We DID make it!

Author: FSH Participant and UofL GRADUATE, Terenca

Terenca's bracelet she made that symbolizes how important it is for her to succeed! Succeed in education and in being a wonderful role model for her daughter, Nailah.
Terenca’s bracelet she made that symbolizes how important it is for her to succeed! Succeed in education and in being a wonderful role model for her daughter, Nailah.

A few years ago in the early morning hours I fled with my child from my abusive marriage from Dallas, TX and came home to Louisville, KY.  Within a split second, the action of escaping my abuser left me homeless, jobless, and mentally defeated.  However, being free did not change the reality that was upon me…I was a single parent in a financial crisis.  I knew the only way to make life better for me and my daughter was to get my degree in a field that would allow me to do what I loved for the rest of my life.  I had to force myself to realize that if I could find the strength to free myself from abuse; I could do anything…we would make it! 

In 2011 I was accepted as a resident at Family Scholar House.  Family Scholar House offered me the opportunity to provide stable housing for us while I worked toward achieving my educational goal.  I seized the opportunity and never looked backed.  While in the program I had the privilege of attending the University of Louisville.  It was very difficult for me going to school full-time while being a single parent.  In addition to the obstacles that come with being a single parent attending school full-time; I also dealt with the challenges that arose due to my depression.  Throughout my time in school I have undergone two major surgeries, however, I have never missed a semester.  There were even times that I had to take my daughter to classes with me.  No matter what happened…giving up was not an option for me!

University of Louisville offers a new major titled Individualized Major; this major required a 2.75 cumulative and a minimum of three areas concentrations.  I enthusiastically chose this major because it allowed me to customize my degree to fit my educational and professional goals.  I proudly graduated with my BA- Individualized Major concentrations American Sign Language Interpreter, Communication, and Business. Soon, I will advocate and provide shelter for Deaf and Hard of Hearing domestic abuse victims.  I have learned so much about myself on this journey and I will tell you this,

“You will feel tired and overwhelmed, but know you will succeed.  Surround yourself with positive and trustworthy people and accept their support to help keep you going.  Make necessary adjustments, laugh as much as possible, cry when you need to and never give up…you will reach you goal.  I know because I did!”

We’re All Better For it…

Guest Blog for Our Stories Matter

By: Julie Richardson

Her face looked very familiar—the warm brown eyes and quick wide smile. The little girl pulling on her arm, asking, “Can we do that one, Mommy?” looked familiar, too, and I have to confess, I stared, for several minutes, trying to figure out where I’d seen this mother/daughter duo before.

I was running a fake tattoo booth at my daughter’s school, rubbing various symbols of Halloween on the arms of elementary-aged boys and girls and their younger siblings. And this mom and daughter, they were in line for a tattoo, and I wanted very much to remember why I knew them.

And then mom caught my eye. And her face broke into an even bigger smile, and she said, “Julie, right?” And at the same time we both exclaimed, “Family Scholar House!” as we exchanged warm hugs and introduced our daughters to each other. And then I called her by name, her and her daughter both, their identities having finally been called up from my memory.

I was privileged to be an employee of FSH for a couple of years, and during that time, this woman and her then-infant daughter were residents. I saw them often. And now—now mom has a college degree and a fabulous job and her daughter is a kindergartener in the same school where my daughter is in second grade.

Less than a week later, a similar experience occurred as I read through the roster of my daughter’s Brownie troop—an address on there, I knew it as an address associated with an FSH community—and I smiled, grateful that one of the little girls bouncing around and giggling (I’ve no idea which one, and don’t need to) was another FSH success story—integrated into the community seamlessly and after what any little girl is after—security, fun, friendship and growth.

The thing about Family Scholar House is that within the walls of its various offices, educational rooms and resident apartments are single-parent scholars, men and women, who have often been labeled, in one way or another, by society. They’ve been judged for having been homeless. For fighting addiction. For being victims of abuse. For not “knowing better” than to get themselves into difficult circumstances.

The truth is that the parents of FSH, and their children, are some of the bravest, most resilient people you’ll ever meet. And that I’ve been able to walk alongside even a few of them, and even for a short time, has been one of the great honors of my life.

You see, they are just like you and me, whatever labels we want to ascribe to them. Like you and me, they want their children to be safe and healthy; they have dreams and goals and aspirations; they have skills and gifts and talents. They want Brownie troops and school carnivals and family vacations. They want long sunny days at the park and family meals. Their dreams, their families, their ways of being—they may not look like yours or mine, but they are no less important, no less worth being part of. And for every FSH scholar/resident who triumphs over what life has handed him or her, our entire community is stronger, better, more complete.

