Program teaches young African-American men to be best fathers they can be

CHICAGO -- They're young, between the ages of 17 and 24, but all of them are fathers, CBS Chicago reports.

This week, they graduated from the Dovetail Project, a program teaching them how to be the best dads they can be.

"He means everything. He's the reason why I wake up every day," Corey Lennore says of his son, Corey Jr.

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Corey Lennore

CBS Chicago

Still, Corey Lennore says he wanted to learn how to be the best father he could be.

"I always think there's room for improvement. I'm not perfect, and I could really benefit from this program," he says.

The Dovetail Project has been a godsend, he says: "I've never been around so many young black men my age without drama."

Sheldon Smith created Dovetail Project seven years ago. His program's goal is to give young African-American fathers the guidance they need to take care of their children.

"When fathers aren't involved, the likelihood and outcomes around children being successful or being incarcerated or failing in school and teen pregnancy -- all of that data skyrockets," Smith says.

Facilitator Vernon Owens covers a lot of ground in 12 weeks. He advises students on all aspects of child care. Dovetail connects the young men to education and job training so that they can provide for their sons and daughters.

"They get a stipend, a job, GED or a trade once they complete the program," Smith says.

Lennore says they also get something else from one another: encouragement.  "We motivate each other. We do job searches together. It's a great thing," he says.

At Dovetail Project, every day is Father's Day.

Since 2010, nearly 300 young men have been through the program.

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Young fathers participate in the Dovetail Project.

CBS Chicago