Metro College graduate shares Family Scholar House experience

Joi Williams Family Scholar House-580x370 (3)

Participating in a service project with her work group led Joi Williams to new opportunities.

“We were cleaning and preparing apartments for residents at Family Scholar House, which is a Metro United Way agency,” said Joi, a former UPS Metro College student. “While there, I learned that the program assists residents by helping them succeed in education and achieve lifelong self-sufficiency. I thought, ‘this might be a program that could help me and my son.’”

Joi researched the Family Scholar House program and scheduled a meeting with an FSH representative. Within a few months, she was participating in the program.

“Working at UPS as a student in the Metro College program and being a resident at Family Scholar House allowed me to finish school successfully and graduate in a reasonable amount of time,” Joi said. “I wanted an environment that allowed me to be focused on my schooling.”

Even though Joi left UPS in 2014 and completed the program at FSH, she is still connected to both UPS and the agency. She volunteers once a month at FSH speaking to participants about her journey through the program, including how UPS and Metro College helped her finish her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Louisville.

“Joi uses a wonderful balance of information and encouragement to engage others in the educational opportunities available through Metro College,” Family Scholar House President and CEO Cathe Dykstra said. “By sharing her personal story, Joi inspires others to believe in themselves and all that is possible with hard work and determination.”

Joi’s degree and experience at UPS helped her obtain her current position as a Recruitment Coordinator and Student Development Counselor for the Metro College program at the University of Louisville. She helps Metro College students with career and academic planning, and works with them one-on-one to help prepare them for their chosen career path. Jill Faul, a UPS recruiting supervisor said the recruiting area works closely with Joi and UofL to recruit for UPS employees and Metro College participants and often sharing a table.

Family Scholar House received a $17,600 grant from UPS in July to use toward updating the technology in their computer labs. “UPS and the UPS Foundation have been wonderful supporters of Family Scholar House and our mission to end poverty through education,” said Cathe. ”We have received generous financial support from the Foundation and have had terrific UPSers who have volunteered to do everything from building shelves and installing speed bumps to creating an obstacle course for field day, from painting 14-foot walls to making snowflakes with children.”

Joi thinks it would be impossible for people to know everything United Way does and how many community organizations they are affiliated with. “I would encourage UPSers to consider contributing to United Way because there is a strong possibility that you or a family member has benefited or will benefit by services provided by United Way, or one of its nonprofit agencies.”

Take a Peek Inside FSH

What does summer at Family Scholar House look like? Let’s take a look…

May: We start the summer with a celebration of our freshly graduated participants. Just last month we celebrated 62 college graduates!

June: As we transition into June we watch our residential children attend summer camps. These camps keep them physically active as well as mentally sharp, allowing the children to problem solve while working in teams through fun activities.

July: The middle of summer is actually when we start preparations for the fall. We host our annual community event, Beer & Brats on Baxter, in partnership with local furniture store Eyedia to collect much needed school supplies for our participants. July also hosts our annual Pack-A-Backpack for all participants and their children where we pass out all the school supplies they’ll need to be successful in the upcoming school year.

August: While still technically summer, August represents fall to us. School is back in session and academic needs are in full swing.

Since school is out during the majority of May-August, what do our participants and their children do for summer? How could they enjoy the summer in a healthy, productive manner? We have some ideas!

