Kelsie Orman at the 2019 Graduation Celebration

My name is Kelsie Orman and I’m here with my 6 year old son Jonathan.  For the past five years we have called the Family Scholar House home. This is our story:

As I stand before you today, it is hard to believe that I really did it!  Today is my official Family Scholar House graduation celebration. 

School did not come easy for me.  In fact, I struggled through much of my academic career.  I can’t tell you how many times I sat with Ms. Cathe as she encouraged me through my struggles and through my tears. But the tears I am holding back today are tears of pure joy for all that I have accomplished.  I can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for me, Ms. Cathe.   

I was lucky to have a supportive family. I had a lot of opportunities, and today, I can finally appreciate just how fortunate I am.  You see, we come to the Family Scholar House from a wide variety of circumstances and backgrounds. Our stories are all different. But what we share is that we are all broken and desperate when we arrive; yet, ready to work hard to change our futures for ourselves and our children. 

I was a sweet, quiet and compliant child.  I remained that way throughout my high school years, but when I turned 18, I changed… almost overnight. I became defiant and determined to prove that I was an adult and that no one would tell me what to do anymore.  I was making all of the decisions now… and most of them were bad.  

My life took a major turn literally overnight. One minute I was living with my parents, enjoying the comfort of a nice warm bed. And the next day I was on the street, literally. Because I was convinced that I was invincible, I made the rash decision to leave home on December 26th 2011. The next morning I knew I had made a mistake, but I was prideful and determined. I was going to prove that even without a trade, vocation or college education, that I could make it on my own. A month later, I found out that I was going to be a mother, and things became more desperate. Still, I wasn’t ready to open up to my family like I should have. Soon I had a son and he and I spent the next couple of years moving from couches to shared rentals, living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes in filth, always in fear and loneliness.  I was desperate and felt all alone. I knew I had to do something. I was just so tired. Tired of having no hope, no money, no education, no opportunity, no dreams…I was just tired of being tired.   

And then I heard about the Family Scholar House.  A safe place where I could begin to heal, have hope, earn a college degree as well as learn much needed life and parental skills.  Family Scholar House provided me with the support I needed to finish college and tools to begin living my life and raising my son with dignity. 

I moved into the Family Scholar House just before Jonathan’s second birthday.  I knew that being a full-time student and a full-time single parent wouldn’t be easy.  But, when Jonathan and I walked into our apartment on Reg Smith Circle, I immediately felt a comfort and peace that I had not known for a long time.  I could finally envision the future I wanted. And in our home, behind the green door, Jonathan and I made memories and experienced many “firsts.” I slept well that night.    

Because I was able to call this amazing place home, I also had the privilege of sending my son to the Early Learning Campus at U of L. I remember the first day I dropped Jonathan off.  We were both crying. I was nervous about how Jonathan would do without me.  And I was nervous about how I would do without him by side.  I felt like it had been just me and him against the world since he was born.  But when I walked into his amazing classroom at the ELC known as “the travelers” and saw him dancing to the Mickey Mouse clubhouse song, I knew he was happy. At the end of his first day of pre-school, we walked hand in hand down the side walk.  As I opened our green door and stepped inside, I watched Jonathan run to his room to play. I knew we were home. 

Jonathan settled in right away, but, for me it was a tougher transition.  Two years into my journey, I wasn’t sure I would make it.  The stress of a full-time class schedule, homework, full time motherhood and a part time job began taking its toll.  And once again I went to Ms. Cathe for help. She gently guided me through this tough time in my life and helped me examine my options.  Whether that meant sticking with my original 5 year education plan or using the associates’ degree I had just earned from JCC and start a career, she didn’t judge me nor tell me what I needed to do.  She simply reminded me of the reasons that I came to Family Scholar House in the first place.  

I could always count on a smile from the interns and AmeriCorp volunteers in the intake office.  Brian was always there to help me figure out my student loans and class schedule and I always knew that I could reach out to Jocelyn, Della and Olivia for much needed family support services. I always knew without a doubt that everyone here was eager to walk alongside me, support me, and encourage me, even during my toughest times.

As I think back on my time at Family Scholar House, I am reminded how I’ve become a better student. I’ve become a better parent. But most of all, I’ve become a better person. Jonathan and I were surrounded by an amazing community, where he was able to grow up with other families that looked just like ours. I’m glad, that with Ms Cathe’s encouragement and support that I never gave up.  Ms. Cathe and this place was exactly what I needed. And both were here when I needed it most.  

