Seven years ago, Sheldon Smith learned he would be a father at the age of 20. After experiencing a childhood with a father who was in and out of his life, Smith decided it was time to break the cycle that continues in his community.
According to U.S. Census Data, nearly half of African-American children grow up without a father in the household. Smith wanted to give young fathers a way to prepare for the road ahead.
Thus, the Chicago native founded the Dovetail Project, a program that works to prepare young dads to be the best they can be, while also improving their parenting skills.
The organization works to increase the amount of quality time fathers spend with their children, provide skills needed to secure employment opportunities and ensure that these men are either enrolled in school or working toward a GED.
“The thing I love most about the Dovetail Project is that it’s not a mandatory program,” Smith told CNN. “These young men are really volunteering to get the help and support they need.”
The 12-week program was developed through research by Smith and even includes a lesson on Felony Street Law to help the men avoid incarceration. Since 2010, close to 300 men have completed the program.
Recent graduate Corey Lennore called The Dovetail Project a godsend. Not only does the organization provide life skills for the men, but it also gives them a sense of encouragement and reassurance.
“We motivate each other. We do job searches together. It’s a great thing,” Lennore said.
On June 15, The Dovetail Project graduated it’s 15th Fatherhood Training Class. To apply to become a student, go to the website at thedovetailproject.org.