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

Photo Jul 10, 2 05 29 PM   Photo Jul 10, 10 00 09 AM

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!


Take the skills you learn and transform them into where you want to be…

This year we have the privilege once again to have two Shepherd interns through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty spending the summer with FSH, working with our families.  Palmer and Esmely have both immersed themselves in the Louisville community, embraced our families and the mission of Family Scholar House. Below you will find an entry from Palmer – showcasing our Job Shadowing program and the significant impact it has on our single parent students.

When asked if the job shadowing program confirmed her original goals, Megan said that her experience did not show her what she wanted to do. Instead, it showed her a new opportunity. After shadowing, Megan changed her career path from immigration law to industrial engineering. Something she had not previously been exposed to but find it to be the perfect fit for her skills and passion.

As part of our mission for participants to achieve self-sufficiency, we piloted a job shadowing program this fall. Now on our third semester, students are able to see what day-to-day life looks like by observing different professionals in the career of their choice.

“There is the idea or dream of the career path we want and then there is job shadowing. I [now] live in a reality of what my future can hold with my desired job position,” one participant said.

Often participants are unsure of all the possibilities for future career choices because they have had little previous interaction with professional environments. Being able to experience these agencies first hand gives participants insight into what their future could look like.

From the very first time we meet with our families, we discuss their passion and assist them in matching passion and skills with a career that fits the career goals. Job shadowing allows participants to rethink the limitations they had on themselves and look with fresh eyes at careers they may have previously thought unattainable. Before shadowing, participants are provided with professional etiquette lessons, wardrobe assistance and resume consultation. Learning how to act and dress professionally equips participants with skills they can take away from their experiences to apply in their future careers.

For Aaliyah, who shadowed four different places, this opportunity helped her pinpoint the specific area she was most interested in. She was also able to learn from every agency she visited and make lasting professional connections.

“I’m still learning, but these experiences helped steer me. Each place provided me with unique insight,” she said.

When shadowing, Chalee said that she went into the experience open-minded and her time there expanded her idea of what HR is. “Where you start doesn’t have to be your end game. Think about how to take skills and transform them into where you want to go,” Chalee said, sharing her greatest takeaway from her conversations with professionals.

Multiple professionals set aside time to engage one-on-one with participants about their goals and passions.  They remarked how impressed they were with participants’ level of interest in different types of opportunities and how refreshing it was to hear a new perspective on their profession.

“I would advise anyone and everyone to take advantage of the job shadowing opportunity,” one participant said, “In particular those of us that are starting out only with ideas, this program helps you make a more concrete decision concerning what you want your future to look like.”

THANK YOU to the community partners that make our job shadowing program possible. If you are interested in learning more about how you can get involved – contact Helene Trager-Kusman at htkusman@familyscholarhouse.org

Graduate Spotlight

GRADUATE SPOTLIGHT- This time written by our grad Keneysha
I remember having to place the girls in daycare for the first time in their lives and driving away in tears as I left for work some days and for school the others. We worked hard, they excelled in school and so did I. I sacrificed a great deal and so did they. I am forever grateful to my beauties, my inspirations, my drive! Family, friends and my church family were instrumental in my first success…achieving my Associate’s degree. Many professors at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College helped shape and direct my professional goals.

Making the move to Louisville was a difficult but necessary choice. I remember moving into my apartment at the Family Scholar House and meeting Cathe Dykstra and all of the supportive staff. This place, my home, these people, provided the foundation I needed to ensure my success. I was able to earn my Bachelor’s degreein 2012 with the continued support of family and friends.

After leaving Family Scholar House, I earned my Master’s in Social Work in 2014 with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy. I gained employment at Centerstone (formerly Seven Counties) where I have been for 5 years. I am currently a school-based therapist. I am dual licensed as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. I married my best friend on June 11, 2016, and the girls are now 13 & 14. I still support FSH any way that I can – it will always hold a special place in my heart – they believed in my dream that my family is now living!