I’m so proud to know that these FSH families are everywhere, all over this city and this state that I call home, doing their thing and living their lives and offering to the world the rich experience they all share for having made the FSH journey in the first place.

 We’re all better for it.

Before we begin 2015 let’s look back…

Keynote Speaker, Dr. Tererai Trent with several FSH student parents at our 17th Annual Luncheon.

In October, we were honored to have Dr. Tererai Trent speak at Family Scholar House’s annual luncheon. In addition to sharing her personal educational journey, she explained her perspective that there are two kinds of hunger – the little hunger for material wants and needs and the big hunger for a meaningful life. While the disadvantaged parent scholars that we serve at Family Scholar House have a hunger for the basic necessities to care for themselves and their children, they also hunger for a meaningful life and are willing to work diligently in pursuit of their goals. Their greatest motivation comes from their love for their children and their desire to see them thrive. And yet, many children in our community are not thriving.

The 2014 Kids Count Data Book compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, quantifies what those of us who work with families see each day. Kentucky is ranked 35th in the well-being of our children. We consistently fall behind the national averages in areas that are predictors of the future for our commonwealth. In Kentucky, 27% of children live in poverty; 35% have parents who lack secure employment; and, 37% are being raised by a single parent. It can be tough to be a child in Kentucky. Family Scholar House recognizes that the economic well-being of our community and nation are dependent upon the ability of our residents – this generation and the next – to have opportunities to be productive in the workforce and to become contributing members of our society.

Family Scholar House is committed to ending poverty and transforming our community by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve life-long self-sufficiency. All of the families we serve have experienced homelessness or unstable housing; all are very low-income; and 95% have experienced domestic violence.  In every instance, the children are depending upon a single parent to provide for them.

Last year, Family Scholar House provided services for 2,261 single-parent families with 3,352 children. We did so with a small but mighty staff and almost 1,300 volunteers. To date, our parent scholars have earned 176 college degrees and have demonstrated their success not only in education and employment, but also in modeling a strong work ethic for their children. Within 90 days of graduating from our program, 70% of graduates are financially independent, no longer needing government subsidies to provide for their children.

 The children at Family Scholar House live in an in-between space – somewhere between the stark realities of a family in poverty and the endless possibilities that come from a good education, viable career and opportunity for homeownership.  On a daily basis, they do without basic needs while their parents work diligently to succeed in their college coursework, develop their workplace skills and provide for their children. What our scholars of all ages most need is a supportive community to encourage them as they seek a meaningful life.

To learn more about our programs and our scholars of all ages or to become a volunteer, please call to us at (502) 813-3086 or visit our website at www.FamilyScholarHouse.org.

Together we are changing lives, families and our Louisville community through education. And, with your help this season, we are spreading holiday happiness to disadvantaged children, providing them with the basic needs of the little hunger and feeding the big hunger for a meaningful life.

College T-Shirt Fridays

FSH Staff with Parkland Scholar House resident Mariah showing off our college shirts!

 You might be wondering how College T-Shirt Fridays started at Family Scholar House.                  Show your spirit! Wear the colors of the school you graduated from! Show your Cardinal Pride!    These are all wonderful reasons to wear a college t-shirt, but our reasoning is a tad different…

 Chief Possibility Officer, Cathe Dykstra allowing a “casual Friday” was just not in the books for FSH staff. You never know what you’re going to get with casual Friday; everyone’s definition of casual is different. So, to make things easier for everyone we chose to participate in College T-Shirt Fridays instead! Now do you want to know what inspired Cathe to allow staff members to wear a different college t-shirt every Friday?

“You mean they have colleges in other places besides Kentucky?”

This quote came from a little boy who happened to be walking into Family Scholar House as Cathe was exiting.  Cathe was wearing a Canisius College sweatshirt and as the little boy passed he asked, “What’s Canisius College.” When Cathe told him this was a private college in Buffalo, New York  he turned into a deer in headlights. He was not aware that there were colleges or universities anywhere other than Kentucky. This incident allowed Cathe to realize how important it is for our youngest scholars to know they can go to any college that they desire. We want them to ask about different colleges and know that there is more out there than just what the wonderful state of Kentucky is offering. It’s important and necessary that the topic of college is being discussed with our children. We want our kiddos to know that there are ways to get into any college, such as applying for scholarships.

