We did it!

A past FSH graduate and now Family Advocate for FSH, reflected back on her journey and those that helped her little family achieve their biggest dream!

One day our kiddos landed on the playground together. Our kids (my son and her daughter) LOVED being outside. We started talking and quickly realized our journeys had similarities and we were working toward some of the same goals. As we talked, we glanced over and realized our little humans were having a blast together.

We had both just recently moved into Stoddard Johnston Scholar House (her on the 1st floor and me on the 3rd). We were both going to school full-time, working and trying to be the best moms we could be to our little ones. We were both making penny’s stretch as long as we could, living on extreme budgets and spending hours upon hours diving into our studies. Over the course of our time at SJSH, we had many late nights on the porch with neighbors talking each other through hardships, sharing our goals and supporting one another. (Grateful to have an entire community of single-parents – all pursuing the same ultimate goal – graduation and full self-sufficency) Even on our hardest days, we were all grinding to ensure we met our goals, loved our kiddos and became successful women – that could provide for our families.

We did just that!

There were many more days spent on that playground with our kids. We both graduated, moved into our own homes and pursued different career paths, we have always stayed in touch. Our kids love each other and we still fiercely support each other, as we each work toward new goals we have set for ourselves. You see, the bonds made at FSH last long after graduation day!

A few weeks ago, we joined together and took our kids on their first trip to LegoLand. When you work THAT HARD for something it makes it that much more special when it’s made possible. Every single laugh, hug, giggle, and step was monumental.

Yes, it took us – time, tears, therapy, saving, moves, coffee, making mistakes and learning, frugal lifestyles, boundaries, prayers, support from Family Scholar House, support from each other and relentlessly pursuing what we knew we needed to.

The last night of our vacation, we were soaking in the fact that WE got to take them on a vacation, solely from each of our own bank accounts and on our own. (I always dreamed of the day I could take my son on his ‘ultimate dream vacation’ – he LOVES LegoLand 🙂 )

We have been waiting for this day for YEARS & we did it!

Still, as single mothers but with degrees, huge thanks to the support of where we met FAMILY SCHOLAR HOUSE. We could not have done it without those that supported us, cheered us on, watched our kids while we worked or attended night classes and those that never stopped believing in us, even when at times we doubted ourselves.

Sitting on the plane waiting to return home, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Cherishing that I have a career I love, my little human is flourishing into an intelligent compassionate little man and we can both proudly say we have both been off all government assistance since graduation!

See…we both desperately wanted to pay our own bills (like all of the families that live at FSH), we wanted to do this without assistance and WE DID but it took support from Family Scholar House, hard work, and others seeing us as capable of success.

Now, I get the opportunity to work with single parents at Family Scholar House  EVERY.SINGLE.DAY and remind them that – they can do it too!  Day by day…Step by step

 

Thank You to everyone that supports Family Scholar House and families like mine – because you believed in us, we learned to believe in ourselves!

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It take a village..

Have you ever heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? If you have spent any time on one of our campuses, attended a workshop or sat in on a family café night, you will see that old saying brought to life. You will witness volunteers serving food, participants facilitating an inter-generational conversation about bullying, a community member entertaining an infant while mom gets a few uninterrupted bites of her dinner – you will witness our village in action. The type of village that comes together, supports and celebrates one another on the journey through life. The type of village that is essential in ensuring we deliver the services and programs at Family Scholar House that help our families break the cycle of poverty.  In 2017, we had 12 full-time staff and 1,994 volunteers that were a part of this village. These volunteers ranged in age from 2-88 years old – all with different backgrounds, skill-sets and passions – but they all made the decision to share their time and talents with our families. (Our youngest volunteers are 2 and accompany their parent/guardian to Toddler Book Club!)

 Interested in learning more about Family Scholar House or volunteering – Mayor’s Give a Day Week of Service is only 26 days away – April 14-22nd. During that week, we will have opportunities to learn about our mission by touring a campus, collections and volunteer opportunities that can be completed both at FSH and off site.  Follow us on Facebook (Family Scholar House),visit the official website Mayor’s Give a Day Week of Service or email us at GetInvolved@FamilyScholarHouse.org to learn more about how you can get involved and make a difference.

On Demand Career Development

How did you learn your professional skills? Did you have a mentor who took you under their work and taught you the ropes? FSH Participants are now experiencing this both in person and virtually!

Part of our core career programming includes Speed Mentoring and Job Shadowing, in which participants are connecting with professionals and learning professional skills in person. In addition to this, participants are also able to access professionalism support virtually through our FSH Academy Career Series. This allows us to deliver the information they need most at the time they need it. While learning skills like how to dress for an interview and how to write a professional email are useful to learn at any time, the advice is most critical when that situation arises. FSH Academy’s format of quick 5 minute videos on specific topics allows a participant to quickly pull up a tutorial such as how to tie a bow tie on their phone as they are getting dressed on interview day.

