A new beginning..

One week ago, we celebrated the grand opening of our Frank & Paula Harshaw Riverport Campus at Riverport Landings. Kalyn, FSH participant spoke about her experience at FSH, you can read below.


Thank you. Hello everyone, I’m a little nervous, but I am also extremely excited for the opportunity to be here today. As Ms. Cathe said, my name is Kalyn Maddox and I call The Frank & Paula Harshaw Riverport Campus home. I moved in earlier this year with my four year old daughter, Makari. There are not enough words to describe what these past few months have been like for us as we settle into this new chapter in our beautiful apartment. It has not been an easy path; becoming a teenage mom, navigating motherhood, managing school and financial responsibilities. But thankfully, my path led me to Family Scholar House, which has made all of those responsibilities and struggles feel more manageable.

I have to admit, when I first found out about Family Scholar House, it sounded too good to be true. Hearing that people were there to support me, provide my little family with housing, academic coaching and life skills – all in one place. I attended orientation, learned all about the program and immediately began going to workshops, calling to check in and doing everything I could to move up the waiting list. When I found out we were going to be moving on this campus, tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t contain all the emotions, the opportunity to live in our own space, to focus on school & continue to grow as a mother and a student.

I am currently a sophomore and attend the University of Louisville, majoring in Nursing. Right now my focus is getting accepted into the upper division of nursing for the spring. My ultimate dream is to help others by sharing my passion with my patients and their families. I hope to show people how much possibility there is in life. My daughter is a bundle of light and laughter. Watching her grow up and discover the world around her is my favorite thing – I pray she never loses that sense of wonder. I love that Family Scholar House provides programming, not just for me but also for my daughter. Just as I am afforded an opportunity to learn and grow, so is Makari. Family Scholar House isn’t just my home, it’s my community. Makari seeing me complete my dreams while she works to figure out hers is something I never thought possible.

In closing I just want to say THANK YOU, thank you to everyone that made this campus possible for us. From the very first conversation, to all the meetings, planning and construction, to donating furniture and clothes to fill our new homes. By supporting this project, you are supporting my family – you are making it possible for Makari to play in a safe environment with other kids and for me to pursue my dream. I will officially graduate and become a registered nurse IN 2021, and you are all invited. Thank you again for believing in this program, this project and this family – your belief helps me continue to push on those long days and sets an example for the type of person I want to be, a person that pays it forward to the next family in need.


A Leap of Faith, A Decade Later


(Chief Possibility Officer, Cathe Dykstra with FSH grad Ricki and her daughter Ashiyah in front of the apartment – Ricki & Ashiyah moved into on Louisville Scholar House campus 10 years ago…TODAY. Ricki is now a therapist serving families in our community!)

Ten years ago, our organization took a big leap of faith.  On August 19-20, 2008, we opened our first campus, moving 32 residents in at Louisville Scholar House. This was Family Scholar House’s first foray into providing the affordable housing critically important to stabilizing families so that single parents could focus on their education and career preparation while also providing for their children.

As we mark this important anniversary, we recall those first residents not only as they were when they moved in but also see them as the awesome community members that they are now, working in their careers, raising bright children, and planning for the future. I also remember their struggles and how having a place to live and an academic coach and a family advocate focused on their success, provided them with a fresh start and hope.

Many people stepped up to help us build our first campus.  This was the beginning of important new collaborations that included Jake Brown of the Marian Group, leaders from the University of Louisville and Louisville Metro Government, Gladys and Lewis ‘Sonny’ Bass who named our campus, and service partners throughout the community who referred homeless families to us. Many other community members came forward to support our work both with funding and with their volunteer time for special projects.

One of my favorite projects from these early days involved a chaplain who offered her services to help interested residents create a special prayer for their new apartment homes.  Regardless of their faith tradition or personal background, they were given a chance to write something for their family’s new home that expressed their feelings at this new beginning. Here is one of the special blessings from this project:

May we never forget today, even as we prepare for a better tomorrow.

May this home be a refuge from the realities of poverty; a place to heal as a family; and grow in mind, body and spirit.

