The same week that Jonathan Wilson closed his barbershop, he enrolled as a student in WilmU’s Administration of Human Services (AHS) graduate degree program. Call it just another life transition.
Wilson opened the barbershop in Wilmington after serving time for robbery. But he did more than cut hair. The shop evolved into a pseudo community center, where Wilson mentored children who, like him, had no positive father figures. Then, when a tragic shooting at the shop left him paralyzed, he developed a renewed commitment to “fathership,” a term he coined to address the breakdown of his community.
Wilson wanted to learn all he could about non-profit management, program development and ethical operations for his newly formed Fathership Foundation. As an AHS student, he developed the foundation’s three core components: academic fathership, which helps fathers become more involved in and responsible for their children’s educational achievement; the community academic re-entry program (CARP), which helps men re-engage with their own education through GED preparation and testing, adult educational workshops and college readiness courses; and workforce development workshops to help people, including those transitioning from prison, to become workforce ready.
“Passion and good ideas are not enough,” says Wilson. “WilmU’s AHS program gave me the framework and the theory for how to run a nonprofit with integrity. I needed to learn how to institutionalize the work and the message to be both sustainable and replicable.”
Wilson’s focus on urban men and education is based on his observed reality: that education helps men to be competitive in the workplace and more involved in parenting. “Education and male parenting are transformative for children and communities,” he says.
Now working on his WilmU doctorate, Wilson plans to focus his dissertation research on academic fathership and educational outcomes. He also hopes to extend Fathership Foundation programming into cities like Baltimore, Camden and Philadelphia, because, as he says, “I have a big vision.” Wu