Pre-residents are required to complete professionalism workshops either online or in person before they move in. At this time, many may be first focusing on getting in school and will want to revisit the information once they are ready to look for an internship or job. This is easy to do with FSH Academy. Participants in the Job Shadowing program also receive monthly online professionalism workshops to complete. These workshops go more in depth based on what they will need to be successful at this stage in their professional career. Topics of these online career workshops currently include: professional etiquette and communication, resume and cover letter writing, putting together a professional look, networking skills, professionalism in social media and more.

These videos are created by our best experts- YOU! We assist community members in planning a video where they can share their expertise on a given topic and be filmed in our on campus studio. We then edit the video and create an online workshop with a corresponding quiz that advocates can send to participants as part of their programming and case plans. This virtual curriculum is key to meeting the needs of our 21st century learners who are full time college students and parents, hungry to consume online content at their fingertips.

Want to get involved with our Career Programming and/or FSH Academy? Please contact our Career Advisor and FSH Academy Coordinator Helene Trager-Kusman at HTKusman@familyscholarhouse.org

Reflecting back

As we are wrapping up the end of the first month of the new year, there are already so many things to reflect upon.  There has been lots of soul searching, path finding and relationship strengthening that has happened in these 4 short weeks.

My name is Courtney Rasche and I am a Family Scholar House and University of Louisville graduate from 2015 and a couple weeks ago, on a Tuesday evening I had the privilege of joining a group of other strong women for a fun night out at Nanz and Kraft florists, while we were taught how to make our own beautiful flower arrangement.  It was so touching to see these women come out in the freezing cold (literally) and snowy evening to have some fun while supporting Family Scholar House and other families just like me.

After my daughter and I got home it was bed time, so we placed our new beautiful arrangement in the center of our dining room table and went to sleep.  In the morning when I saw it, a deeper meaning came to me as to what these flowers represent.  My relationship with Family Scholar House.

The beginning of my journey with FSH was in 2012 when I began the classes in the pre-resident program.  I did not realize it then, but this was the start of the seeds being planted within me that I would need for this journey to self-sufficiency.  Over the next few months, FSH staff would continue to plant these seeds of skills within me.

After I moved in something began to happen.  These seeds began to take root, and grow, and bloom into newly recognized skills and lessons.  Some of these bloomed flowers of skill were financial planning, some were pieces of how to be a better and more present mother, some were my newly found passions after meeting with my Academic Coach, some were the new friendships with my neighbors.

Looking at this beautiful arrangement of gerberas, lilies, hydrangeas and roses in front of me, I realize that my arrangement of flowers of skills and relationships could never have bloomed to the fullness that it is today if it were not for Family Scholar House and the loving, supportive staff!

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Why am I a Shoe Guy?

Wine Women & Shoes 2018 is only a few weeks away – check out below to learn more about one of our faithful supporters, Ryan Edwards, Shoe Guy and 2017 King of Sole winner. In his own words, read why he is committed to Family Scholar House, our families and being an extraordinary Shoe Guy:

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As I sit here on Martin Luther King Jr. day I ponder some of his greatest ideas. One quote that has always resonated with me is, “Life‘s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” It is not lost on me that my path in life is not entirely due to my hard work or my talent. Rather, what has defined my life has been the generosity, influence, and dedication of others using their time and talents so that I may succeed.  Realizing that, I wanted to provide the same support to others.  As my life began to fill with family and work responsibilities I found myself putting the ability to serve others on the back burner.

Then Family Scholar House entered my life and along with it an opportunity to be a “Shoe Guy” at the annual Wine Women & Shoes.  It’s an incredible event, which sells out months in advance and all the proceed from the evening directly impact the families and young adults served by Family Scholar House. A fun night, supporting this wonderful cause – ending the cycle of poverty by enabling families and young adults to achieve life-long self-sufficiency through higher education.  This is my fourth year participating and each year I know there is a difference being made. Family Scholar House is a hand up, not a hand out.  And so many of us, myself included, have needed that at some point in our lives. Through this event and this role, I am able to pay it forward. I couldn’t think of a better or more meaningful opportunity that allows me to serve than Family Scholar House. 

If you’re interested in serving as a Shoe Guy (volunteer in a variety of capacity the night of the event) or would like to nominate someone – contact Kellie Johnston at KJohnston@FamilyScholarHouse.org

 

Family Scholar House, a place I call home…

At Family Scholar House, we get the unique opportunity to work with, not only the single-parent students but also their amazing children (the motivation behind the scenes, the reason our parents are striving for a better life for themselves and their children).