May we start and end each day with “I love you” because both parents and children need to hear these special words.

May we never take for granted the roof over our heads, the food in our cabinet, the clothes and furniture donated by others, or the opportunities that are being given to us.

May we show our gratitude by setting high expectations for ourselves and then exceeding them as often as possible.

May the experiences we have had fuel our desire to be successful and may we then pay it forward to others who deserve a chance too.

These words of wisdom remind us that this little family was taking a leap of faith also.

In the ten years since opening our Gladys and Sonny Bass Louisville Scholar House campus, we have continued to stretch our resources to expand programs, build more affordable housing and serve our community. We have added collaborations, including those with True Up and other foster care service providers. Yet, the needs are still great with hundreds of families and foster alumni on our housing waiting list.

Our outcomes show the impact of the combination of housing and intensive services, with 431 college degrees earned by FSH graduates now employed in our community. With each new campus development, we accelerate the positive economic impact to our community that comes with the transition of a family from poverty to employment and self-sufficiency.

On August 29th, we will celebrate the grand opening of our fifth Louisville-area campus, bringing our housing capacity to 247 single-parent families and 32 unaccompanied foster alumni.  All of these residents are focused on education and career preparation so they can become contributing members of our community. We invite those who have been involved, volunteered and cheered for our participants on this journey to join us to celebrate the grand opening of Riverport Scholar House and Riverport Landings. Find more details at http://www.FamilyScholarHouse.org.

What began as a leap of faith continues because of the faithful support and encouragement from our community members and the dogged determination of our very deserving participants. To each and every one of you who have helped with funding, household donations, volunteer projects and advocacy on our behalf, we say thank you. Thank you for having faith in us. As we celebrate this special anniversary and another grand opening, “May we never forget today, even as we prepare for a better tomorrow.”

Cathe Dykstra
Chief Possibility Officer
President & CEO
Family Scholar House

Career Camp at FSH (Week 2)

By: Lydia Kotowski (volunteer/college student)

One of the many lessons Family Scholar House (FSH) teaches is that post secondary education is an incredibly important step on the path to achieving big dreams. As a current college student and believer in the transformative power of education, I whole-heartedly agree with that statement. The 2nd Annual Career Academy, hosted by FSH, strove to share this idea, in addition to many others, with kids from FSH families. At this camp, 20 kids aged six-18 learned about different career and college opportunities while simultaneously talking about and establishing their own goals for the future.

On the first day of camp, the kids had the opportunity to experience an art therapy session that helped them to identify their passions and goals. During this activity, the kids shared their feelings about current political debates, social issues, and personal goals articulately and professionally. I was blown away by the depth of their knowledge and evidence-based supports for their beliefs. Later during the same day, mentors from a variety of fields came in and took part in a “speed mentoring” session. During this component, I conversed with kids about college applications, study habits, and graduate school opportunities. Once the kids learned that I am in the process of preparing for law school, the future lawyers and social activists among the kids held back nothing when talking about how and why they want to change the world we live in. All the mentors who took part in this experience could see the curiosity and ingenuity brimming in each kid.

In the subsequent days, the kids went on field trips to four sites around Louisville; these included the University of Louisville, EOP Architects, Bellarmine University, and Red e App. Through these excursions, the kids got to see what college campuses are like, to learn what levels of education are needed for various careers, and to explore different careers. This year, the careers the kids were exposed to included architecture, the arts, athletics, medicine, safety work, technology, education, and agriculture. At all of these sites, the kids took pictures and videos, asked questions, and acted in an incredibly mature and professional manner.

At the end of the week, the kids had the chance to take their pictures and videos to the technology company Red e App and learn how to make iMovies. It was the hands-on learning experiences like this that really got the kids excited and invested in each site visit. From interacting with robots to building towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows to walking around campuses, the kids were able to have exciting new experiences. I loved getting to help them problem-solve and be creative with each challenge they were presented with. The intelligence of the kids really stood out during these interactive activities

When reflecting on what they learned, the kids shared many statements including: “technology is a way of life”; “I should decide what I want to do in my life before or in college”; “be positive”; “that going to college is important”; “if you do something, keep your mind on it.” Even though the camp was just five days in length, it seemed to have a real impact on the kids, volunteers, and businesses that took part in it. The camp was such a unique and important experience for the kids to have, and I am humbled to have gotten to be a small piece of it.

