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 = ∞.
Next week, our nation will celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to expressing and sharing our gratitude for all of the blessings of the previous year. The history of this holiday is rich with stories of shared harvests, ceremonies, prayerful reflection and proclamation. All of which adds to the understanding that there is within us a desire to say “thank you.”
This week, Family Scholar House graduates and soon-to-be graduates lead the annual Thank-A-Thon, gathering together to make calls to FSH supporters to say “thank you” and share a bit about how they and their children have benefited from the programs and supportive housing at Family Scholar House. This tradition was begun by one of our graduates who understood how the person receiving support is changed and empowered by the opportunity to express her gratitude.
Each year, we have one or two people who hang up on our graduates, thinking that it is a solicitation. It is not. And, we have come to understand that calls to say “thank you” without asking for anything more are so unusual and curious that some people have trouble imagining that there is not a hidden motive. Again, there is not.
I do not believe that there was ever a desire for gratitude and appreciation to be limited to one day per year; but instead, for us to set aside a day to be mindful of our blessings and dedicate that day to being grateful. Similarly, while we know how good it feels to be told “thank you”, the purpose of our Thank-A-Thon is to allow our graduates a chance to express their gratitude.
Because of supporters like you, lives are changed, learning happens, degrees are earned, children are nurtured in a stable environment, violence is kept at bay, skills are acquired, dreams are born and goals are realized. Because of you, families eager for a fresh start get one and we are all better for it.
In this season of Thanksgiving, we want you to know that Family Scholar House is grateful for you and your support ALL of the time and our Thank-A-Thon is an annual event to offer those in whom you have invested a chance to share how very much you mean to them.
We are all very thankful for you.
May this Thanksgiving be a time of reflection and celebration for you and your family and may you both share and receive expressions of gratitude for the many blessings of the past year.
Our participants are more than just student parents – as if that wasn’t enough to juggle!
FSH resident Felicia Dixon shares her talent and passion for theater with others and helps them realize the transformative power of the arts. And she has seen this transformation first-hand.
Felicia herself experienced a transformation when she applied to Family Scholar House in the summer of 2012 after a random encounter with a kind woman at a laundromat who told her about the program. Felicia made contact with FSH and took full advantage of the support services available to pre-residential participants – helping her to earn a place in the residential program in October that same year. Family Scholar House has given Felicia the opportunity to focus on her kids – she is the mother of a 14-year old son and 7 (soon to be 8) year-old daughter – and her education – she currently attends Simmons College and is majoring in Theater and Theology. She has also been able to focus on and explore her passions and interests.
This summer, Felicia decided she wanted to help others experience the transformative power of the arts by creating a children’s production of “The Wiz”. But to do this, she needed to find financial support. She researched and submitted a grant proposal for a children’s summer theater program. Felicia was delighted to be notified that she would be funded – but the grant amount wasn’t as much as she had hoped. However, she knew her passion and love for working with children would be more than enough to overcome whatever financial obstacles the production faced. She quickly conducted a series of auditions, delegated key responsibilities (as well as stage roles) to the kids, promoted the production in the community and held the performances over two days at Simmons College in August.
Felicia witnessed children as they escaped the harsh realities of life by having fun, being creative and learning in a fun environment. They learned through self-discovery. Such opportunities inspire her to pursue her dream of one day running a children’s theater camp or perhaps managing the drama club of an educational institution. No matter what she does – she knows she wants to help transform lives, work with children and utilize her love for theater.
Last year, my family and I decided to participate in FSH’s Adopt-a-Family program. Being a recent college graduate, living at home and completely out of touch with the true cost of living, the experience had a huge impact on me and how I view the little things, basic needs like socks and body wash. Items I had never in my life had to do without.
We were matched with a family of 3, a mother with 2 little girls. One was over a year old and the other was just a few months old. The list we were given wasn’t full of toys and treats for both the children and their mother, but was asked for clothing, a winter coat and diapers – all things that families need but are costly.
As we started shopping, I was amazed how fast prices added up… a few outfits for each of the girls, socks, underwear and bibs. The total was growing faster than I could have imagined. I wanted to get the girls toys and games – the kinds of things I had always gotten for Christmas – but those weren’t priorities on their wish list.
Then we started shopping for mom… There was nothing on her list besides socks. Socks. All she wanted for herself was a few pairs of socks. I couldn’t imagine asking for that for Christmas. Most of us view Christmas as a time to ask for things we want but wouldn’t necessarily buy for ourselves. Luxury items, frills and extras that we don’t need but really want, things we could absolutely live without. This is not the case for the families at Family Scholar House; all they want is to have their basic needs met.
After we collected all of the essentials from the list we went to find something that would make everyone happy, a few toys for the girls, things that they could play and learn with. Some puzzles and a stuffed animal for each. A stuffed animal – something that I had dozens of as a child, something I never even considered the cost of. A set of lotions and body washes for their mom, a pair of yoga pants. Things we buy regularly and have in excess.