We get to watch these kiddos grow up-  first steps have been taken in our lobby – college acceptance letters have been celebrated and everything in between. We get to be there for the big stuff, the small stuff and the everyday stuff – for not only the adults but the fierce and growing children. Then, once our adults graduate,these families transition out of our housing, into an exciting next chapter – but we are lucky, we often get to continue watching the growth and positive impacts they make in OUR communities!

Below, a blog from one of our second-generation scholar, Janae (now a Freshman in college!!)

Living in the Family Scholar House almost six ago, I reminisce on the days of growing up in such a family oriented and goal driven atmosphere. Family Scholar House provided so much support for my mother while she pursued her education, and cared for my sister and I. The absence of two parents in the home can make it very stressful for a single parent to provide for their family, it would be easy to forget your goals and ambitions, however, the Family Scholar House makes it possible to strive for the unimaginable!

I am very thankful for Family Scholar House for giving my mother this opportunity along with many opportunities for us to get involved and to flourish into young adults. For instance, I was given the opportunity to participate in the YMCA’s Leadership Training Camp and it was such an amazing experience that I will never forget. Not only did I learn the essentials of true leadership, but I discovered something even more important – MYSELF! I was reminded that I am special and unique. That I have a purpose and the strong will to deliver my perspective on the meaning of life. Now this may sound strange for a thirteen-year-old to have an epiphany, but that’s how life changing this experience was for me and every year was something different. These camps always brought a way to improve and demonstrate the core elements of leadership. Family Scholar House ALWAYS allowed me to show off my personality, encouraging me to be comfortable in my own skin and nurtured my potential, from the very beginning

            Since my mother graduated and we moved out of Downtown Scholar House, I still participate and volunteer at workshops hosted by Family Scholar House, I am still welcomed into the place I once called my home. Home is where the heart is, and my heart will always be here with the incredible staff, neighbors, volunteers and program of Family Scholar House.

I can still remember watching my mom study and do homework and we would talk about the day I would go to college – I am still shocked that day is here! Currently, I’m completing my Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Louisville.  Even all these years later, I still find myself reflecting back to the leadership skills I learned at camp, the memories I made at Family Scholar House and the incredible support system my family gained, when I was just entering middle school. I know I can always call or stop by when I need advice, a meal at cafe night, to volunteer or just to chat and thus is why I am thankful for the Family Scholar House.  

Different…and yet also the same

The children’s room at Louisville Scholar House, gets a lot of love from our families. During orientations and workshops, you can always find little ones  amusing and entertaining volunteers. Books are read and pictures are drawn and rocking horses and trains are played with.

If you pass by, at just the right moment – you may be swept into a world of superheros saving the day, a construction site of blocks or Doc McStuffins performing check ups on the local stuffed animals.

It is, in so many ways, a beautiful reminder that our children here at Family Scholar House are just like other children–they imagine.  And dream.  And create. And wonder.

And yet, they are also not like many other children–because they’ve known hunger. And violence.  And not having a roof over their heads.  And wondering if Santa really does come for all little boys and girls.

Different…and yet also the same. And they are ALL ours–no matter what they’ve been through or where they’ve come from, they are part and parcel of this place.  And as an agency, a neighborhood, a community, a city–they are ours to care for, to encourage, to inspire, to nurture into the fabulous and amazing people they are already on their way to becoming.

For them we are so, so thankful.  And feel awfully lucky that we get to be part of their lives.

Fresh Start…

In April of 2017, all Tiffany’s hardwork during our pre-residential program resulted in keys to her brand new apartment at our Louisville Scholar House Campus with her son Princeton (age 2). She knew that this is where she needed to be, so Tiffany did everything she could and it took a little over a year before she was able to move in.

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When Tiffany is not in class. She takes advantage of the Family Scholar House computer lab to help her complete her homework.  She also utilizes the tutoring services on campus as well, again, to make sure she is giving her absolute best!  This mother-son duo can always be found at cafe nights, joining FSH neighbors and members of the community to enjoy a delicious meal and conversation.

When talking with her, she reflects back on the hard work and sacrifices it took her to get her family to this point in their journey. She is always so proud to show off pictures of her adorable son and also his ‘progress reports’ from the Early Learning Center(childcare facility), which is just steps away from their front door.  Her eyes light up with pride when she talks about how well he is doing.

Tiffany is currently studying at JCTCS but she knows this is just the beginning of her path to accomplish her big dreams! She will graduate with her Associates in May and then transfer to UofL next fall to finish pursuing her Bachelor Degree in Business Marketing. She has always been fascinated by stories and now she dreams of the day her career will allow her to tell a story for a company or agency through Marketing.

We are so proud of Tiffany and are excited to walk alongside her as she continues to accomplish her goals and empower her to continue making new ones.

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Who is your Real MVP?

