Dovetail Project
Podcast #125 — Aired April 24, 2017

Good fathers can help create a better world. That’s the goal of Sheldon Smith, the founder of Dovetail Project, a non-profit with a mission to give young African American fathers the skills they need to be good fathers and good men in their communities. On this episode of BetterWorldians Radio, we’ll chat with Smith about the programs his non-profit offers to help young men be the best fathers they can be.

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Sheldon Smith
Founder, Dovetail Project

Sheldon Smith became interested in community service at a young age. He grew up with his father in and out of his life, so when his daughter was born when he was 20, Sheldon decided to break the cycle of fatherlessness, so he founded Dovetail Project, a non-profit with a mission to give young African American fathers the skills and support they need to be good fathers for their children and good men in their communities. Since 2010, 245 young men have completed The Dovetail Project Program.

 

Episode Transcript

Raymond Hansell
Hi, welcome to BetterWorldians Radio! Betterworldians Radio is a weekly podcast whose mission is to uplift and inspire you to make the world a better place, Im Craig Hansel, betterwoldians radio is brought to you by the betterwoldians foundation. And is co-hosted by the family team that created popular social game on facebook called a better world it rewards players for doing good deeds while being able to raise money and awareness for charities today over 40 million good deed has been done in a better world by more than 4 million people in over 100 countries ,this week on betterworldians radio we welcome Sheldon Smith. Founder of the dovetail project an non profitable with a mission to give young African American fathers the skill and support they need to be good fathers and good men in their communities. Sheldon became interested in community services at a young age, he grew up with his father in and out of his life, so when his daughter was born when he was 20, Sheldon decided to break the cycle of fatherlessness. Since 2010 , 245 young men have completed the dovetail program, Hi Sheldon and welcome to better worldians radio

Sheldon
Hey!, Hello how are you?

Graig
Great great, thank you for joining us, So I know you were inspired to start the dovetail project at fairly young age, can you tell our listeners anything about starting it?

Sheldon
Yeah so I was inspired to start the dovetail project, I grew up doing community organize across the country in an organizations by the name of MAGIC which is a short acronym for metropolice area group incorporate civilization. And it was a good organization while learned all about immigration ,HIV and AIDS Juvilian violence, education and just help in going around to do rallies to create policy for those issues or a lot of the people throughout our community and across the country, but in me doing that work, My father was in and out of my life, I had a lot of great mentors and the founder of the organization MAGIC Doctor Joseph stricklen gave me an opportunity to develop the dovetail project under his umbrella, and yeah thats what led me to where I am today.

Craig
thats great story, So whats the mission of the dove tail project?

Sheldon
The dovetail project is the initiative to teach young African American fathers between the age of 17 and 24, parenting skills, life skills, and felony street law and when the fathers complete the program, they receive a job, a GD or trade along with 300$

Craig
Oh thats great, wheres the title of the dovetail project come from?

Sheldon
So Dovetail means to bring things together and one of the things it wants to bring together his father and children, I didnt want to name it the fatherhood institute or anything like that because I wanted to give it its own unique branding spaceGraig : Sure!

Craig
I think thats a great name !

Sheldon
Thank you !

Craig
Yeah Thank you, so how do you select young men to participate in the program

Sheldon
So we go out through the communities across the city of Chicago and we recruit young men by giving letters to join the program, giving them an opportunity to being doing right, submit an application to the organization and once we receive the application one of the staff members reaches out to them and give them an opportunity to come meet at the dorm and join the orientation screening session where we understand the fathers needs, what they need, are we a great fit for them and why are they great fit to us, what would the organization send them to get the help and support they need.

Graig
Its wonderful that you do that as well. So I know that the program is broken into three different segments, Id like to talk about each of those, the first I know is about the law; street law and family law So can you tell us about that aspect and why it is so critical?