On my graduation day from the University of Louisville, Jonathan walked with me across the stage to receive my diploma because we did this together. 

Last week I packed up my apartment.  Just as I had received it, I left my home clean and move in ready for that the next deserving family.  As I closed the boxes and locked our green door for the last time, I was reminded of all the memories made in this special place, the good and the bad. We laughed together, we struggled together, but most importantly, WE WERE TOGETHER. 

Family Scholar House was my first real home for my family of two. It is where my journey to become the best version of me began. Today can I proudly say, that I am a single parent. I am a college graduate. I am an amazing mom. Thank you Family Scholar House for everything you have meant to me over the past 5 years. Even though Jonathan and I don’t live here anymore, you will always be my family and I know I can always count on you.  

 

Meet our Summer Interns!

Two high-school students along with one college students will be interning with Family Scholar House throughout June and July. Taj Tillman, a rising senior at DuPont Manual High School, will be assisting Family Scholar House through the SummerWorks Program. Taj hopes to study law at the University of Louisville in the future. Throughout her time here, Taj is excited to help people within the community and encourage those around her. Also interning through the SummerWorks Program is Trevon Williams. Trevon is a rising sophomore at DeSales High School, hoping to one day play college football and study law. Additionally, over the summer with Family Scholar House, Trevon is excited to help people in a new way, as well as support those in his Louisville community. Our third intern is Washington & Lee University student Alexandra Pearson. Alexandra will be interning through the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty program. Alexandra currently studies Psychology and Human Capability Studies at W&L. Alexandra is excited that with her time at Family Scholar House she will be able to learn more about the different outlets of assistance and be able to be a part of Family Scholar House’s impact on the lives of many in the community.

We’re excited they’re here!

When was the last time your cooking utensils made you cry?

We often take for granted the simplest things in life, such as a hot meal. Imagine feeding your kids cereal for the majority of their meals. You may be thinking, “That’s not healthy, I would never do that.” But what if that was the only choice you had because you didn’t have basic kitchen necessities such as a skillet.

Recently, a pre-resident came in for orientation. She shared her story and how she desperately needed a pan so she could cook more nutritious meals for her kids.

After searching high and low, we found one, single skillet. We were able to give it to her, and upon receiving it, she cried tears of joy.

A Season of Celebration

Each May, we take time to celebrate the accomplishments of our participants. Donned in their caps and gowns, our scholars inspire their children to one day also be college graduates. Whether they realize it or not, as each parent walks across the stage, their kids beam with pride. On June 18th, we will have our annual Graduation Celebration. As our participants receive praise for their hard work, their kids receive hats that say, “My Mom’s A Grad!”

Throughout this season of celebration, we experience a full range of emotions. Some truly never believed they could make it this far, others knew they had it in them, but each time they got up to succeed, they were kicked down again. Our graduating class is a group of overcomers. While experiencing any range of factors from homelessness, to domestic violence, to food insecurity, to a gross lack of support, these participants have worked hard in school, raised their kids, provided for their families, but most of all, they have been a role model. They have taken on challenges in order to achieve their highest quality of life. They are one step closer to their goal of self-sufficiency.

The next step for our participants? Finding a job!

If your company is hiring, please feel free to send job descriptions and where to apply to krobinson@familyscholarhouse.org. We would love to share potential opportunities with our hard-working grads!

“Is there a minimum donation required to give?”

Last week, Family Scholar House had the privilege of sharing about our organization at the Oldham County Schools Arts Center. While there, we were able to provide information about FSH and collect donations.

A young girl, probably around 12 years old, approached the table and asked what we do. We told her about FSH. In reply, she asked, “Is there was a minimum donation required to give?”

So often, we forget how much of a difference a seemingly small contribution can make, but when we come together, a small donation can make a huge difference in the lives of many. At Family Scholar House, we are grateful for each and every donation, whether it be a single pair of shoes, a box of pencils, a piece of furniture, or an hour of your time.

We thank YOU for your ongoing support of Family Scholar House. Each dollar raised helps us reach our goal of ending the cycle of poverty through education. It allows us to provide resources and opportunities for our incredibly deserving participants.