It felt good to be a part of this – to help a mother give her kids a special Christmas and keep the idea of Santa Claus alive. And helping ease the concern of where diapers or long pants might come from, at least for a little while.
It was a very emotional and gratifying experience, getting to help out a family that has so little but is so grateful for it all. Yes, we spent money, but it was so much more than that. We got to help and care about this family, give them a moment of peace and joy, what the holidays are all about. I encourage everyone to adopt a family at least once. The experience is worth far more than any money that is spent. It helps you feel connected to someone else and remember what you have to be grateful for. As corny as it may sound, it brings the spirit of Christmas to life.
- Biz Vincenti, FSH volunteer and PR Committee member
To learn more about Family Scholar House’s Adopt-a-Family program, please contact Stephanie Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A little girl runs home from the bus stop after school. It is a dreary day, but it doesn’t dampen her spirits. Through the front door to her warm, cozy home, she darts straight to her room, impatient for what comes next. There, already lovingly laid out on her bed by her mom, is what she’s dreaming about all day – a pink satin gown with pale pink lace trim and a crown that will sit regally on her head. She is a princess everyday, but TONIGHT she will dress like one.
U.S. families spend an average of $75 each year on Halloween decorations, costumes and candy, but for the disadvantaged, single-parent college students at FSH, this is a financial burden they cannot afford, even though they want their kids to experience all the same joys of childhood as other children. But with the help of our volunteers, our children find the perfect costume, have all the candy their parents will let them eat, and most importantly, a safe place in which to trick-or-treat. Instead of worrying where they will find an extra $75, the biggest Halloween worry of our student parents is if their kids will ever settle down for bed time after the sugar and excitement.
At this evening’s Senior Night volleyball game, the Mercy Academy community is collecting personal hygiene and household cleaning products to help FSH meet some of the basic needs of our low-income, single-parent families. The Athletics Department is also donating $1 from each admission sold to FSH for program support. The Mercy Journalism Department created this video to raise student awareness about FSH and the families we serve.
Last Friday, Family Scholar House participant Mechelle Artis accompanied Cathe Dykstra to the IdeaFestival to hear Dr. Tererai Trent speak. Dr. Trent is the founder of the Tinogona Foundation, which builds and repairs schools in Zimbabwe. Tinogona means “it is achievable” in Shona, and in hearing Dr. Trent speak, it became clear that “it” is “anything” – when you have passion and dedication and work very hard.
As a girl growing up in Zimbabwe, Dr. Trent did not know that education and independence were possible for her – she was married by age 11, and had three kids by the age of 18. Girls in her village were not allowed to attend school, but using her brother’s school books she had been able to teach herself some subjects. And, one day, a visitor to her village from Heifer International asked a group of girls, Trent among them, what they dreamed of. Realizing that education was a powerful tool that could offer her children a better future, Trent dreamed of getting an education.
She traveled from Zimbabwe to the U.S. for the opportunity to earn a GED and then a bachelor’s, master’s, and, finally, a Ph.D. – all while raising five children and working multiple jobs to support them. Trent was then able to travel back to Zimbabwe and other developing countries to empower women and girls to improve their standing in their communities by getting an education and gaining economic power.
However, it is not just in developing countries that education is critical to empowering women to achieve self-sufficiency and gender equality – and that there are many barriers to low-income mothers earning a college degree.
Even as a teen mom, Mechelle knew she needed a college education. She saw in her family the life that a lack of education, low-paying jobs and drug addiction could provide and knew she wanted more for herself and her son. But, as the first person in her family to attend college, and with little support from her family for her dream of earning a college degree and few financial resources, her achieving this goal was not certain.
Yet, Mechelle pursues her dream with grit and determination. She became a Family Scholar House resident two years ago and began her Freshman year at the University of Louisville. She is pursuing a degree in Justice Administration while juggling her responsibilities of being a single parent. After earning her undergraduate degree, Mechelle plans to attend law school and become a juvenile attorney. Mechelle’s brother was in the juvenile justice system, and she has been inspired to advocate for children, like her brother, who do not have a voice in the legal system.
While Mechelle has an innate desire to be successful and to pass along her appreciation of hard work and education to her son – and the support of Family Scholar House to overcome any barriers standing in her way – hearing the inspirational story of and getting to meet Dr. Trent only further stokes the fire within her. After the event, Mechelle reflected, “When Dr. Trent tells her story about how deeply she had wanted to obtain an education, you can tell through every word she spoke how driven and determined she was to make that dream come true. Dr. Trent is motivating young women across the globe that we too can ACHIEVE the impossible even when the odds are against us. For that reason, she inspires me to never give up, but yet to keep striving towards my goal and to make a difference in this world. Her journey was even harder than mine. She was not a native, and it took her ten years to receive her GED. If she did not give up, then why should I?”