  • With a little more free time on our hands, summer is an excellent time to evaluate life goals and lifestyles. Maybe we could start running for a local race that is occurring in the fall? Or maybe we can take those summer art classes we’ve been working towards all year.  Or how about that TV series you’ve been interested in finishing but couldn’t due to schoolwork? Being mindful of our emotional, mental and physical healths comes in a variety of activities! Whatever helps you unwind and refresh your brain and body. That’s the focus of being mindful and why not evaluate that process when there’s a little extra time to play around with?
  • Our children are not exempt from this evaluation. Sit them down and ask them what they would like to do for the summer, what goals in life do they have? We tend to not give children enough credit about making their own decisions. But it’s never too early to start including your child(ren) in the discussion of life goals and how to achieve them. Does your child want to attend different summer camps than before? Did a certain activity in a summer camp spark a passion they are interested in learning more about? If summer camps are not an option, has your child been utilizing the free cultural passes from the library? There are dozens of free activities for children to become involved in with local libraries, churches and non-profits. Remember, it’s never too early to develop a dedication to volunteerism.
  • What about having a family staycation(a family vacation in your hometown)? Plan a weekend of nothing but fun activities to do with your family in your neighborhood. Visit a local park, pack a picnic and eat outside, walk across the Big Four Bridge into Indiana, make a meal together, attend the free days at a museum, etc. The list goes on and on.

To our community supporters and readers, would you like to help our parents and their children this summer? Donate your time or resources to bridging the gap between a wasted summer opportunity and a fun-filled, productive summer for our hard-working participants and their children. Host a field day at one of our campuses, donate supplies to ensure safety while away at camp (bandaids, sunscreen, reusable water bottles, etc.) or share other resources they could benefit to learn more about. Do you have any other ideas for what they could do this summer, as a family or individually? Let us know!

Our parent scholars and their children work so hard to achieve their education goals. Let us help them enjoy their summer to make sure they all are refreshed and prepared for the next school year.

Promoting Healthy Eating Habits with Participants

fruit veg

Today, June 17, 2016 marks the official “Eat Your Vegetables” day across the nation. It aligns well with the fact that the whole month of June is officially “National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month”.  Both of these holidays were created to help educate the nation on the importance of fruits and vegetables in our daily diet. With this in mind, we always try to communicate to our busy participants the needs of eating, and feeding their children, the appropriate amount of fruits and vegetables.

Why it’s important:

According to, “people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body”.

The health benefits of eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits are plentiful, but here are a few:

  • May reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • May protect against certain types of cancers
  • May reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes
  • May lower blood pressure, may help to decrease bone loss and reduce the risk of developing kidney stones

Why should this matter for children?

Simply put, children are growing! Ensuring they have all the right nutrients aids in their development and growth.  Better school performance, improved nutrition, decreased obesity and digestive health are just a few benefits for children that eat their daily recommendation of fruits and vegetables.

Do you have a picky child? Here are a few tips to help them eat more fruits and vegetables:

  • Shop with them! Let them pick out the produce
  • Let them prepare the dishes, a child who makes a dish is more likely to eat it
  • Sneak pureed produce into your child’s favorite foods
  • Stock kid-level shelves in the fridge with baggies of cut-up veggies and fruits

Where to buy fresh fruits and vegetables:

Local grocery stores will house all types of produce, with a variety of in season, as well. That being said, sometimes our participants don’t live close to a grocery store that houses fresh produce, or they aren’t affordable.

That is where New Roots, Fresh Stop Markets come in. These markets are bi-weekly fresh food markets that “pop up” at local churches, community centers, and housing authorities. Community members purchase shares of 10-12 seasonal produces in advance and pick them up at the markets closest to them. Families on WIC need only pay $6 for this opportunity! Not on WIC but have limited resources, you pay just $12. The rest of the community is welcome to take part for $25. For Louisville based markets, the contact information is (502)-509-6770.

Other ideas we share with our participants include splitting the cost of produce with a friend or neighbor. A lot of produce come in large enough sizes where a family of two or three can easily split with another family of two or three. Families are also encouraged to join our Café Nights that occur every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We have teamed up with Dare to Care to provide all participants and their children with a healthy, free meal that include a fruit and vegetable.

How to store fresh fruits and vegetables:

Here are a few printable charts that detail how and where to store, how long to keep, and how to clean your produce:

Always talk to your doctor and your child’s doctor before changing diets.

More resources:

Being Environmentally Conscious

This past Sunday, June 5th, marked the 42nd World Environment Day. This day was created to bring awareness and action for the protection of our environment. Family Scholar House has taken many initiatives to be more environmentally conscious and now we are going to share how we have been, along with providing our readers with more information on how anyone can start building a better tomorrow.