Walking in the door was like walking into their own home…

Each year we welcome a new class of interns, we get the unique opportunity to assist them as they develop as individuals and professionals. Each May – we celebrate not only our graduates but our interns, as they transition to a new chapter – but always remain apart of the FSH family! Below, Megan Kramer reflects back on her year at Family Scholar House.

Last August, I was given the opportunity to begin a practicum placement for the University of Louisville Kent School of Social Work at Family Scholar House. Leaving the interview, the first day I did not realize the impact being apart of the FSH community would have on me as an individual or as an aspiring social worker.  The staff, participants, pre-residents, volunteers and fellow interns have all shown me the difference agencies such as Family Scholar House can make on an individual, a family, and a community.

Family Scholar House is unlike any other agency, in that it strives to guide all pre-residents, participants, and community members to break through the cycle of poverty that has been, for some, holding them back for years. They encourage all to realize the importance of education and the possibility for self-sufficiency that they are able to gain on their own. Despite the obstacles each person walking through the door has faced, they are still driven to go to college and provide a better life for themselves and their families.

I was lucky to witness the compassion shown by all staff to each person walking onto campus. Whether or not the participant had a meeting with someone, it did not matter. Walking in the door was like walking into their own home with family greeting them with warm smiles. More importantly, the memory I will take away most is the hope that is restored in each person’s life after learning about all the services Family Scholar House has to offer.

Oftentimes, the individuals calling in and attending that first orientation have endured more in their lifetime than most can fathom. They have few options left to turn to, and Family Scholar House welcomes them offering safety, housing, resources, education and a family. Family Scholar House provides each person resources that best matches their family; a family advocate who supports them in daily life, an academic advisor assisting them in choosing the appropriate career path, not to mention café nights, cooking classes, peer-support groups, speed mentoring, resume building, tutoring, holiday events, among many more.

Family Scholar House has truly gone above and beyond to touch the lives of each individual family in a unique and loving way. I am going to miss my time here – even though I know I will stay involved; I hope to one day find the career and employers that make me as excited to go to work each day as Family Scholar House.

Offering Opportunities and Support

Here at Family Scholar House, our mission is to empower families and youth to succeed in education and achieve life-long self-sufficiency. We believe that the key to empowering our families is to help them acquire the “tools” they need to become self-sufficient and enter the professional world with pride and success when they graduate.

A critical focus of our academic programming is on career preparation. We offer workshops and hands on support with resumes, professionalism, interviewing and networking to meet each individual’s unique needs. Each Spring, prior to graduation, we have an FSH Career Fair on our campus, where participants can apply all of their professional skills and spend time with a variety of local employers across different fields of work.

Leading up to the Fair, students are encouraged to attend a series of “review” workshops, where we go over some of the skills we have worked on throughout their time as both pre-residents and residents. FSH Resident Sharon attended the Fair and all of the workshops leading up to it. Afterwards she shared, “The career fair was a very informative experience for me.  I’m looking to go back into the banking industry and there were very knowledgeable employers there in this field.  The career fair is something you do not want to miss.  This is a great way to get more information on what your interests are.  This is also an amazing networking opportunity!” In order to prepare for professional opportunities like this one, participants may also schedule time to go to Linda’s Closet our in house professional clothing closet where stylists will help them put together business professional outfits that leave both our women and men exuding confidence from head to toe.

The day of the Fair is uniquely structured. Participants initially begin in a room full of coaches ready to do one last quick resume review and career consultation. These coaches come from our local college and Universities’ Career and Writing Centers. This type of support is aligned with our philosophy of providing not just the opportunities, but the support our families need to become self-sufficient.

Entering the Fair, participants are greeted by warm, eager professionals from the community many of whom who have become familiar with FSH through volunteering at Speed Mentoring and coordinating or having students job shadow. One of the most important parts of our career programming is allowing our participants, many of whom are first generation college students, to learn about professions they may not have ever considered. FSH Resident Shana shared, “It enabled me to stretch out my options for the future. Its a blessing to know that we are loved and valued,” after attending the Fair.

