32-year-old Anthony Trice was at Powers-Ginsburg Elementary to support his 6-year-old son. As well as any other kid who happened to be sitting at that table – Trice knows the difference his support and participation can make.

“Me growing up, I didn’t have a lot of support in schools. So I try to make sure my kids have 100 percent support in everything that they do,” Trice said.

Parents like Trice were celebrated during a recent Father’s Day event held at 18 elementary schools in the Fresno Unified School District. The event was sponsored by the districts new office of African-American Academic Acceleration.

“Parent engagement equals academic engagement and we are looking for ways to get our kids more motivated and also help parents engage better so this is to celebrate the parents who are already engaged, the fathers who are already engaged to help the fathers who are not engaged to visit the site get to know the teachers,” Director Wendy McCulley said.

The event was held in partnership with United Black Men of Fresno, the organization is working to encourage more African-American men to take leadership roles in their community and children’s lives.

“It’s all part of a broader event of transforming our kids in our community because African-American children are failing completely,” said Kehinde Solwazi of United Black Men of Fresno.

The numbers aren’t good. Only 20 percent of African-American students in Fresno Unified are proficient in English and 12 percent proficient in math.

McCulley said, “We need parents to advocate on behalf of their kids; we need parents to visit the school and establish relationships with other parents, teachers and administrators and really encourage their kids.”

If you want to know the difference being there can make, listen to Salvador Hernandez talk about his stepdad.

“When he comes, he makes me do things that I don’t usually do in school – like I do my work fast. I’m all happy with a big smile on my face,” Salvador said.

That’s why Ruben Cabrera wasn’t going to miss this Father’s Day event. He went to work early that morning at 3 a.m. so he could take off to be at his stepson’s school.

It was worth it.

Cabrera said, “Once I walk through the door, he was seeing me and his smile – he was happy, and I felt that’s what he needed. I was enjoying myself just to be here with him and just that smile makes a big difference.”