Family Scholar House, a place I call home…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Different…and yet also the same

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fresh Start…

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

image1 (5).JPG

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

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

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

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

image1 (4).JPG

Who is your Real MVP?

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

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

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


Why my mother, is my Real MVP!

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

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

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

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

My Mother, My Life, My REAL MVP


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

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

..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!