Career Camp at FSH (Week 1)

Our Community Engagement Intern, Becca Broda (Bellarmine University) has been busy this summer, learning about Family Scholar House and spending time with our families. Two weeks ago, Becca spent her mornings at our first week of Career Camp. It was a great week and she was able to capture it below:

When the final bell rings and summer break begins, many children are ecstatic about getting to sleep in and play with their favorite toys all summer. However, here at Family Scholar House, our youngest scholar’s learning doesn’t end with the beginning of their Summer Break. Our children aged 6-12 spent a week at our Stoddard Johnston Scholar House participating in Career Academy. These young scholars learned from many professionals in our community with unique and inspiring professions.

When walking into Career Academy, the kiddos are greeted by smiling and inspiring faces. They take a seat at the table and begin reading or drawing to begin their day. In the front of the room sits a dry erase board with the information for the day. The whiteboard states the learning topic for the day and the goals of Career Academy: be respectful and kind/nice, follow directions and listen, and use your manners. These goals keep our kiddos focused and motivated for their inspiring and educational day ahead.

On Monday, the learning topic of the day was, “Architecture.” Out students learned from Monica Brown, an Architect at her own firm, Reyes Brown, PLLC. When asked what she wanted to get out of her experience of presenting to our kiddos today, she had a wonderful answer.

“I was in their shoes or worse, I had a lot of naysayers. I wish someone had come to talk to me and tell me that I can do this, I can do anything. I’ve been doing this since I became an architect. These experiences really stick with you.”

Monica talked to the kiddos about her life journey, how she got to college, and she shared elements of her work with them such as hardhats, work boots, and the many unique tools of an architect. She also encouraged their creative minds by helping them build masterpieces with the Imagination Station.

On Wednesday, the learning topic of the day was, “Agriculture.” Mandy from Pure Pollen Flowers came to talk to our kiddos about flower farming.

Mandy explained the importance of protecting pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies and also explained how important these pollinators are in ensuring that our flowers continue to be produced. She also passed around seeds for the kiddos to look at with a magnifying glass. Many of them really enjoyed these activities! It even made them more excited for the flower art project that each of our kiddos made. Mandy ended the day with our children by helping them each make their own mini floral arrangements, which they absolutely loved!

Career Academy exposed some of our youngest scholars to careers they may not have known even existed, AND they got to meet real and exciting people who work those professions everyday!



Summer at Family Scholar House

It’s summertime in Kentuckiana.  For many children, that means lazy days spent by the pool, away at summer camp, running up and down a Florida beach, hiking in the mountains with family or taking lessons meant to hone their soccer, football, music, dancing or crafting skills.  Bare feet are the rule, sleeping late is a possibility, and across warm, sunny days, there’s all sorts of fun and adventure to be had.

This is not the case for most children at Family Scholar House.  Hello Kitty or Sponge-Bob themed band-aids to nurse scraped knees are a luxury. So, too, are bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and the sort of pull-ups that make it okay for the littlest and diapered ones to swim or run through a sprinkler.  In other words, what many families take for granted in the midst of summer fun, our families are often not able to manage  on very, very tight budgets.

How can you help?  Well, because we know FSH is supported by some incredibly generous folks, we thought you might ask just that!  So we’ve made our own “Target List.”  Via this list, you can discover some of the basic needs of our families this summer, choose them yourself on your own trip to Target, or, order the items straight off the website and have them shipped directly to us at Family Scholar House.  It couldn’t be easier–and we’d certainly appreciate any item–no matter how large or small—you’re able to assist our families with.

Please cut and paste the link below into your web browser and follow it to our FSH Target List–and know how grateful we are for your assistance.  Our families thank you!


FSH Target Summer List

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!

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!


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:


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