NAZ Family Academy Launches “Foundations for Fathers”

by Danielle Bylund, NAZ External Communications Manager

Fathers FoundationsOne of the cornerstones of a NAZ family’s experience is attending our Family Academy classes. We offer four courses on a rolling basis that include, Family Academy Foundations, for parents of children of all ages, College Bound Babies, for parents of 0-3 year-olds, Ready to Succeed, for parents of 4-5 year-olds, and College Bound Scholars for parents of elementary age scholars. Recently, reacting to a call from our male Family Achievement Coaches, we have started a fathers-only Foundations Class.

Vince Frazier

Vince Frazier, Family Academy Facilitator with the Family Academy Team is leading this project with the support of all of the Family Achievement Coaches who are fathers.

“Long before I even came here, it’s been a topic. John Smiley, Vince Ivory, and I have been pushing for it lately,” Vince Frazier says.

The curriculum is the same as the blended Foundations class, but allowing fathers the space to discuss challenges specific to them has allowed some breakthroughs that may not have been possible in a class that didn’t have the same kind of male support.

“The curriculum is the same but the context is fatherhood,” Vince says. It is that context shift that is making space for these NAZ fathers to be honest and vulnerable.

“We’re allowing some space for fathers to vent, not to speak ill, but a space to be heard. Space where they’re not going to be met with opposition, they’re not going to be met with tension, and once we allow that to come out, then we have some stuff to work with. Cause if our goal is to get better, we gotta allow that space,” says Vince.

The first meeting of the Foundations for Fathers class had two NAZ fathers attend, the numbers rose to ten as word began to spread. Mike Shelton, a NAZ Family Achievement Coach at KIPP Minnesota has been with the class since the early planning. He is optimistic about the potential of the class and the diversity of the fathers that it is attracting.

“There is a wide range of brothers in there. We have some corporate brothers and some everyday guys and we’re all going through the same thing. Everybody’s background is way different but we all have a common cause in the room,” Mike says.

The benefit of having many different kinds of men all working on fatherhood is that the NAZ staff that are participating are learning things as well.

“These guys know what they’re talking about, they’re geniuses. They know what they are talking about and they’re already invested. We needed this for our families and now that we’re in it, this is actually for us,” says Vince.

Foundations as a curriculum is focused on research-based early childhood development learnings, but there is some looseness to the meetings.

“This isn’t a class that is going to just tell [fathers] what to do, but they can come and participate and get some help and give some help,” says Mike Shelton.

The promise of this model of creating a space just for fathers alongside all of NAZ’s other services has the potential for our fathers to see themselves as caregivers and leaders. There aren’t many places for men, particularly Black men, to go to talk about parenthood and the challenges specific to them.

“We have the opportunity to build something really powerful,” says Vince.