Thank you to the participants in this year’s Career Fair: UPS, Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, The Software Guild, GE, Norton Healthcare, Code Louisville, PNC, ComputerShare, Helping Hands Companion Care, Republic Bank, Kentucky Refugee Ministry, Spalding University Career and Civic Engagement Center, University of Louisville Writing Center and University of Louisville Career Development Center.

If your organization is interested in participating in career programming or our next Career Fair please contact Helene Trager-Kusman HTKusman@familyscholarhouse.org.

..One thing that no one can take away from you –knowledge

An FSH participant reflects back on her journey below:

At 14 years old, I gave birth to my son. It was in that moment – I knew I had to succeed, because that little boy deserved the world – and I was going to give it to him. I didn’t know what to do – but I knew I had to quickly learn how to take care of myself and provide for my son.

During my senior year, I learned about Family Scholar House and all the services and support they provided single parents, just like me.That’s when I knew that I wanted and needed to go further than earning my high school diploma!

I thought, What am I going to do with myself and my son?  This can’t be it, I want to continue learning. So, I set goals and worked toward them with the helpful support from my high school, my college, and Family Scholar House. I got enrolled in classes and became a resident of Family Scholar House.

 I am now 22 years old and a senior in college. I have learned so much over these past 4 years, I have maintained a 3.0 GPA and I’m so proud of myself -but this journey, has been anything but easy.Balancing my classes, raising my son, maintaining the household, working – and every day life – there have certainly been times that I wasn’t sure how I would be able to make it all happen. But with the support of Family Scholar house, my school and this community – I never gave up.

 But I know  as long as I stay positive and keep God by my side – I can accomplish anything!More than anything, I know I must stay motivated to do well. My son is my biggest motivation to succeed because I want to set a positive example for him. I will continue earning my education because it’s one thing that no one can take away from you –knowledge. I want to be a lifetime learner!  I want my son to want to be a lifetime learner just like his mama!

Coming Full Circle

Helene Trager-Kusman, one of our Academic Advisors, shares a glimpse into her time at FSH.


2016 has brought many new opportunities for me, including the life-changing experience of being introduced to Family Scholar House. When I first learned of the non-profit that supports low-income, single parents access wrap around services, including housing, as they work towards their degree, I thought it was too good to be true. Programming for parents and young, impressionable children that inspired and scaffolded their becoming successful students and citizens… available to them for free? I was absolutely intrigued and eager to learn more.

Meeting with the “Chief Possibility Officer,” Cathe Dykstra and VP of Programming, Kristie Adams, I learned more about the mission to break the cycle of poverty by empowering families with education. As aformer public school teacher in the DC area, I had spent years working with children and families in poverty wishing I could do more. I grew to understand that without family support and long lasting solutions, there was a brick wall that stood between education and hungry minds.  These were the first of hundreds of women, who would inspire me day after day in this rapidly growing, dynamic community.

Family Scholar House has partnered with the Petrino Family Foundation to encourage and teach mindfulness to the community. I started as a volunteer at Family Scholar House with one of my first events being an eight week mindfulness training with the Earth and Spirit Center. It moved me to watch how mindfulness could lift the heavy weights off participants’ shoulders, even if it was just for a few quiet moments. Continuing as a full staff member, I now see how mindfulness is incorporated in so many practices of the program, including a Mindfulness Superhero day for kids where I got to connect my work to my passion of teaching children’s yoga. This mindfulness practice has encouraged me to take the time to think about what has inspired me in 2016 and what will motivate me in the new 365 days to come.

I can’t put into words how inspired I am by the students I support. I often wonder if they know that they give me so much more than I could ever give them through the academic advocacy and support I provide in my role here. Instead of trying to do it for them, I would like to share the inspiring story of one of our participants which came across my desk this week while editing some scholarship essays. Seeing these familiar stories in their beautifully written words really resonates and allows for mindful reflection of how all of our journey’s can be connected to a bigger and greater long lasting purpose.


