It is a feat of its own to raise a child with both parents: mentoring and helping sculpt the child from birth to adulthood. But Courtney, who had her daughter, Annabelle, when she was 20, does it by herself while earning all A’s as she goes to college pursuing a degree in communications. Aside from her incredible self-motivation, she has the Family Scholar House to thank for this.
Coming from an environment consisting of a lot of fighting, the sense of community at Family Scholar House was a surprising and refreshing change for Courtney. “The Community here is my biggest backbone”, Courtney shared. All the convivial events including karaoke, movie nights, cook-outs, and chili cook-offs provide opportunities for the residencies to come together and bond. Mothers and fathers alike can appreciate the fact that everyone has children and are in the same boat. So as Courtney says, it’s easy to become great friends with other residents because they understand your situation better than anyone. While old high-school friends always want to go out, neighbors at the Family Scholar House are content with just hanging out a home with the kids.
In addition to a sense of camaraderie, the Family Scholar House provides a stable and comfortable home for her daughter to grow up in. Courtney can take great comfort in knowing that she and Annabelle will always have the support of not only the other mothers and fathers, but the Family Scholar House as well.
Ricki Mathis, a program graduate who now works for Family Scholar House, would like to share her success story….
“When I became a single-parent a year after graduating high school, I knew I had to start college right away to build a better life for my daughter. We lived in the projects with my mother, and it was no place to raise a child. I began my educational journey at a community college when my daughter was five weeks old. A year passed by and I was struggling to maintain my many full-time roles – two jobs, school and parenting. I was not making enough money to move out of my mother’s apartment, so I spent most of my time at the homes of friends who lived in better neighborhoods because I didn’t want my daughter to be exposed to such an impoverished and dangerous area. Then a friend told me about a program called Project Women that helped support single mothers while they earned a college degree. I remember going to orientation and feeling like it’s where I belonged. I had no family growing up, so I longed for the support I knew the program could provide. A couple months later my daughter and I moved into our very own apartment. I felt a huge relief because I was able to decrease my work hours and really focus on school and parenting. I was getting things from the staff and community that I desired my entire life – support, stability and hope. Coming from a home with a single-parent who had little education and lived in poverty most of her own life, I was expected to become another statistic and never finish school. Project Women (now Family Scholar House) gave me the confidence, resources and opportunities I needed to defy and exceed those odds in ways I never thought possible.
I have since graduated with an Associate degree from Jefferson Community and Technical College and a Bachelor’s degree from University of Louisville and am now working on a Master’s degree from Lindsey Wilson College. Upon graduating from UofL, I was given the opportunity to work for Family Scholar House and have been a part of the staff for 3 years now. I cannot adequately express the feeling I get from helping single parents who are facing hardships similar to the ones I endured. It’s more than simply ‘giving back’ – it’s giving hope to those who are homeless and feel as though they have nowhere to turn; it’s helping someone find resources to provide necessities for their children; it’s authentically connecting with and relating to someone who feels completely alone during their time of struggle. I’ve been able to show compassion in a way that no other staff member here can because I understand exactly how it is to be on the other side. Although I will continue my own education to provide a better life for myself and my children, this program has given me things that money cannot buy, such as confidence, guidance, opportunity and a new perspective on helping others. And, each and every day I try my best to give my clients the same so that they may pass those things down to their children as well.”
Jackie dreamed of being a star. Her entire childhood was devoted to her growth as a dancer. Her dream was so big that despite not being able to afford professional lessons, she taught herself moves from her favorite movies such as Save the Last Dance. She entered dance competitions with her church group in order to gain any little bit of experience she could in the world of dance. She was set on her path in life, and with determination she might just realize her childhood dreams.
Being a student at University of Louisville, it made sense that Jackie would try out for the Ladybirds dance team. They were the hardest auditions of her life. Ultimately, she didn’t make the team, but her spirits weren’t crushed. Her perseverance was obvious when she said, “Always try something even though you might not feel like you are the best. I always like trying new things. I don’t let anything negative stop me from doing what I want to do.”
When she had her daughter and joined family scholar house, she knew she had a responsibility to instill this positive attitude to her daughter’s life and the children of the community. Although her dance star dreams were made even more difficult, her spirit remained the same. Her goal is to empower young women to work together. She somehow finds time in her busy schedule of being a full time student and mother to be an event coordinator for University of Louisville’s “Empowering Ladies Together” program. She also helps out in programs with Cochran Elementary School and volunteers with the American Reads program along with working as a banquet server at the Seelbach Hilton.