Why it’s important:

According to Conserve Energy Future, being environmentally friendly is: “having a lifestyle that is better for the environment. It’s all about taking those small steps towards making a better community for ourselves and generations to come.”

Simply put, our environment needs to be taken care. We utilize the resources that Mother Nature provides so we have a responsibility to take care of her in return, which allows future generations to continue utilizing the resources. Our current habits are dwindling our natural resources faster than they can be replaced, so we can start taking small steps that make a huge difference.

What Family Scholar House does for the environment:

  • We are expanding our recycling initiative– including placing recycle bins in all offices and buildings.
  • We encourage using reusable dishes with all campuses and offices (instead of paper and plastic).
  • We conserve energy in several ways- we have motion sensory lights, as to save electricity when the spaces are not in use and our building thermostats are pre-programmed.
  • Our Downtown campus has a green roof– Green roofs offer several benefits but most importantly to our community, green roofs reduce the amount of storm water runoff and also delay the time at which runoff occurs, resulting in decreased stress on sewer systems.
  • Downtown has a Bioswale– These are landscape elements designed to filter out contaminants from surface runoff water by natural means, including vegetation and soil.
  • T main campus has a roof top garden and Stoddard Johnston campus has a herb garden– we utilize all grown vegetation in our cooking classes and Café Nights.

Ways to become more mindful about the environment:

  • Conserve water- make sure the dishwasher is full before starting a load and take quicker showers.
  • Buy recycled/recyclable products- and actually recycle them!
  • Consume less energy- turn lights off, pre-program your thermostats, unplug unnecessary appliances.
  • Eat locally grown fruits and vegetables, or explore the option of gardening your own!
  • Join environmental groups to combat air pollution and begin projects in your community.
  • Create less waste– recycling really helps here!
  • Plant trees- this could be a fun family project.
  • Drive less and walk more- just remember, every bit counts!

Get started:

Recycling is one of the easiest ways to get started. Here is how to get started in Louisville!

  • Go to
  • Look up if recycling can be picked up at your house- if it can, request a bin and start recycling!
  • If recycling cannot be picked up at your curbside, look to find the closest drop-off site. You simply fill your recycle bin and drop it off at the location. It’s an extra step, but the effort goes a long way.
  • Also, don’t forget to make it fun! Children are more likely to make an effort if you explain the importance as well as have some fun with it. Here are several ideas on how to make recycling fun with your children.

More information can be found here:

Good luck! Please share with us on Facebook how you are currently or plan to be more environmentally conscious, we love hearing from our readers.

I am so close to achieving everything..

Monday night, we celebrated 62 college degrees! Supporters of FSH, staff and our special families gathered to reflect on the accomplishments. Aleshia Thompson, a member of the Class of 2016, spoke to the crowd and we wanted to share her words with you below:

Good Evening, I am honored to speak to you all today. My name is Aleshia Thompson and I am a proud member of the FSH Class of 2016. The past month has seemed surreal, as I walked across the stage at graduation- I couldn’t help but reflect back on the journey that got me to this exact place.

Last year, I completed an essay for a scholarship and the topic of the essay was where I saw myself 5 years from now- and where I saw my daughter, Trinity, 10 years from now.  As I reach this goal – of obtaining my college degree- I wanted to share the words I wrote 1 year ago.

