Paying attention on purpose..

For many of our families, FSH is a fresh start, a chance to find their inner voice, sometimes for the first time and learn to walk confidently and boldly in the direction of their dreams. Our participants have known all too well heartache, loss, violence and despair, coming to Family Scholar House seeking support and the tools that will empower them to live a life of stability and self-sufficiency. Our agency provides a comprehensive continuum of services, that help the entire family- to support them on their journey. Some of these services include; parenting and life skills workshops, stable housing, academic advising, family advocacy and financial education. In monthly meetings, we are also educating our participants on the importance of self-care and taking the time to nurture your mind. We have all been practicing, beginning with a simple “mindful moment” each day.

This past Monday, our families joined together for a afternoon of yoga and mindfulness practice and education. The time was centered around “paying attention on purpose”. In a society when numerous tasks are constantly pulling at our attention, FSH staff and participants are taking time each day to be fully in the present.

As the talks of snow continue for later today & this weekend, we invite you to take time, to breathe, and fully take in the moment as it happens.

One bite at a time!

Do you remember that old question: “How do you eat an elephant?”  Answer: “One bite at a time.”

Well, I have been thinking about that lately.  The start of a New Year is when many people make resolutions to do better, do differently, do less, do more, etc.  The problem with resolutions is that they often get broken and quickly. Thus, there has been a growing movement to encourage people to change one thing at a time in incremental steps toward a bigger goal.

One of my favorite business books is SWITCH by Dan and Chip Heath. It is an easy and fun read, so consider this encouragement to check it out.  In the book, the brothers share their perspective on change and the difference between forcing it and creating an environment that encourages it. Similar to the one-bite-at-a-time philosophy, they argue for making it less about mustering your willpower to end something negative and more about seeking the path toward something positive.

At Family Scholar House, we regularly talk to people who want to make big changes in their lives and they want to do so as quickly as possible; but, the reality is that incremental steps toward big goals is their best chance to succeed. They can start at the community college level, work with an FSH advisor to identify educational and career goals, participate in mentoring activities, learn more about money management and how to plan for future needs, get involved with their child’s school and education, set family goals, etc.  This is how our most successful participants become college graduates, career professionals and contributing members of our community. One bite at a time.

We would like to hear from you.  What are the one-bite-at-a-time changes that you want to make in your life in 2016? And, are there any that we can do together?

Here is one opportunity: Family Scholar House began incorporating organized mindfulness activities into our daily lives and work with families last year.  This year, we are taking another bite and we would welcome you to join us as we make calming bottles, host yoga seminars and learn to relax with breathing techniques.  If you want to participate or help with any of our mindfulness activities, please contact Kristie Adams at (502) 813-3089 or kadams@familyscholarhouse.org. We would love for you to be part of our FSH family for these activities and others that you might suggest.

A place where thank you is said often and gratitude becomes a way of life.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

 ~G.K. Chesterton

While thanks is something we give to others, gratitude is a gift we give to ourselves.

Here at Family Scholar House, we receive thanks from our participants with great regularity and we get to see the impact gratitude has on those feeling and expressing it. This note came today.

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This note was addressed to us; yet, it is your support that makes it possible for us to encourage and empower families like this one.  We are grateful for your investments of time, talent, treasure and trust every day of the year.

Family Scholar House is a place where sorrows shared are halved and joys are doubled. Where encouragement flows freely and makes way for the successes to come.

A place where thank you is said often and gratitude becomes a way of life.

On behalf of all of our families, Board of Directors, Trustees and staff, please accept our sincere appreciation for your support.

It takes a village

At both Family Scholar House and the Sullivan University System, we don’t just believe in the transformative power of education—we see living proof of it every day in our students and graduates. For both organizations, education is at the heart of every student success story (stories that sometimes overlap!) and has been the key to bringing together Family Scholar House and the Sullivan University System as community partners.

For the first of what is sure to be many collaborative projects between the two organizations, the Sullivan University System (SUS), which includes Sullivan University, Sullivan College of Technology and Design and Spencerian College, sponsored a household item drive to benefit Family Scholar House participants. Under the leadership of SUS’s Director of Alumni Affairs, Hazel Matthews Sullivan, faculty, staff and students from across SUS together donated more than 2,000 personal hygiene products and household supplies. The Alumni Affairs Office and members of Sullivan University’s grounds crew then delivered a total of 23 boxes and 13 bins of donations to the Louisville campus of Family Scholar House.

“We had the resources at our campuses to work with Family Scholar House and to make this drive happen,” Hazel explained. “Personal hygiene items are always necessary so that’s the route that we went. Our motto throughout Sullivan University is ‘We care,’ and what better way to give to the community and make a difference.”

Check out our video of SUS delivering the donations to Family Scholar House!

https://youtu.be/hqSQIwgtY5U

 

Blog by: Caitlan W. Cole, The Sullivan University System

A few words from a participant

FSH Campus Coordinators have been working with Our Stories Matter to “interview” some of our participants, and last week, Mechelle offered up her answers to some interview questions. We hope you enjoy learning a little bit more about Mechelle, a resident of FSH, senior at UofL and mother to Leon (age 5).