Jackie knows that having a child changed her life, but it didn’t change her dreams. She is determined to get a full education while continuing to pursue her passion for the fine arts. Her ability to stay positive and keep moving along her chosen path in life is solely attributed to awe inspiring determination. She thanks Family Scholar House for giving her the stable environment and tools she needs to make her dreams for herself and her daughter a reality.
There is a new constellation consisting of 20 stars that can be seen from the Parkland neighborhood. This constellation consists of a group of single parents who upon moving into the Parkland Scholar House discovered their shine. These Parkland stars completed their first semester after moving into housing receiving GPA’s above a 3.0, five of which are 4.0’s!
As you read the names and hear the stories of our stars, you will realize that nothing is impossible for those who believe. These stories also lend proof of the power of determination, confidence, and resilience of those who face adversity.
One story is of Tyroniqua Lashley, a Parkland resident who moved into housing directly out of high school. Scared, confused and struggling with this being her first time living on her own, Family Scholar House provided her with the necessary tools that have given her the influence and support she needed to believe she could transform all of her dreams into reality. With new bills and new responsibilities, Tyroniqua stood strong and tackled every obstacle thrown in front of her. She went into her first semester of college not knowing what to expect but she faced all of life’s difficulties with courage and patience with the refusal to give up. Family Scholar House provided Ms. Lashley with the stability and assistance allowing her to finish the fall 2013 semester with her very first 4.0 GPA. She says this is only the beginning of a new life cycle that continues to allow her to set a positive example and create a pathway to success for her daughter.
Here at Family Scholar House, we are so very proud of what our single parents have accomplished, are accomplishing and will continue to accomplish in the future. We know that with hard work, tenacity and sheer determination to succeed, the futures of all of our stars are bright. The possibilities are endless, and we are excited to see what the future holds for all of our single parents and their children.
I’ve been thinking about snow days a lot recently. Of course, we have all had plenty of time to think about them because we have had so many of them.
Through the magic of Facebook, I am blessed to have a good number of “friends.” Some are more familiar to me than others and, together, they comprise a unique social group, with diverse backgrounds, experiences, opinions, interests and perspectives. This is easily seen in the thoughts and photos they share. So understandably, my FB friends have different reactions to our extreme winter and the impact it has had on their schedules, their lives and the school calendar for their children.
From recent posts and shared photos, I have a pretty good idea of which of my FB friends love the cold winter weather, can explain the aerodynamics of sledding, appreciate the art and engineering of building snow people and consider the unexpected time off to be Mother Nature’s gift to be used for rest, relaxation and an extra pot of coffee. I also could make a list of those friends who are simply “over it all” and barely hanging on for spring.
Among my friends there is one group that has been mostly silent, in some cases because they don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer” to those who love the snow and in other cases because they don’t want to call attention to their different perspective. It is for this group that I wish to speak, sharing the challenges of frequent snow days and their impact. Consider the following:
- For low-wage and part-time workers, snow days mean lost pay. No work equals no pay. Even if they can get to work, fewer customers often leads to a shortened workday and less pay.
- For working single parents, snow days are a scheduling nightmare. The coordination of daycare schedules, emergency childcare for school-age children and their own work schedules requires flexibility, creativity and the patience of a saint.
- For disadvantaged families with limited resources, there is less sledding, rarely a yard for building snow people and often insufficient heavy-duty winter clothing – coats, gloves, hats and scarves – to make time outside seem tolerable, let alone enjoyable.
- Most people understand the transportation challenges of snow and ice. Now consider that your car is barely running in moderate temperatures. The battery is old; the tires have bald spots; and, there are no seat warmers or window defrosters to make travel more comfortable. Of course, there is also no garage for your car so any travel means 20 minutes of scraping windows before you can begin.
- Finally, imagine that you are a child of a single-parent with low-wage employment and dependent upon the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, but still often referred to as food stamps). For this child, every snow day not only means lost instructional time and less time with friends but it also means missing two hot meals from the free and reduced price breakfast and lunch program. For these children, snow days mean being hungry.
So, when I post that I am “done with the snow and ice,” it isn’t just because I long to wear my sassy heels instead of snow boots. I want our families to get back to the normalcy of work, school and regular meals. I want our children to get back to learning, socializing with their friends and starting each day with a hearty breakfast followed by a hot lunch.
