Fantastic Fathers

ndre Smith adapted the concept of a father as the protector for his children and reinvented it to fit an educational setting. Instead of protecting just his family, he decided to protect an entire school.

A little over a year ago, Smith and several other fathers of Cass Technical High School students decided to form a security group to protect the students. “Young people were coming over from other schools and robbing our kids on school grounds,” says Smith. “We had no security in the building.” Detroit Public Schools security shift ends at 3:30 p.m., so there were no officers securing the grounds for students attending after-school programs.

At a Local School and Community Organization meeting, Smith asked for help from fellow parents to secure the school, and the Cass Tech Dads’ Club was born.

“Many of our children have become desensitized to the violence that is occurring in the urban setting. Gambling and prostitution is occurring in our schools,” says Smith. “It is really up to the parent to invest in their children.”

Cass Tech Principal Lisa Phillips and her staff have welcomed the Dads’ Club. “Their impact is really incomparable. They give a sense of security and support,” says Phillips. “It is a significant factor to have dads, brothers, members of the community, supporting us.”


Smith gathered a group of 30 fathers to create a security patrol who were prepped by Bernard Spragner, community volunteer coordinator for Detroit Public Schools’ Police Department. “[He] gave us training on how to secure our children from gangs and party promoters that try to recruit our children,” says Smith. Dressed in Dads’ Club shirts and jackets, Smith and other volunteers patrol the school’s parking lot and hallways.

“I think it is very important to have men in the school. There is a shortage of Black men in our schools so their [Dads’ Club] presence really makes a big difference,” says Spragner. “It’s a plus for Detroit Public Schools to have fathers who care working with the school.”

With the help of Detroit Catholic Central High School’s Dads’ Club in Novi, the Cass Tech volunteers learned to organize their Dads’ Club to become more than just a security organization.

“We tailgated for our football team last year and provided free snacks for the kids to support our team,” says Smith. Through the tailgating, the Dads’ Club inspired teachers and alumni to tailgate and show support for the children as well.

“We also hosted our first Super Bowl party where we fundraised and gave away prizes to try to get our numbers up [in the Dads’ Club],” he says. “If we are able to get structured, we can get these kids everything they need through fundraising where the district may fall short.”

Smith, a photographer, is president of the Cass Tech Dads’ Club. “It’s time for the parents to get more involved and care about their child and all of our children. We have to lead as parents,” he adds. “It’s been challenging getting and recruiting fathers, but we have to do it for our children.” While Cass Tech has roughly 2,000 students, 1.5 percent of fathers volunteered to be a part of the Dads’ Club.

According to Smith, the ultimate goal of the organization is to create a Dads’ Club at every DPS school. “We want to do something to increase parent involvement,” says Smith. “Our children deserve the best.”

Phillips says she wants the Dads’ Club to sponsor a male mentoring group in the future. “They already make such a huge impact on our students. It would be nice to see them sponsor our young men and help keep them focused and directed, and teach them how to really be gentleman,” she says.

The Dads’ Club has additional goals of cleaning up the school and fundraising for an athletic facility. “We don’t have a tennis court or a baseball field or any place for our children to train for sports,” Smith says. “Our kids have to go somewhere else to train and we have to do something about that.”

Staff members aren’t the only ones who appreciate the Dads’ Club. Says Smith, “When we tell the kids that we are here to provide safety for them and their classmates and help them to get a good education in a safe environment, the kids feel pretty good about their fathers.”

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