College Sweatshirt Fridays


If you follow us on social media, you know that College Sweatshirt Fridays kicked off this past week. This tradition at Family Scholar House will continue over the next several months and we want YOU to join in the fun! But first…

You might be wondering how College Sweatshirt Fridays started at Family Scholar House.                  Show your spirit! Wear the colors of the school you graduated from! Show your Cardinal Pride!    These are all wonderful reasons to wear a college sweatshirt, but our reasoning is a tad different…

Chief Possibility Officer, Cathe Dykstra allowing a “casual Friday” was just not in the books for FSH staff. You never know what you’re going to get with casual Friday; everyone’s definition of casual is different. So, to make things easier for everyone we chose to participate in College Sweatshirt Fridays instead! Now do you want to know what inspired Cathe to allow staff members to wear a different college t-shirt every Friday?

“You mean they have colleges in other places besides Kentucky?”

This quote came from a little boy who happened to be walking into Family Scholar House as Cathe was exiting.  Cathe was wearing a Canisius College sweatshirt and as the little boy passed he asked, “What’s Canisius College.” When Cathe told him this was a private college in Buffalo, New York  he turned into a deer in headlights. He was not aware that there were colleges or universities anywhere other than Kentucky. This incident allowed Cathe to realize how important it is for our youngest scholars to know they can go to any college that they desire. We want them to ask about different colleges and know that there is more out there than just what the wonderful state of Kentucky is offering. It’s important and necessary that the topic of college is being discussed with our children. We want our kiddos to know that there are ways to get into any college, such as applying for scholarships.

We want you to join us for College Sweatshirt Fridays and share your pictures to our Facebook page, Twitter newsfeed @FamilyScholars, or Instagram page @FamilyScholarHouse. Help spread awareness of how important it is for our younger generation to be made aware of all the opportunities that surround them!




Despite It All- Our Families Make It Happen

The participants at Family Scholar House have made a commitment to not only be full-time parents but full-time students as well.

Our single-parent students are transitioning from poverty and homelessness, overcoming a past of domestic violence and abuse and striving to create a better future for themselves and their children. These single parents walk in our doors looking for support and encouragement, and our staff and volunteers greet them exactly where they are and walk beside them on their journey – from enrolling in school, to the day they walk across the stage – we are there, and we feel honored to be a part of their journey. We work together, day-to-day, and our families make it happen.

Despite the hardships they’ve experienced and the obstacles they have overcome, they want to go to college, they want to become self-sufficient, and they want to provide a better life for their children.

To date, we have celebrated 307 college degrees earned by Family Scholar House participants. Our scholars have a 93% completion rate for college credit hours attempted! Our families take their education seriously because they know that it is the key to having a self-sufficient future.

We provide a comprehensive continuum of services that include stable housing, family advocacy and academic support for 215 single parents’ students.

In addition to the families that live on one of our four campuses, we serve pre-residents. Some of the services we provide include parenting and life skills workshops, financial literacy classes for adults and children, after school homework help, tutoring and peer support workshops. Another unique opportunity we host is conversation cafes, these provide an opportunity for inter-generational conversation around the dinner table by enjoying delicious food and conversation that feeds the soul.

At the end of the day, we could not provide all these services without the support of our generous community. To learn more about how you can help contribute to these success stories, please check out our website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and consider volunteering!

Give Local Louisville is coming up on September 15, and your donations directly supports our programming. With the support of the community, we work together, day-to-day, and our families make it happen.

Please contact Brianna at if you have any questions or would like to begin the volunteer process.

Gaining Financial Independence

Whitney and Malachi

At Family Scholar House we work alongside single parents as they earn their college degree, obtain career track employment and become fully self-sufficient. On top of offering our scholars the advising and life skills workshops, we also provide financial empowerment activities. These activities directly aid our parent scholars as they become financially independent and embark on a happier, self-sufficient life for their families.

Whitney is one such Family Scholar House post-program participant.

The proud mother to her 6-year-old son, Malachi, Whitney lived at our Downtown Scholar House campus while working on her Bachelor’s of Science and Sociology degree from the University of Louisville. Since graduating in December 2015, Whitney has landed a great new career with a local company. This stable opportunity coupled with her savings in the Family Scholar House future fund account has enabled Whitney to move into a townhouse in a nice neighborhood where her son can play and utilize his imagination.

“I truly appreciate Family Scholar House for allowing me to reach my academic dreams and providing the tools needed to become self-sufficient for myself and Malachi,” said Whitney.

While Whitney begins this new chapter of her life, the whole Family Scholar House community wishes her the best of luck!

I Am A Cancer Survivor & This Is Why I Love Nurses


Dan and TymeshaTwo years ago today, August 5th, I received the troubling news that I had melanoma cancer.  And so began an unknown, stressful, frightening and often painful adventure, one on which, I am so very glad, I was accompanied by attentive nurses.

I love nurses.

Anesthesiologists put me under; surgeons cut on me; oncologists evaluated me. Nurses tended to my nausea, monitored my chemo drug infusion, and calmed my soul.  They attended to my whole self.

A young man studying to be a doctor spent time with me before my second surgery.  He was inquisitive and obviously excited to have the chance to be attached to my surgeon and his team that day, a world-renown surgeon with whom any young medical student would kill to spend time.  He wanted to know all the details of my condition, where the cancer was first found, to what extent it was believed to have spread, and the specifics of the scheduled surgery.  And I answered his questions with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.  For him, I was a problem to be fixed.  Fixing such problems is what surgeons do and that was what he wanted to do with his life.  So be it.  We need him.  So, I helped him.

But while I thanked him for his interest and encouraged him on his path toward becoming a doctor, I also assured him that such a path would never lead to a full discovery of the marvels involved in healing, marvels, more readily found on the road down which nurses travel.

I love nurses.

From the moment we first met, Tymesha knew me and my name.  And each time I returned to the Brown Cancer Center she would knowingly and understandingly greet me.  Amber too came to recognize me when I came in, talking with me and scheduling my future appointments.  That’s what nurses do.  But these two were more.  They were also Family Scholar House participants.

As such, they were both studying to become nurses, and doing so while overcoming numerous personal and cultural obstacles situated to prevent their successful advance.  Theirs is a harder road to travel.

We all can recall the words of the poet Robert Frost:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Family Scholar House participants walk the road less traveled.  While the beaten path beckons to them; and friends, family, and culture nudge them toward it, they opt for the road poorly maintained and rife with potholes.  And their choice makes all the difference.  For this choice is taken only after they have carefully considered the future well-being of their children.  And while the challenges and pitfalls of what lay upon this road can be overwhelming, by staying true to their choice, they provide a hope-filled future for their children.

I undergo medical testing every three months now at the Brown Cancer Center and must face the uncertainty of what those tests may reveal.  But knowing there are special people who have overcome remarkable odds to secure a better life for their children, ensures me, as I walk tentatively through the Center’s hallways, that knowledgeable, committed and loving nurses walk with me.

I ran into Tymesha at the graduation party for Family Scholar House participants in May.  It was so good to see her and to tell her I was melanoma free.  I had stayed the course of the clinical trial and now fully appreciated my health.  Likewise, Tymesha had stayed the course of her studies all the way to graduation and was freed to pursue her career as a nurse.  She had overcome the obstacles along the path, hardships which make the accomplishment all the more fulfilling.

I love nurses, especially those who travel the Family Scholar House road.

Dan Dykstra

Cancer Survivor

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.