We want you to join us for College T-Shirt Fridays and share your pictures to our Facebook page, Twitter newsfeed @FamilyScholars, or Instagram page @FamilyScholarHouse. Help spread awareness of how important it is for our younger generation to be made aware of all the opportunities that surround them!

Participant Mariah’s daughter Brooklyn showing her school of choice!
Participant Wes giving a shout out to Missouri State!

HAPPY Birthday Benefactors

In October we celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving in November, and Christmas in December. And as of lately we celebrate holidays such as, ‘National Adopt a Guinea Pig Month’ in March and ‘National Noodle Day’ on October 6th.  But, do you know what “holiday” we often over look when preparing for these well-known and not so well known holidays?


We all have one—it should be celebrated.

Yum Brands, one of our continuous supporters donated cake mix, icing, candles, birthday cards, and gift cards for us to give to our single parent's children on their special day!
Yum Brands, one of our continuous supporters donated cake mix, icing, candles, birthday cards, and gift cards for us to give to our youngest scholars on their special day!

This month, Yum Brands was kind enough to donate enough cake mix, icing, candles, birthday cards, and gift cards for every October birthday on all four of our campuses. The parents are encouraged to pick up their child’s surprises before their birthday. What an amazing feeling for these parents to watch their child blow out their birthday candles and open their card.

When I say they should be celebrated I don’t mean with a pony or a new car. I mean celebrated by feeling loved and special.  Because our families are at a disadvantage and have limited resources it isn’t always possible for them to provide a birthday card or to bake a cake with their child. Recently, an amazing group from UPS came to hear our mission and to volunteer their time to our organization.  A number of the volunteers wrote cards of encouragement to our parents and birthday cards to our children.  So, not only do our youngest scholars feel loved from us and their parents, they also feel loved by our community.

We are so thankful for all of our wonderful volunteers and the time they take out of their busy lives to support us. If you or a group of individuals would like to be a part of our Birthday Benefactor project please let us know.

Contact Nicole Gabriel at ngabriel@familyscholarhouse.org or call 502.584.8090.

When Your Reality Shapes Your Dreams…

Have you ever thought that a negative situation you experienced would lead to a career goal you couldn’t wait to obtain? 

One of our wonderful participants had this happen to her.

“Now I’m more than surviving, WE are thriving!”   -Terenca

Terenca moved into our Stoddard Johnston Scholar House campus in 2011. She came to us for support after surviving an abusive marriage, which forced her to leave her house, filled with not only her belongings, but her vivid memories as well. She and her eight year old daughter, Nailah have found positivity, support and opportunity in their new situation.

Terenca attends the University of Louisville and is on track to graduate in December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in Individualized Studies which includes: American Sign Language Interpretation, Communications, and Business. She is thrilled and appreciative that UofL allowed her the opportunity to obtain this customized degree.

 “I’m going to do something I love”

 Terenca knows exactly what she wants to do upon her awaited      graduation day. Because of what she’s been through, what she’s seen, and what she loves to do she has decided she wants to create a non-profit organization for deaf or hard-of-hearing women who have been or are currently victims of domestic violence.  “I have the American Sign Language knowledge and I am accepted in the deaf community. I want to use my skills to help.” Victims need resources and a safe place to go for assistance that understands their unique needs.  Unintentionally, hearing individuals create barriers for deaf or hard-of-hearing people and make it difficult for communication. Terenca wants to establish an organization where deaf or hard-of-hearing women feel comfortable and accepted. Her biggest concern is that women in such situations may feel that they are being misunderstood and isolated by hearing people because of the communication barrier, so instead of staying safe they may choose to return to their abusive situation.

 “I want these women to maintain a healthy lifestyle, not just be survivors”

It’s important to Terenca that every woman who has been through any type of violence not only survives it, but realizes turning their life around for the better is an attainable goal. She realizes her goal of opening this incredible non-profit organization will take time, but she is in no hurry. She wants to be sure her program offers childcare, counseling, positive parenting, education, and community outreach. Terenca is very familiar with the ‘Abused Deaf Women’s Advocacy Services,’ which is located in Seattle, Washington.  She plans to create an organization similar to this one.  Because she understands the mission we have at Family Scholar House and has had the opportunity to live in our supportive housing, she now wants to give back and help women who have been in similar situations.