Sheldon
yeah so the felony street law can become critical because the young men that we serve who are fathers between the age of 17 to 24, you cant talk about parenting and fatherhood if you dont talk about, avoiding the criminal justice system, you know all young men who are fathers when we look at fatherhood and the community that they come from, they come from urban environment where you know the interact with the police is extremely hot so at one point when talking about street law we talk about how to avoid the criminal justice system, we bring a lot of police officers to speak to them as well and other portion of felony street law we look at family law and how being on child support can make you lose your license or you can be sent to jail, and also you want to do, go to court and get custody for your children or go on a plan of guarding-ship as a father too as well. So you know that is one particular component that we use to inform the young men also were making sure theres an organization that we allowed them an opportunity to understand the laws that may whirlpool them into the incarceration system .

Graig
So I know the second segment of the program is about career and finance

Sheldon
Yeah so the second segment is life skills and with that life skills we go resume building, time, soft skills we do mock interviews so we have employers come in and do interviews with each one of the students individually to help critique them and we look at financial literacy, what is a check account, saving account, receiving account, you know different ways to finance different things. And what is a great credit score, these are the things that often times, young people you know you wind up missing up and doing something without understanding that youd need to credit to house your life, to buy a home or whatever you want to participate in, purchase a car, so when we look at budgeting tools and have them think about how to manage and spend their money when it comes to children and families.

Craig
thats such a great education you know, so easy to make those mistakes, when youre young and not understanding how those choice that youd make which just seems about having fun, have this repercussions later on in life, thats wonderful that you do that as well.

Sheldon
Thank you!

Graig
Sure! So I know the final segment of course is all about fatherhood, what do you exactly focus on in that?

Sheldon
so for our young men who come to our program they are mandated to come they are mandated to come on time to be part of our program and 90% had fathers who were in and out of their lives so theyre really starting behind me and we want fatherhood because thats the reason why my father actually came to the program to learn how to be a better dad and before we talk about fatherhood we talk about manhood we talk about what is manhood and how do you identify the word Man and what does it mean to be a man we saw that before you can say fatherhood thats who they are Men and being able to engage fatherhood and we talk about the dos and donts and how to effectively communicate to your child we look at the development of the child when the child is in the [ ] the importance of talking to your baby and what youre reading to your baby and just being active and being there for some of them for their wives and for the other ones and for the mother of their children, and yeah just really engage and let them know that fatherhood doesnt come with a map or a manual, fatherhood it is not blue, green or orange it is to express that to them so they know it, as their parenting that often times as parents we make mistakes too as well and its okay to make mistakes and you know its just critical that you continue to overcome these mistakes and continue to stay in all the childrens lives and for us thats very important and for me personally as the founder of the organization. You know I do this work because I was the kid who was brought up with a father in and out of his life and I really do want to teach them so they won't grow up having the same experience. The only way you can engage to children is engaging the parent and often times we talk about parents people typically think of the mothers and not the fathers but the fathers need help and support too as well so thats our goal and the parents taking part.

Craig
thats amazing work youre doing it as a father myself I know that theres no manual you get some advice from people you read some books but in the end of the day you have no idea what youre doing and youre just taking the shot and going for it and hearing from someone that has experience like hey you might make mistakes or You might mess up just keep going, spend time with your kids, love your kids and move forward is really powerful

Sheldon
Thats right

Craig
Well talk more Sheldon Smith founder of the dovetail project in just a moment but right now I want to take a brief break and tell our listeners a bit our game online on facebook called a better worldA better world encourages habits of goodness positive mindsets and giving the social causes to make a positive difference in the world, player can do things they can express gratitude, share acts of kindness and send get well notes to real world sick kids and moreYou can find out more at betterworld.com, So now lets get back to our conversation with Sheldon Smith founder of the dove tail project. So Sheldon how did you come up with the curriculum for the education aspect of this, was that based on your own experience did you bring some outside expertise how did you put it together, well at the beginning I put it together because I thought of my own experience with my father, my father had me at the age of 18, he was in and out of the criminal justice system, and he lacked lots of fatherhood skills that he needed to be a great dad, he was a good dad but I mean to be great, Hes great right now and if you wanna be a great parent it takes a lot of tools so because of that I was able to develop the curriculum but B and I rolled into a program in a university in Chicago called the accelerator program where they had an opportunity to review our curriculum goal and do the research behind it, which you know tells us that everything were doing is correct about the population that we actually serve, so Ive been very fortunate to take something that is very hard to my life and turn into an initiative to help us.

