CAMDEN, NJ—It was standing room only inside the cafeteria at Cooper’s Poynt Family School on Tuesday morning, as dozens of fathers and their children filled the seats at every table.

It was the Camden City School District’s [CCSD] Dads Take Your Child to School Day, and the turnout at Cooper’s Poynt overwhelmed Acting Superintendent Katrina McCombs.

“I am so overwhelmed because it's wonderful to see fathers with their children,” McCombs said. “Not because I’m surprised, I know that we have positive fathers, and uncles and grandfathers in our neighborhoods.”

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The annual event takes place across a number of CSSD and acknowledges the critical part fathers and male role models play in their child’s education.

Manny Arce walked his daughter, 8-year-old Jaylina, to school, to see her be happy.

“We were walking today, and she was laughing,” Arce said. “That’s the type of father I am. I want to be there for her and make sure she’s OK.”

Cooper’s Poynt Principal Janine Casella said it was largest turnout she had witnessed in her three years working at the school.

“I think it gives the kids an opportunity to see that their father is an important figure in their life,” Casella said. “They need to be acknowledged.”

The dads who participated were treated to bagels, pastries and coffee. Pastor Amir Khan, of the Nehemiah Group, also spoke to the dads in attendance.

“You are the foundation in your child's life,” Khan said. “The foundation is the most important part of this building. If the foundation is cracked, this building will be condemned … so be there, sacrifice, do whatever you got to do.”

Casella said that while typically mothers are the ones picking up or dropping off children at school, she sees some fathers on a daily basis as well.

“I think [the children] are beginning to see how important it is that their father came with them today. Just that role in general, I think sometimes is kind of diffused because the moms are involved in everything,” Casella said.

Luis Reyes said he drops off his son, Xavier, for kindergarten every morning, and his wife picks him up for school. Reyes, who has seven children and attended Cooper’s Poynt Family School himself when was a kid, said this was the first year he stayed for the festivities.

“Because of my son, he’s pushy,” Reyes said with a laugh.

There is a flip side to the day, said Casella, and that’s the children who’ father may not have been able to make it, or may not a male presence in their life.

“That’s where we’ll have to pick up some pieces,” Casella said. “I’m sure there are some kids very sad right now that their dad wasn’t here.”

Reyes said he makes sure in his family, that doesn’t happen.

“In Camden, you’ve got to be around your kids. You can’t leave them alone,” Reyes said.