Fatherhood Matters. The involvement of a father in their child’s life can be life altering. At the 2023 NCSEA Policy Forum, Plenary VIII was moving session that emphasized the importance of Fatherhood Initiatives. This session was presented by Sharmain Harris. Sharmain brought the audience along on his life journey. He discussed all of the challenges and struggles he faced on his journey. Starting as an incarcerated youth to becoming an involved father, teacher, author, businessman, and a leader. He has impacted the involvement of fathers nationwide.
Sharmain Harris’ Journey
Sharmain’s journey started as an up-and-coming athlete who could not escape the temptation of the streets in his hometown. After multiple arrests and serving time in prison, his daughter was born in 2014. This gave him the motivation he needed to turn his life around. His involvement started when he was presented a flyer for a local fatherhood event in his area that he decided to attend. When the day came, he was the only person to show for the event. But it helped him to realize how much fatherhood matters. Knowing how connected he was to his community, he volunteered his time with the office to get the word out himself. He used his experience to make certain that other fathers would show. On the day his fatherhood event was scheduled there was a substantial turnout. The event was a massive success.
His continued success motivating fathers in his community lead him to a full time job as a Father Involvement Coordinator at WIC (Women, Infants, & Children). In his first year as the coordinator, he successfully recruited and graduated 100 fathers in his program. He took great pride in showing other dads in his community how much fatherhood matters. There is a yearly daddy-daughter dance that he hosts which has been extremely successful. He looks forward to the event every year.
Sharmain has since graduated with a Master’s in Business Design and Innovation. He had his legal rights restored after receiving a full pardon from the governor of Wisconsin. He now provides presentations and workshops to help fathers re-enter society after prison and guest lectures on criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin Parkside. Teaching the importance of father involvement in their children’s lives is now his passion. He is working to pardon hundreds of justice-impacted people. He does all of this while maintaining his involvement as a husband and father to his own family.
Understanding and Engaging Justice Involved Families, Thoughts from Chad Trudell:
I was lucky enough to introduce this plenary with the basic knowledge that it was regarding the involvement of fathers. In my speech, I decided to include a mention of my own experience as a father. I also conveyed that I would not be giving the introduction without the leadership and involvement of my own father. My father has been extremely involved in my life from the beginning. He has had guided me through my life journey to become an involved father and successful in my career. I did not realize how well my introduction would tie into Sharmain’s message, but it ended up being the perfect introduction to his educational plenary.
Why Fatherhood Matters:
- Fatherhood programs have an extremely positive impact on everyone involved – Listening to where Sharmain was at in his life before he started the fatherhood program and where he is at now shows the positive impact fatherhood programs can have on father’s lives. Not only did the program encourage his involvement in his family’s lives, it also helped transform him from a jobless felon to a successful businessman.
- Fatherhood programs can spread like wildfire – Establishing a motivating leader, like Sharmain, to spearhead a fatherhood initiative can help the program grow exponentially. His local knowledge and ability to network with the local fathers in his area undoubtedly was one of the main reasons he was able to become so successful. His success has led to the success of hundreds of fathers in his community.
- Everyone deserves a chance – Throughout Sharmain’s journey he was told no in many situations. His way of dealing with all of the NOs was viewing them as Next Opportunity. He kept searching for someone who would give him the opportunity to prove that he could be more than what his record states. All it took was one person to give him a fatherhood flyer. That was the start of his transformation from a desperate father seeking work to a successful businessman changing the lives of fathers nationwide.
Here is a link to Sharmain’s website if you would like to learn more about his journey: https://sharmainharris.com/