 “My goal is to not overwhelm myself after graduation. I’ve been telling myself that for a while and I’ve stayed ahead of the game.”

Terenca is a hardworking student and a fantastic mother. She is very involved in the deaf community and will participate in the 2014 Deaf Awareness Week hosted by Louisville American Sign Language Association. Terenca will support her fellow women as they attend and speak at the annual Take Back the Night event on September 30. Terenca is living the commitment that to whom much is given, is expected– and she is up to the challenge.

What Does It Mean to be a Leader?

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” This quote by John Quincy Adams is the essence of what not only our single-parent scholars are achieving, but what our young scholars are practicing.


Many of our young scholars spent a week of their summer gaining skills and knowledge that will help them continue to be leaders in their school, neighborhoods and community.  Ty’Rell, one of our young scholars shares his thoughts on what it means to lead:


“When it is crunch time and everyone is at a loss, you or your group will turn to the one person you can depend on most, the leader, or high ranking authority figure. Being a leader is not about what power you hold, nor is it about your own personal benefit, but in fact it is about making sure those you lead have a strong, fair, honest and dependable person to turn to. But first, to be an outstanding or even decent leader, one must fully be committed to their team, they must realize who and what they are responsible for, and know that their decisions can and will affect the group, either positively or negatively. A true leader will sacrifice their own time to make sure things are well within the group. They must be able to hear everyone’s ideas and thoughts, and never put down another member. Communication is a key essential role in being a good leader as well. Stifling others for something they should have done better is alright so long as they are not put down or have crude negative comments thrown at them. Though a leader may have the final word on a decision, it is good to delegate with the group and be comfortable with assigning certain and vital roles to others. But being a leader is not all about being serious; a sense of humor to settle any tension is also a good trait, and they must be confident in everything they do. They must keep a positive attitude even when things get bad. I believe one thing that is overlooked by others is the fact that leaders must be innovative, meaning they must be able to flip a bad situation into a good one, and must be able to work with whomever they are with. They must be able to build off other’s weaknesses rather than promote the strengths. A leader should have a well-developed sense of intuition and needs to be able to inspire those around him, even the people outside of his group. I believe that there are no bad leaders, just ones who need help along the way, which is where their group, or rather their family comes in. If better is possible, then why is good simply good enough?” Continue reading

“Every Day is Father’s Day”

Here at Family Scholar House, we are so grateful to have the help of community members who graciously give their time and talent to further the mission of FSH. 

Three students from Collegiate, during their week of volunteering, learned about the many opportunities FSH provides to the single-parent students 

Below is a blog they wrote after interviewing FSH parent, Channing, about not only his but his daughters’ experience at FSH. 

“Every day is father’s day,” or so it seems to Channing, a 29 year old college student and current resident of Family Scholar House. Channing refers to his children as an amazing blessing from God, and he sees the role of a father to be an honorable one, not just an obligation. When speaking of his three girls, age seven, five, and two, his eyes light up. These girls are his whole world, and Family Scholar House has provided an opportunity for him to give them the stability every family needs.

His role as one of few single fathers at FSH is not only to parent his children and graduate from college, but to fill in as a male figure in the community. Many of the single moms living on his campus don’t even have to ask for his help with heavy lifting or car troubles; he offers aid without hesitation. He knows that he is doing what the moms in the community do for his girls: filling the missing parental role in their life. While Channing spends time with his girls watching movies, riding bikes, doing arts and crafts, and going to church, he is not afraid to admit that he can’t fill the maternal role all the time. The moms on campus spend time with his girls baking and dressing up and in return he carries bikes up the stairs and takes their trash out.

He is incredibly thankful for this community atmosphere, even going so far as to say his family is spoiled at Family Scholar House. The importance of a stable, safe, and positive living situation is obvious to him, and he doesn’t take it for granted in the slightest. To him, Family Scholar House is a place where everyone is in the same boat, furthering their education so they can provide for their children. He hopes to see his girls graduate with extended educations and follow their god given passions throughout their lives. FSH allows his girls a safe place where he can give them the opportunities to realize these dreams.

This Father’s Day is going to be a safe, pleasant and secure one for his family. It will be an opportunity for his girls to show him how much they appreciate the life he has given them by working to be a part of the Family Scholar House community.

