Empowering young fathers: The Dovetail Project celebrates spring graduates

On the city's South Side, one nonprofit organization is teaching young men the responsibilities of fatherhood.

The Dovetail Project, whose mission is ‘better fathers, brighter futures,’ celebrated its spring graduates on Thursday evening.

While focusing on young fathers in underrepresented communities, the nonprofit gives some men the second chance to be involved in their children's lives and provides others with the resources needed to be even more present.

Held at the South Shore Cultural Center, graduates and their families celebrated the achievement.

"I’m extremely proud of our 27th class and cohort," said Sheldon Smith, founder & executive director, The Dovetail Project.

The organization’s spring Class of 2024 is made up of 33 men who are accepting the powerful responsibility of promising to provide their children with better futures.

"Oftentimes we don’t talk about fathers unless it’s Father’s Day," said Smith.

In 2009, when Smith became a father at the age of 21, he founded the nonprofit.

"That’s what pushed me to work with young dads," said Smith.

The program gives young Black and Latino fathers the support they need to make a positive impact on their kids’ lives.

"They’ve achieved something in their lives in front of their families and it means everything in the world to them."

Through its transformative 12-week program, The Dovetail Project focuses on three objectives: quality time, employment, and education.

"I didn’t have my father in my life like that, he was in and out, so I just needed someone I could talk to, relate to, how I could be effective in my son’s life," said Marcus Hutchinson, graduate.

After successfully completing the program, the young fathers – who are all between the ages of 17 and 24 – are ready to continue their schooling, enter trade programs, or embark on job opportunities.

"I’m taking my GED classes, I’m giving my family a better life," said Christian Garcia, graduate.

An important step – toward strong outcomes.

"I took away that I’m really important in his life, and how to be patient. It’s not about me anymore, it’s about my son first," said Hutchinson.

Since The Dovetail Project was founded, more than 700 young men have made the commitment to invest in their children and families.

"Don’t give up," said Garcia. "Keep on trying, look for your resources, reach out for the stars, because only you are able to keep going."

The Dovetail Project holds two sessions each year. The next session is scheduled for this fall and there is still time to apply.

The deadline to submit an application is Friday, Sept. 6. Learn more about the application process by clicking HERE.