Life has never been easy for me, but I will beat the odds. I am my son’s teacher, nurturer and mother. My goal is to lead by example for my child. At 15 I was diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes. My health has been an issue since and it is a daily struggle. My goal is to help other diabetic’s understand the disease and manage a healthy lifestyle. I am currently in school to become a Nurse Practitioner, with a GPA of a 3.8.

“Life has never been easy for me, but I will beat the odds.”

I became homeless at 18 years old, with nowhere to go, no source of income, and a high school dropout. I went to Salvation Army. My case worker had mentioned the YMCA Safe Place as a place I could go for a shower, clothes and food. With the support I had from the staff at the YMCA, I got a job, and my first apartment. I became a motivational speaker and leader for the YMCA Safe place. I speak at events and encourage young adults my age that where you are now, is not your future.

 During this time, I found out I was pregnant. I had no idea of how I was going to take care of this little heart beating inside of me.  I made a decision sitting there in the hospital that this child would never go without, or have to endure the pain and abandonment I had been through.

After having my son, I went back to high school and graduated on September 12, 2015. I spoke with my teachers about furthering my education. That same day I applied for Community College. I began school in January 2015 and have remained determined in continuing my education since.  My short term goal is to get my Associates in Science and get accepted into a university to get my BSN-PhD in Nursing. My long term goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner, work at a family office, and help diabetics who struggle with the disease.

My first semester of school, I worked full-time and went to school part-time. I received a 4.0 GPA. I am now a resident at Stoddard Johnson Family Scholar House. With my degree, I will educate and inform other diabetics that we can live healthy lives and achieve our full potential.

FSH participant

Because you cared about my family…

Keneysha, an FSH graduate reflects back on our Adopt-A-Family project and how it all came full circle for her family.

I remember the very first year our family was adopted for Christmas.  It was a difficult year for me financially, so much so that in order not to kill the joy of the Christmas for my children I made up a noble yet duplicitous story. I told my girls that we were given so much throughout the year that Christmas was a time to give back. I told them that they wouldn’t receive anything on Christmas instead we would make things for friends, family members and others in need.

Though this taught my girls a great deal, I felt badly that they wouldn’t experience the joy of opening their own gifts.
Thankfully this changed because of FSH. When I learned that a generous family had graciously adopted my family I was floored. I remember my girls and I didn’t even have a tree.  They were at school when I received notification that our gifts were available for pick up. I was so excited to see the packages wrapped beautifully and with love with each of our names on them. I found a place in our apartment and set them up as decoratively as possible. When the girls came home they were so excited! The looks on their faces were priceless matched only by the joy on their faces as they opened each one Christmas morning.
     It has been over 4 years since I graduated and moved from Family Scholar House. I have gone on to earn a Master’s degree and am fast approaching professional license in my career. The one thing I always vowed to do was give back to the place that had given me so much. One of the ways I knew I would participate was adopting a family for Christmas.
     The first year I adopted a family I was so excited. I didn’t have a huge budget but I knew the little I was able to do would be appreciated by the family receiving our gifts. The next year my boyfriend and I adopted a family and we were able to give more. This year the young adult group at my church came together along with my husband and daughters.  We were able to make a mother/daughter duo (hopefully) very happy this Christmas! I also told friends about the program and they excitedly adopted families of their own. This included a skeptical friend who stated that he hates giving to charities because he never knows if his money is being used appropriately. I was able to share my story and convince him his time and money would not only be well used but well deserved.
     I get so much joy out of giving in this way. I am giddy from the time I get my family’s wish list until the day I drop off the gifts. I have so much (maybe too much) fun shopping! My only regret is not being to see the joy on their faces but then I realize I have seen it. I saw it in the faces of my daughters just a few short Christmases ago.
     There is no way to adequately express the overwhelming joy of experiencing full circle the meaning of selfless giving, receiving and gratitude. I know some say that Christmas is not just about gifts and I believe that is true. The lessons, the stories, the memories that surround those gifts are what makes it worth it!

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 bellis@familyscholarhouse.org if you have any questions or would like to begin the volunteer process.