The Beginning of a Bright Future

Once again we find ourselves entering another summer; we are reminded by the trees blooming and the familiar heat in the air.  While we embrace the ending of another school year and prepare ourselves for the change of the season, we must reflect on the aspirations met, memories made and the challenges we faced.  This is a very special time around Family Scholar House as we celebrate the Class of 2014, comprised of 51 single-parent students, on what is surely one of their most celebrated accomplishments.

Many of our Family Scholar House participants have faced obstacles from a young age that would hinder most in the pursuit of their academic goals; however the single-parent students at FSH continue to show strength, wisdom, drive and courage in the midst of overwhelming adversity.  Not only, have these graduates fought to change the course of their lives through education but work daily to instill this determination and perseverance in the lives of their children—and watching them walk is enough to make you believe anything is possible. 

As Edward Koch once stated, “Each diploma is a lighted match and each one of you is the fuse.” The qualities these graduates exhibit will continue to inspire all those they come in contact with on their journey.  As we rejoice in this great moment let us remember that this is not an ending but a beginning to a bright future!


We wish them all good things.  We are thankful for being part of their lives.  And we know that because of each of them, the world is a better place. 

It’s not just about Me

Stephanie, a resident at Family Scholar House, shares her journey of determination, hard work and resilience.

I am a single parent of a very beautiful, intelligent and sweet little girl who, by virtue of her birth, has permanently and most profoundly overhauled every aspect of my life. She’s changed how I think of myself and view the world around me; how I react and handle challenges and stress; and, most importantly, how I now function with a renewed decision-making process in regard to my lifestyle in general. While these changes are mostly positive, necessary and worthwhile, they are far from the personal zone I had previously established for myself.

Being born the seventh child in a family of eight children, to a single parent, we were pretty much “dirt poor”, but since that was all I ever knew, I never felt poor. However, I did learn at an early age to utilize whatever I had and make the best of it. That kind of mentality left little room for the nurturing of my personal growth. Knowing myself as I do now, I believe I could have been a good candidate for college had the opportunity presented itself, even if only in the form of a possibility. I had six siblings and a parent ahead of me who had never expressed desire or probability of higher education, so my understanding was that it was a closed door for me as well. Education was a luxury for people who already had the money to go in the first place.

During my senior year in high school, I decided to apply for a job. From that point on, I always had a job but the jobs that I obtained were mostly entry level. The always remember the faint but consistent nagging at the back of my mind echoing an inner desire to do something more with my life.

During a time in which my common sense must have eloped on a holiday of its own, I took on a relationship that I somehow believed was headed for wedlock. With my head dancing in the clouds, I dropped my guard and became pregnant. Of course, before the child was born, I was slapped back into reality when the soured relationship left me standing alone, pregnant and making a wage that was barely enough for me to exist on. It was no longer just about me.

When this adorable creature was born, I knew that my life’s mission was forever changed. Whatever it takes, this child will know opportunities are afforded to her, she will utilize them, and she will be able to benefit from the limitless success of walking into whatever endeavor she pursues and prepares for! This is not my only dream for her, but now an objective for my own life.

From her birth, until she was a year old, I attempted to apply for alternate employment to move up from where I was, but the same response halted my movement- no degree, not enough education. Following another year of serious prayer, research and careful planning, I made the decision to go to school full time to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Throughout this endeavor, hard work and determination have brought me a long way. 

On my way to class one day, I ran into an angel in the hallway of UofL who told me about Family Scholar House. Once I attended orientation and became involved in the program, I began to believe that this was a blessing designed specifically for me. In addition to providing housing, Family Scholar House helped me to systematically tackle every struggle I had ever encountered during my two-year matriculation through college. In addition to no longer having to worry about childcare, or even the most basic needs, such as food, shelter and toiletries, Family Scholar House provided a supportive community. This community supports my academic goals but even more than that, the goals I have for my life and my daughters life. I am now in an environment that understands the importance of education and does everything possible to help keep me on track while I pursue my dreams. This program offers programs that have made such an impact on my daughters life, she now has the opportunity to attend Toddler Book Club & begin building her own personal library in our apartment. 

Now, I have not only envisioned and planned for an educational journey that is destined to submit positive change for myself and my family, with Family Scholar House, I now have the necessary tools I need to help me better accomplish my goals. I give thanks for where I started, where I am going and all the individuals that have played a role in offering me guidance and support.  I finally feel that there is no limit on what I can accomplish! It may have taken me longer than I hoped to get to this point, but I can only be described as a conqueror because I will have overcome many obstacles to achieve that which will not only enhance my life, but also enhance my daughters life!