A Life Full of Fathers, Families and Children
Although her children, 35 and 27, moved out of the house years ago, Holly Zwerling says she’s never felt like an “empty nester.”
“Because of the work I do, my life is so full of fathers, families, and children,” she says.
Holly is the founder, President, and CEO of the Fatherhood Task Force of South Florida (FTFSF).
“I founded the organization to facilitate increased involvement of fathers and other male role models in the lives of our children,” Holly says.
The FTFSF is based in Miami.
“I’m a family therapist, social worker, and community advocate by profession,” Holly says.
“So it was easy for me to recognize an unmet need in our community.”
“There simply weren’t programs geared toward increasing the involvement of fathers in childrens’ lives.”
Backed by Research
Holly says her dual degrees, combined with her therapy, social work, and advocacy experience in the field, gave her a deep appreciation for the importance of father involvement in the lives of children.
“The research shows that when fathers are involved in the education of children, the children make better grades. They’re better decision makers and problem solvers. They’re more empathetic.”
“There’s no doubt that when fathers are involved, it’s a good thing.”
So, Holly says, she decided to dedicate her work towards promoting the cause in her community.
“I went to public meetings, school events, anywhere I thought engaged fathers and others would be who I could recruit to get my Task Force off the ground,” Holly says.
“We made it happen.”
Fathers In Education Day
Throughout the year, the Task Force hosts dozens of interactive workshops, continuing education programs, and support groups—each with the goal of helping men forge closer and more productive relationships with the children in their lives.
A flagship program: “Fathers in Education Day.”
The initiative is a partnership between the FTFSF and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office of Community Engagement.
May 11 will be the fourth annual event, Holly says.
“We’re asking every K-12 school in Miami-Dade County—392 in total—to invite fathers, brothers, uncles, coaches, and other male mentors and role models to read a book, tell a story, or share another activity with students,” Holly says.
“We’re also asking businesses to give their male employees the time off, with compensation, to participate in this social responsibility event.”
“’Fathers in Education Day’ is an all-out effort to raise awareness about the importance of fathers in the academic and social lives of their children.”
A Similar Lifetime Of Service
Holly’s dedication to her cause has inspired others in the Miami community to volunteer their time as well.
Like Holly, father-of-four Gregory Williams has based his life’s work on service.
He served 24 years in the United States Army.
Today, he is police officer with the Miami-Dade County Schools Police Department, and an active member of the Fatherhood Task Force.
Joining the Squad
Gregory first met Holly 5 years ago.
She was speaking about her Task Force at a parenting workshop he attended.
“I knew immediately it was something I wanted to be a part of,” Gregory says.
Gregory joined the Task Force’s “Fatherhood Reading Squad.” Every other week, he visits an elementary school to read to students.
“I could see the positive effect I was having on the kids, even that very first time,” Gregory says.
Although Gregory’s own children are adults—ranging in age from 21 to 28—he says he feels his responsibilities as a male role model extend beyond just his home.
“I see the schools and our community as an extension of my family.”
Another Standout Dad
Henri Francois has two daughters—ages 18 and 7.
Three years ago, while attending a school open house for his younger daughter, someone handed him a flyer.
It was Holly Zwerling.
“I got the flyer about the Task Force’s Fatherhood Reading Squad, I got in touch with Holly, and I’ve been involved ever since,” Henri says.
“I could tell immediately it was going to be something great.”
Henri also volunteers his time each week to read in elementary school classrooms.
He says he loves reading to the children as much as they love his visits.
“The students are so excited when I come to their class,” Henri says.
“The appreciation they have for me feels wonderful, and keeps me coming back week after week.”
A Big Anniversary
This May, the Task Force will celebrate its seventh anniversary.
“I am so proud,” Holly says, “of the work we’ve done to create opportunities for men to enrich the lives of children.”
“We are truly changing the perception that young people have of the males in their lives. And that the men have of themselves, too.”
Recently, Holly says she ran into a member of her Task Force on the metro.
“He said to me, ‘Holly, I want to thank you for making me realize how much I matter.’”
“And I thought: ‘That’s exactly why I’m doing this.’”
Pearson is proud to partner with the Fatherhood Taskforce of South Florida for “Fathers in Education Day” on May 11.