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Students and parents at P.S. 242 in Harlem enjoyed a very special start to the year on Wednesday when New York State governor David Paterson spoke in their auditorium in honor of “Dads Take Your Child To School Day.”

The initiative, advocated by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, is an extension of a national campaign by the Black Star Project for Black fathers to accompany their children to the first day of school and take greater responsibility for their education. Parents and children of all races were in attendance for the governor’s speech.

“Education is not just for the mothers to be involved in, it’s for the whole family,” said Paterson. He urged fathers and father figures to keep bringing their children to school and stay involved by helping with homework.

Paterson, a Black father himself, also emphasized the need for students to take their studies seriously.

“Whatever your dreams are, whatever you see yourself being when you grow up, you need an education to get there,” he said. “In this terrible economy, it’s a fact that the ones who lost their jobs first are the ones who didn’t get as much education.”

Paterson went on to highlight his administration’s commitment to education, and to ask that students remember to give back to their communities even after they finish with school.

Despite the governor’s current political problems—from dangerously low approval ratings to controversial remarks on race—the crowd welcomed him warmly and his words were received with enthusiastic applause. His speech reflected nationwide attention on education, as it came on the heels of President Barack Obama’s televised address to the country’s schoolchildren.

Parents at P.S. 242, several of whom wore “Dads Take Your Child To School Day” t-shirts, appreciated Paterson’s message and the impact the initiative could potentially have—especially on male students in need of strong and involved role models.

“It’s great, it should be encouraged,” said one father who routinely brings his children to school. “A lot of our Black and Latino boys really need it.”