More snow is predicted in the coming weeks. If you are of the mind to, please enjoy all of the things you love about extra time off, sledding and playing in the snow. But please do so knowing that socioeconomics impact the snow-day experience. At Family Scholar House, our families are working diligently to break the cycle of poverty through education. On snow days, they are just hanging on.
As we embark on a new year, we want to begin 2014 by thanking our generous and compassionate community for making the holiday season so special for all our Family Scholar House families. It is impossible to thank each and every individual, family, office or class who provided Christmas presents for a record number of FSH families through our Adopt-a-Family program, or each church or business that collected toys, books or winter clothing to keep of parent scholars and their children protected from this bitterly cold weather, or each volunteer who assisted with our Santa Shop, holiday parties or decorating our campuses for the holiday season. We are blessed by you, and we hope that sharing the holiday season with our families made the season all-the-more magical for you and your families!
Each year we are moved by the gratitude of our student parents, who without the assistance of our community would be unable to provide Christmas gifts for their children. They are awe-struck and encouraged by the support they receive to work harder to earn their degree and give back to the community through their time, talent and treasure.
This year, one of our post-program participants, Becca Dunkley, was able to complete her transformation from recipient of holiday assistance to provider of support and was enthusiastic to share what that experience meant to her…
As a child, I never imagined there would come a time in my life when I would be a single mother of two beautiful children – with unstable housing and no way to get ahead. In 2010, that is exactly the situation that I found myself in, and I was hopeless. In an effort to find a way out of my situation, I reenrolled in college and found the greatest blessing I could have asked for – Family Scholar House. I had found hope. I put my name on the waiting list, started attending their seminars and functions, and called to check-in almost daily! I was determined to become part of this program. With the support and guidance of the staff at FSH, I became a participant and moved into my apartment at Louisville Scholar House.
I will never forget the amount of encouragement and support that I received from the community, specifically at Christmastime. There was absolutely no way that my children would have received gifts from Santa if it weren’t for the generosity of the community. One of the most humbling experiences I have ever had was opening gifts – from total strangers- on Christmas morning along with my children. The smiles, laughter and fun that we experienced that morning would have NEVER occurred if it weren’t for the HUGE hearts of those in this community.
Now, as a post-program participant of Family Scholar House, it is an absolute honor to be in a position to give back! I am currently working for the University of Louisville, and my office was blessed to adopt a FSH family for Christmas. The tears, laughter and love that were experienced on that Christmas morning in 2010 are back again. It is an amazing feeling to be able to give back to a program that so graciously gave to me. If it weren’t for the support from FSH and the tools for success that were handed to me – in order to become the best woman and parent I could become – none of this would be possible.
To the current participants of FSH, please know that – IT IS POSSIBLE! AND YOU ARE WORTH IT!
As you will recall from elementary algebra, any number multiplied by one equals itself.
1 x 1 = 1, Y x 1 = Y, anything x 1 = anything
The fancy name for this is the multiplicative identity property, meaning that any number multiplied by one keeps its identity. And, this is a fine rule for mathematics.
Yet, I would encourage you to step outside of the world of math to see it differently; because, at Family Scholar House we have identified a different sort of rule. At FSH, we witness what I will call the multiplicative inspiration property, the power of one inspired person to affect exponential change through a progressive succession of interactions that yield a result far more significant than one. The power of one = ∞
In 2012, Keneysha Rodney, FSH graduate spoke about the impact of the one person who told her about Family Scholar House and started her on a path that allowed her to have support services and stable housing for herself and her girls as she completed her BSW from the University of Louisville. Keneysha now has an MSSW and has committed herself to “being that one person for others” by introducing single parents to Family Scholar House. The power of one = ∞
Last month, our community came together to build a Kaboom! Playground for the youngest scholars at our Stoddard Johnston Scholar House campus. For a small staff of 11, the task of recruiting 200 volunteers to join us on a Saturday in November to build a playground was daunting. But, we did not need to get 200 volunteers we needed only to get a few and watch as they each recruited friends, family and coworkers. And from one or two, we ended up with over 240 volunteers in one day to provide a place for our little ones to safely play outside. The power of one = ∞
Sometimes people feel that the little bit they can do on their own couldn’t really make a difference. We know that it does. Today, I challenge you to be the power of one that helps our families. Please tell someone about Family Scholar House today. Share your experience with us knowing that the power of one = ∞.