Sheldon Smith, Executive Director and Founder of The Dovetail Project began working as a community youth organizer in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood at the early age of 13. As a teen, his community work focused on social issues such as youth and gang violence, juvenile justice, sexual health education, and promoting community activism.
When Sheldon became a father at the age of 20, he was determined to be the best father he could and he knew he wanted to help other young fathers lay the foundation to have a positive impact and build strong relationships with their children. He created The Dovetail Project in 2010 to bring together resources that were lacking in his own life and the lives of others. Since then, his program has graduated over 245 young men.
The Dovetail Project has raised over $4,000,000.00 from donors and organizations such as Chicago Beyond, CNN HEROES, Open Society Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation, University of Chicago, Chicago Community Trust, TCF Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Hyatt Hotel, Polk Brothers Foundation, Early Head Start, A Better Chicago, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cook County, and Nike.
Among many recognitions, Sheldon was selected as a Top 10 2016 CNN Hero, nominated as a Cabinet member for My Brothers Keeper, was recognized as an Ariel Investment 40 under 40 Game Changer, was named a 2012 Petra Foundation Fellow for his “unswerving commitment” to young Black fathers, was awarded the Sargent Shriver Youth Warriors against Poverty by the Marguerite Casey Foundation, and in 2011 was selected as an International Youth Foundation’s YouthActionNet Social Entrepreneur Fellow, which provided him global resources and a full year of leadership training.
Of all of his accomplishments, his greatest is being a devoted dad to his daughter, Jada.