It can sometimes be difficult to think of the future when there has been so much that has gone wrong in the past. For every good thing that has come in my life, a small amount of time is spent reflecting on how far I have come. When I think of five years, I think of the amount of time I was out of college, living life as a productive citizen of KY, working hard in the medical field and a dedicated member of my church. It sounds like an okay life, but I was completely lost. Due to many obstacles that came in my life, I was changed from a top scholar in high school, graduating with honors, full of promise, to a woman that felt like there was no hope, there was no way out, and there was nothing left to live for. The great thing about my life is that the story did not end there. Right now, I still have close to nothing, as far as material possessions go, but I am so close to achieving everything. It still amazes me that I have a future worth fighting for. From the childhood abuse, to the abusive relationship, to the miscarriage, to the birth of my daughter, and to the poverty that seems to dominate my life. I am thankful that I stand today with my sanity intact. At my lowest point, the only thing that kept me going was my daughter, her impending birth was a constant reminder that things in my life needed to change. I was eight months pregnant with her when I decided to leave her father. My fear of her growing up in a violent home, trumped my fear of what he would say and do to me – so I called my family and the police, gathered my things, and left. My next greatest concern was that I could not provide her the future she deserved working as an entry – level medical technician, but I knew that the medical field was where I wanted to stay. When my daughter was four months old, I carried her to JCTC with me as I enrolled in college after being out of college for five years. For the two years I was there, I met some amazing teachers that saw my potential, encouraged me, and challenged me to continue my education. Family Scholar House also opened their doors to me, and provided me with the support I needed to focus on my education. Since then, I have transferred to UofL, majoring in Biology, participated in a summer program at the University of Virginia and became a tutor and mentor to several students and family members in elementary, high school, and college. Where there was once uncertainty and frustration in my future, I can see with clarity what I see myself doing in five years. I plan on being graduated from the University of Louisville and well into my training at medical school. I plan on being in either OB/GYN or Emergency Medicine. I plan on giving back to my community and Family Scholar House for all the support they have given me and my daughter. The future I plan on giving my daughter has always been clear. In ten years, she will have seen me accomplish all of my educational goals and will be in the process of attaining her own. She will be thirteen years old and preparing to enter high school. I will make sure she is involved in extracurricular activities and our church. I am excited to see the young woman she will become because everything that I have done has been to give her all the opportunities I can, and the best way to do that has been to value our educations.

One year ago – this was the vision I had for myself and my daughter- and today I can proudly say that I graduated from the University of Louisville with my Bachelors degree and will be starting Medical school in August at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Trinity will be starting kindergarten! Thank YOU to everyone that has supported me and this program. Your support makes it possible for me and all the other graduates to reach our goals – and that means more to us than we can ever put into words !

Family Scholar House is Family

Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what. -Unknown

In the few short months that I have worked at the Family Scholar House, I couldn’t put my experience into better words than the quote above. Whether be the employees, participants, interns or volunteers, everyone has been so welcoming and truly made me feel apart of the FSH family.

The past year has been a bit bumpy for my family. In August 2015, we welcomed a beautiful baby boy into the world. While perfect in our eyes, our little angel was born with Down Syndrome. Due to his diagnosis, my husband and I decided that I would quit my full time job to take care of our son in his first months of life. Our family has struggled not only financially, but emotionally as well and some days just questioning why us.

When the opportunity presented itself for me to begin working at the Family Scholar House, it was honestly an answered prayer. From the day I walked in the door, I have been accepted with open arms and the FSH family will never know how much that has meant to me. The past 8 months haven’t exactly been easy, but the last 3 months have been a lot easier since working at the Family Scholar House.

Helping those in need is what Family Scholar House does best. Whether be their participants or an employee like myself, as the quote above states, FSH does anything to see you smile and loves you no matter what battle you might be fighting.

Becoming apart of the Family Scholar House family couldn’t have came at a better time for me and I will be forever grateful.


We are so forever grateful..

At FSH, we have the opportunity to work with some amazing, resilient, determined, hardworking single-parent students every day. We want to share this special video – that highlights two members of the FSH Class of 2016. After years of hard-work and sacrifice, these two women will join the rest of the FSH Class of 2016 at our graduation celebration this summer. (more details will follow)

Follow the link below to listen to their story and hear the appreciation they have, for all those that support FSH and make it possible for FSH families to reach their dreams.

       Participants Speak

From a young girl with a dream – to a WOMAN with a VISION


A few short weeks ago, our Board of Directors and Trustees gathered for the Annual Board Advancement. The theme for the Advance was Transformations, Danita Hunt- an FSH graduate spoke to those in attendance.  We wanted to share some of her story below..