1. Why did you choose your major?

I chose my major as Criminal Justice because I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. I think it will be awesome to have the opportunity to advocate for at-risk youth in our community. I, also have a passion for debating!

2. What do you most enjoy about leading the Pre-Law Society at Family Scholar House?

As a pre-law society member, I enjoy sharing my interest with others. I was so surprised to find out how many others share the same interest as me. Being in the pre-law society gives us the opportunity to come together. At our meetings we are able to express concerns and talk with community members about the road to and through law school.

3. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself finished with law school, married, self-sufficient, pursuing my career and making a positive difference in the community.

4. What advice would you give a single parent wanting to pursue a degree?

It takes determination along with having patience. Without having that drive to succeed, you will fail. Having patience is a must. Trust me, so many times you will feel overwhelmed with life and everything that comes with it. Keeping a head strong mentality will get through it.

5. What would you like supporters of Family Scholar House to know?

I would like for those to know that you are supporting a great cause. You may not know us personally, but your faith is what keeps us (single parents) going. Some people do not have the support of family, so your daily motivation and year round volunteering helps us a lot.

6. What is the biggest dream you have for your son?

I want my son to be happy. I will never live through him but instead let him understand what he wants to do in life and be his biggest supporter. I’m pretty sure the way he looks up to me, I won’t have to worry about his dreams because they will be bigger than mine. As long as he has faith that it will become a reality, I will always be there- his mother, as a support.

Giving up is not an option

As I drove to work today, I passed a person standing on the side of the road holding a sign that said “Please help. Need work and food.”

I do not know this young person’s story or what experiences led to standing on a corner hoping for hand-outs. Further, I do not want to make any assumptions about the legitimacy of these needs for work and food.  Many in our community are hungry on a daily basis and rely on the good work of Dare to Care and its member agencies to get sustenance.  I also know that there are folks that wish to work but find themselves unemployed due to a lack of education, training and credentials to fill open positions for 21st century jobs. It is not my place to judge those who beg on the street corners; but, I know that this is the very definition of a hand-out.

A chance encounter like driving by the sign-holder this morning, always lead me back to a sincere appreciation for the motivation and determination of our parent scholars. To a one, the single parents we serve have chosen to work toward their goals and earn the education necessary for the career of their dreams while raising their children to value education, hard work and community.  On many days, our FSH team is praised for putting so much into our work to help disadvantages families break the cycle of poverty.  It is hard to accept praise for our efforts on their behalf when we know how hard they are working to do the right things for themselves, their children and their community. They are the hardest working people that we know.

Imagine being not only the first in your family to go to college but also the first in your family to complete high school.  Imagine handling the college coursework in a technologically-advanced world when the only computers you have ever used were at your school or the library because the home in which you grew up did not have computers, Wi-Fi, or smart phones. Now, imagine doing all of these new and scary things while being responsible for a child who looks to you for everything.  I know it can be overwhelming and I know many people would want to give up. Our student parents do not see giving up as an option.

For the parent scholars and children at Family Scholar House we are their coaches, cheerleaders, water boys, and counselors.  What we do to empower them is important; but, what they are doing to change their opportunities and those of their children is awe-inspiring. This is what a hand up looks like.  We know from our experience and our outcomes that what our participants most want is the chance to be a contributing member of our community and a positive role model for their children.  Each and every day, they are earning the opportunity to rise above their current circumstances. Instead of signs, they long to hold diplomas – theirs and those of their children.

As you bow your head in prayer or take a private moment to reflect on the many blessings in your life, I would ask that you also think of our families. They are too busy to beg and too determined to give up. Their children’s future depends upon the decisions they are making today and that alone keeps them motivated to succeed. As supporters of Family Scholar House, you are part of the extended family that nurtures their dreams and encourages them to persevere.  Margaret Mead was right, “”Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Giving is indeed Stout!

When most of us hear the word ‘Stout’, we think of either someone short and portly or of a rich dark beer.  Yet, there is so much more to the word than that.  Merriam-Webster, the penultimate resource for understanding our language, defines stout to include “bold, brave and enduring.” And, that is exactly what giving is.

On Friday, August 21st, the delish new restaurant at 1604 Bardstown Road, Louisville – STOUT will host a fundraiser for Family Scholar House.  This “Giving is Stout” Day will raise awareness of and support for Family Scholar House’s programs and services to empower low-income single parent families to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.

Family Scholar House serves 2,500 families each year, providing supportive housing, academic advising, counseling and a full array of programs to help disadvantaged parents complete their post-secondary education and enter careers so that they can be self-sufficient.  Additionally, programs for children help our littlest scholars get a good start on education and develop skills they will need throughout their lives.  These programs include Toddler Book Club, Children for Change financial education, Healthy Me! And Mommy & Me Cooking Classes.  It is whole-family, whole-life education that benefits our entire community.