Here at Family Scholar House, we know it truly takes a village. From our single-parent families, to the staff, volunteers (of all ages) and donors – it takes everyone to make Family Scholar House possible. To date, we have celebrated 371 college degrees. These degrees represent more than just a piece a paper but a second chance – the reality of becoming fully self-sufficient for our families.

Over the last few months, we have asked our scholars of all ages, “Who is YOUR real MVP?” and over and over again – we heard – “My Mom or My Dad, because they love me and they take care of me”. This comes as no surprise to the FSH family- we find ourselves in awe of the commitment and determination of our single-parent students – everyday!

In honor of Wanda Durant – NBA star Kevin Durant’s REAL MVP – speaking at our Celebration of Education Gala, we encouraged the community reflect on the same question “Who is YOUR Real MVP?” and submit to us! Below you will find Joshua’s entry about his mom – we are excited to have them join us on Thursday, as our guest to the Celebration of Education Gala.

 

Why my mother, is my Real MVP!

My name is Joshua, I am 19 years old and my Real MVP is my mother. The beginning of my life didn’t start off easy, I was supposed to enter this world on September 21, 1998 but due to my mother having high blood pressure, I was born August 22nd. From as far back as I can remember, my mom has always sacrificed – to ensure I had the best life.

There is no way I could explain everything she has done to showcase why she is not just my life line but my Real MVP!!  My mother became a parent at the age of 19, while she was living in low-income housing. She worked two jobs, until she was able to secure more stable and reliable employment. While working, she also went to school at Jefferson Community College and obtained a certificate in Phlebotomy, but she didn’t stop there. She continued on to the University of Louisville to get her Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing/Management. She accomplished all of this, while taking care of me, never failing to make sure my school work was done. I know that there are a lot of single mothers that work, go to school and take care of their child/ren but it’s much different seeing it with your own two eyes. 

On March 25, 2001, when I was two years old, a complete stranger broke into our apartment and my mother was physically and sexually assaulted. Having endured that traumatic event, she never let that consume her or ruin her spirit. She always said, if you allow what happened to break you – you have given power to that person.  I have never been able to understand and probably never will, but one thing I know, is my mom is the strongest person I know and I owe this woman that gave her all to me, MY ALL!

 In my short 19 years of life, I have learned so much from her but a few life lessons that stand out, no matter how hard headed I may be I can never forget them.  Number 1: Be true to who you are.  Number 2: You are always accountable for your actions.  Number 3: Prayer DOES change things, and never forget who is the head of your life.  Number 4: Don’t be afraid to dream, go after them and obtain them!  I could go on and on about my mother but then I would have to write a 4 part series.

My Mother, My Life, My REAL MVP

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What do you want to do – when you grow up?

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After the anticipation of summer and a break from school, it doesn’t take long for that initial excitement to turn into boredom from a lack of activities or things to do. To combat boredom and summer learning loss, we encourage and find support for our kids to attend various camps and we even create our own.

Last week, some of our kids from ages six to 16 attended Career Academy, a camp developed and led by our staff. Each day focused on a different profession and included speakers from that career field. In the afternoon, students visited various places of work. The goal for Career Academy is for our younger kids to be able to identify different careers and our older kids to realize the many different types of careers available to them.

Starting off with an introduction to technology, Career Academy received visitors from software company Red e, whose app we use for communication with our participants. Representatives from The Software Guild discussed the difference between software and hardware. They also brought interactive robots and even a 3-D printed elephant along with them. Following these speakers, our students visited Red e’s office and saw firsthand what a career in technology looks like. This was important for our students because today, even if a professional isn’t working in the technology field, he or she will definitely work with technology.

On Tuesday, our students learned about public safety through 911 dispatchers from Metrosafe and officers from Louisville Metro Police Department. During their visit to Metrosafe that afternoon, students were able to see public safety in action. The following day, a councilman and representative explained their leadership positions in public service, careers which students had even more insight into after a visit to Metro Council.

Agriculture day was hands-on as students compared different types of seeds, felt the different textures of flowers, learned about the parts of a plant and planted their own sunflowers. During a visit to Lakshmi Farms, students were able to experience a day on a working farm.

Each day, our students asked the various professionals who visited what kind of education or training their job required. On banking day, a representative from Fifth Third Bank explained how a job at the bank doesn’t require a finance degree or even mean the professional is handling money. While there are bankers who offer loans and help with savings, the bank has many different departments for different types of jobs, such as legal, marketing, communications and human relations.

Included among our students are aspirations to be future teachers, police officers, lawyers, graphic designers and doctors. Career Academy gave these students the opportunity to discover more of their passion and even explore new interests.

When visiting Bellarmine University and University of Louisville, our older students asked career and major-specific questions on their tours. Understanding the types of education and training required of professionals puts college education into their perspective of the future.

It is safe to say – the week was full of excitement and learning – and a chance to open our youngest scholars eyes to a world of possibility!