As I stand here today, I am reminded of the elements which contributed to my transformation from being a young girl with a dream, to a WOMAN WITH A VISION.

FSH changed not only my life, but the life of my intelligent 10 year old princess.  I needed help. I needed salvation. I needed shelter. And I needed to be restored. After passing the main location, I called to get more information about the program. I was surprised to discover that there was an orientation I could attend that Friday. After learning about the requirements to become a participant, I knew it was fate. I knew I wanted to obtain a degree in Political Science, and eventually attend Law School. It was like a match made in Heaven, and I was now on my way to the next chapter in my life.

I began checking in each and every day. I no longer had a vehicle and there was not a bus route that went by my parent’s house. So, I walked almost five miles every day to get to the bus stop so that I could attend workshops. I was determined to earn enough points so that I could secure a home for myself and my daughter. I wanted the staff, volunteers, and interns to know who I was without question, I began classes that May. There were times of breakdowns but I was also blessed with a guardian angel as a Family Scholar House participant. Her name is Harvetta Ray (PSH Campus Coordinator & Family Advocate).

There were days I would walk from class, in the blistering heat, sobbing, and confused how I was going to make it. Ms. Ray was there to comfort me, hug me, and reassure me that everything was going to be okay. She hugged me like a mother, and loved me as if I was her child.

The day came that I found out I was chosen to be a resident at the newly constructed Parkland Scholar House. By August 2013, I was in my new apartment, which was so beautiful. I cried as soon as I walked through the door. I rejoiced in knowing my daughter had a beautiful place to call home. She had more than enough kids to play with, and a secure campus to roam. She was thrilled to know her and her mommy had their own rooms to sleep in. I lived in a safe, child-friendly environment. I never worried about strangers at my door, or if I could let my daughter go outside to play.

I cannot thank Ms. Cathe enough for her vision of providing a means for mothers and fathers alike to reach a higher level of education, self-worth, and self-reliance. Family Scholar House is building up mighty soldiers who WILL not only transform themselves, but also transform this world. We have been given the opportunity of a lifetime.

As I walked across the stage Friday December 18, 2015, hearing my name called, I was able to sign “I love you” to my daughter in the crowd, I could not do anything but smile. I thought about this long journey. I thought about the fact that I was a survivor, a fighter, and now a scholar. I gained the faith of accomplishing a goal I set out for myself. I knew that I had achieved, succeeded, and defied the odds. I made it and had the tools to continue to succeed.

There are many nights that I’ve cried myself to sleep- many office visits with Harvetta where I cried, stressed, and worried- computer lab lock-ins where I’ve worked diligently on assignments, and many opportunities to meet and network with city leaders. For each and every experience, I THANK Ms. Cathe, the Family Scholar House Team and everyone that supports FSH. Without you, I wouldn’t have been able to do it, and my child wouldn’t have witnessed her mother work so hard.

As I begin this next chapter, pursuing a joint MUP/JD degree, I will always be reminded of my Family Scholar House family, and be graciously thankful for each and every one of the interns and staff, community members volunteering their time and our Chief Possibility Officer, Cathe Dykstra.

I am proud to stand here today, continually evolving to become a better me than I was the day before-transforming into a woman who will make a larger impact in this community. I am a single mother. I am a survivor of domestic abuse. I am the proud parent of a Brown School student. I am a Scholar. I am a future lawyer, community activist and Judge. I am the assistant and paralegal to Council Woman Jessica E. Green and The Honorable Felicia J. Nu’Man, Attorney at Law. I am a graduate of the University of Louisville, with a BS in Political Science and AAS in Paralegal Studies. I am, Danita Antonette Hunt, first original resident of the Parkland Scholar House to obtain a four year degree. I am a Family Scholar House Success.

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 We would love for you to be part of our FSH family for these activities and others that you might suggest.