and other  men in the community.
  2. Provide school faculty and staff professional development opportunities to learn how to engage men.
  3. Create a “father friendly” environment at your school, especially in the front office.
  4. Talk with school faculty and staff about the needs of the school and how men can assist in those areas.
  5. Ask male faculty and staff to join committees and work directly with male volunteers.
  6. Identify and contact local businesses, fraternal organizations, civic groups or faith based organizations about sending male volunteers to help at the school.
  7. Get men connected with your school’s volunteer coordinator.
  8. Have men to complete the HCPS Volunteer/Mentor Application at the beginning of each school year.
  9. Provide several opportunities for men to attend volunteer training at the school. Offer training sessions at varied times to accommodate busy schedules.
  10. School administration and the volunteer coordinator should meet with men to discuss areas of need, and ideas for involvement at school. This is also a good time for men to ask any questions they may have.
  11. Empower men. Give them leadership roles on various school committees.
  12. Ask men to spread the word and recruit other men.


12 Ways Men Can be Involved at School 

  1. Walk students to school and/or class.
  2. Volunteer at the car loop during student drop off.
  3. Become a hallway monitor during student arrival.
  4. Read to students.
  5. Volunteer as a cafeteria monitor or lunch buddy.
  6. Visit and/or volunteer in the classroom.
  7. Tutor and/or mentor students.
  8. Volunteer in the front office.
  9. Join parent led groups/committees.
  10. Attend school events.
  11. Volunteer for a service project (i.e. landscaping or painting)
  12. Attend parent-teacher conferences.