Most of our parent scholars are the first in their families to succeed in college.  Almost half are the first in their families to graduate from high school.  What these parents are doing to giving their children better lives is Stout – bold, brave and enduring.  And, they really need your support.  Better yet, we all benefit when they join the workforce and contribute to the community we all call home.

To support Family Scholar House’s life-changing programs and families working diligently to improve their opportunities, all you need to do is eat a burger, drink a beer and round up your tab.  Simple? Yes!  Meaningful? Absolutely!  Your participation makes a bold and enduring difference for families and our community.  Giving is indeed Stout!

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Graduation Celebration 2015

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Class of 2015

FSH Graduation Celebration 2015

Last month we recognized 54 Family Scholar House graduates at the Kentucky Science Center. To date, we have celebrated 241 degrees. We could not be more proud of our student-parents and their accomplishments. Our participants are full-time parents and full-time students with dreams and goals of achieving nothing short of greatness.

We were lucky enough to have Chief Academic Officer of JCPS and FSH Trustee, Dewey Hensley share how proud of our graduates he is and also to share his journey of discovering the importance of education.

“Education is not magic, but the opportunities it affords you are magic.” –Dewey Hensley

The FSH Class of 2015, spent the evening celebrating with members of the community that have supported FSH and been an integral part of this success. Our participants all have different backgrounds, circumstances, and struggles, but it’s certain that they all have one thing in common: they have the desire for an education and to better their lives along with their children’s lives.

Thank you for supporting our families and believing in their dreams. Our organization couldn’t succeed without the support and love we receive from our community. Please enjoy a small piece of Jaydee Graham’s speech from the evening:

“Thank you for those in this room that believed in me as well as this program which gave us an opportunity to spread our wings and venture through this journey as a family. Our story does not end here, yet it is just beginning as we start a new chapter of our lives. My desire is to touch the lives of many who have or are wearing the shoes that brought me to such a dark place and to show them that they don’t have to feel comfortable living in pain, yet can feel every bit of life again and come out stronger because of it. George Elliot said it well, “it is never too late to be what you might have been.” Embrace every bit of your journey and leave this chapter of your life with your head held high and your goals ahead of you. You have finished this portion of your race, be proud, be bold and continue to make your mark on this world.” (Jaydee Graham, UofL- Bachelors of Social Work)

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Our Mother’s deserve their own day…

With the help of wonderful community volunteers, our youngest scholars created these beautiful masterpieces to give to their mothers for Mother's Day.
With the help of wonderful community volunteers, our youngest scholars created these beautiful masterpieces to give to their mothers for Mother’s Day.

If you’ve browsed the card aisle of any Kroger, Walgreen’s or Target lately, you found a plethora of cards designed to honor the important women in our lives. Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908, and became an official U.S holiday in 1914. This means people have been celebrating mothers once a year, for nearly 101 years! When we are in grade school, with the assistance of our teachers we spent time making our mothers the perfect handmade gift. As we grow older, those handmade gifts are often replaced with cards and if we’re lucky, spending the day together.

These women are our superheroes, cheerleaders, teachers, mentors, boo-boo fixers, stain removal experts and support systems. At Family Scholar House, our hardworking single-mothers work year round trying to create a better life for not only themselves, but for their children as well. These strong women have overcome obstacles and hardships to become full-time mothers and full-time students who are pursuing a college degree and self-sufficiency for their family.

Around here we love to celebrate our moms. During Mayor’s Give a Day week of service volunteers from the community helped our youngest scholars create masterpieces to give to their mothers on Mother’s Day. Another volunteer group will be coming to campus later this week to assist our participants in building their own special mother’s day casserole. Between juggling the responsibilities of being a single-parent, attending classes, working, cooking dinner, laundry and helping with homework while they complete their own, these meals make it possible for them to relax this Sunday.

One of our kiddos getting messy while creating a special gift for his mother!
One of our kiddos getting messy while creating a special gift for his mother!

A Visual Reminder

At a recent staff retreat, FSH staffers had the opportunity to get a little creative (something practiced often around here!).

A canvas for each staff member –sat ready on tables throughout The Commons at Stoddard Johnston Scholar House. Paint of different colors were at each station. Instructions were given to begin painting, and that was all they were told. The project was for staff members to complete their individual canvas, using any variation of colors.  At the end of the day, the Art Therapist started to work her magic. As the staff stood back, they started to see that all the canvases joined together, to create a bigger picture. It serves as a visual reminder that each staff member, volunteer and participant contribute a unique set of skills. When everyone joins together, they make Family Scholar House truly special. No one can do it alone–and now, the mural hangs on the wall of Louisville Scholar House as a daily reminder of the supportive community that empowers our families to succeed.

Last year alone, 1,351 volunteers walked through the doors of our residential campuses, every single one of them a valuable contributor to the work that happens here. With all of us working together, we are changing lives, families and communities through education. Thank you for being an important piece of our community. 

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