Sheldon
Thank you!

Craig
Oh of course, What kind of feedback you get from the men who participate in the dovetail project.

Sheldon
Well you know in the beginning everyone is trying to figure what is the method to the madness what is he gonna end up being, all of our young we have only been successful because weve been able to impact 245 young men lives, all of our young men have different opinions some are by the end of it they want to go through it again because they really enjoyed it, others grown and wanted to do big things like work in the university of Chicago or work at PNC bank or high end hotels, or work in preservation company, other want to gain custody of their children through the court and the rest have gained employment and went back to school to get their GDs so you know our impact is across the board but when we look at it is really a trickledown effect that the family impact, because once you impact the father, for us you impact the household, and you impact that child and his father.The child and the father that has brought him to this world.

Craig
thats wonderful, so whats the most important rewarding part for you, what really gets you up in the morning?

Sheldon
well at the beginning what got me up was my hurt and pain for you know how my father was in and out of my life but what continues to push me forward is the young men we serve and thinking about some of the stories of the young men whod been through our program and going on doing great things and how we made an impact on their lives, we see them with their children doing great things thats what continuous to pushes me every day. and when you have people who have supported your organization whether they volunteered or sent resources, referred you to someone or they made a financial contribution, they believe in the work we do and when you have so many people believing in the mission and vision that continuous to pushes you and recognize you for the work that you been able to do, so yeah thats what, its a combination of things but collectively those things continue to drive me forward cause often times in this work its difficult its stressful and as the founder and CEO that can sometimes be lonely because you are youre growing as the leader and you have to continue to lead the team forward and make impact across the set there, for the young men that you serve them.

Graig
Well youre doing amazing work, its an essential mission and vision and I know as a business that theres a lot of stress and a lot of late nights. If you can tell our listeners how can they support the dovetail project?

Sheldon
well right now were in the middle of a raise in capital to replicate the dovetail project around the city, so people can get in the line and make a contribution to the organization or us some pampers, wipes some baby milk, even purchasing some ventures cards from CTA which is the Chicago transit authority, for the young men that we currently serve thatd be great, wed really appreciate it.

Graig
right so one last question I have today I ask a version of this question every week in this case, how do you hope the dovetail project is helping make the world a better place?

Sheldon
well Im hoping the dovetail project is making the world a better place through the work of fathers and really uplifting the narrative and getting the opportunity just to make impact for people to have the conversation of why fathers matter, and why fathers need help and support and often times were overlooked because were looked as the brave ones and you know everyone in this world struggles, fathers do too as well and Im hoping in impacting fathers were impacting so many household not just here but encouraging others across the country to do this work as well and involving engaging and talk about fathers and why they matter and look for the resources they need, thats what I hope for.

Graig
you can learn more about sheldons work by going to the dovetailproject,org Sheldon thank you so much for joining us today on better worldians radio

Sheldon
thank you so much for having me

Graig
its our pleasure, better worldians radio is brought to you by better worldians foundation, a 501 c3 non profit whose mission is to make the world a better place by encouraging the very best in everyone, we believe its as important to plant flowers as it is to pull weeds, we focus on positive thinking, positive values and positive actions, in short our vision is to bring the better world in everybody so we can all make it a better world. But we cant do it without your help, donation and support to better worldians radio podcast goes to developing new features like articles, videos, blogs and more. Go to betterworldians.com to be part of this important mission. And until next time please be a better worldian.