In the case of our young friend, she gave two dollars. Two dollars of selfless giving in order to help others. Two dollars covers the cost of an after school snack for one of our kids. Two dollars covers the cost of a pack of notecards in order to help one of our scholars prepare for finals. Even two dollars can make an impact, but what made the biggest impact on us, is the generous giving of a young girl who just wanted to help.

The Importance of Health and Giving It Your All

At Family Scholar House, the very first thing is to ensure that a participant is safe and their basic needs are met. However, if those boxes are checked, is that enough to set our participants up for success?

We don’t think so.

That is why we offer a wide range of support through our Family Advocates and Academic Coaches. Because each participant is assigned to both a Family Advocate and Academic Coach, they can rest assured that there is always someone who has their back. College is not easy, raising children as a single parent is a daily challenge, but with a solid support system, grit, and determination, our participants conquer each day.

One of our participants recently said, “With support coming from every angle, there is no room for failure!” She emphasized the importance of mental health by adding you have to “give it everything you’ve got to give, but never more than what you have to give because your health is your first priority…then everything else.”

We strive to provide the absolute best support for Family Scholar House participants in every way possible. Our participant, Jasmine, said it best: “Give yourself credit, it wasn’t easy getting here!”

Today’s message is simple: take care of yourself so you can give it your all.

A LouieConnect Story

Do you know about LouieConnect? LouieConnect is user-friendly app that connects community members in need with those who can help can get their need met. If you are, or know someone who is, struggling with food insecurity, unstable housing, financial emergency, senior or veteran services, or a single parent in crisis, LouieConnect can help.
This past fall, a LouieConnect team member participated in a student resource fair at JCTC this fall. The team member noticed a young man came into the room and was going from table to table asking organizations if they had part time work for college students. They all said no, though a few offered unpaid internships.
The young man, clearly anxious, replied to everyone that he needed paid work. When he got to the LouieConnect table, the team member explained what the site did, and the young man got out his smartphone. The team member learned that the young man was a refugee from the Iraq war and a first generation college student who felt that he was not only attending school for himself, but for his whole family. In other words, there was a great deal riding on his search for a paid internship.

Before he left the room, he was on the phone making an appointment with the Kentucky Youth Career Center, thanks to the “call” feature on LouieConnect. The result of a few minutes of conversation and a couple of taps on his phone resulted in him going from anxious desperation to hope, knowing he could find a path forward for himself and keep making his family proud.
Such is the power of Louie Connect.

Growing Imagination!

The PNC Grow Up Great Initiative is an integral part of the lives of the youngest scholars at Family Scholar House–and in the Grow Up Great Imaginarium, these youngest members of the FSH family are invited to explore the world around them in all sorts of ways. Alongside of colors, shapes, transportation, feelings, music and food, children can “try on” clothing from different countries and from different community helpers. They can engage with books and items that interest them, sparking further possibility and wondering. Truly, there isn’t anywhere they cannot go in the Imaginarium! Our tremendous gratitude to all who have made this possible!

 

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The Most Important Thing…

“My dreams for the future are pretty typical. I want a good job, and I want my son to be healthy and happy. I want a house big enough for me and whoever my family may consist of at the time, and I really just want to be as healthy and happy as possible. I want to have enough money to live day to day without stress, but I don’t need the most luxurious life. I really just hope to live a fulfilled life, and I want my son to have the same thing, there’s not much more I could ask for.”

 

These are the words of Madison.

 

Like all Family Scholar House participants Madison has a story to tell. She has known difficult days, including broken relationships, abuse and housing insecurity. From the moment she knew Liam was on the way, she knew she wanted more for him, and she set about making that happen.

 

Today, Madison is an organizational communication major at Indiana University Southeast, and she and her son Liam, now almost two, live at Riverport Scholar House. They are fully engaged in life at Riverport, and Madison is learning all sorts of life skills as she creates new friendships and builds a more secure future for herself and for Liam. She credits the amazing opportunity and community at FSH with having gotten this far, but the credit is due to her as well–Madison is strong. Smart. Ready to be the best mother she can be to her son and committed to earning her degree and launching a successful career.

 

And when Madison was asked, what’s the most important thing she wants Liam to know, this was her answer:

 

“The most important thing I want for my son…is for him to know that education and a career are very important; but the most important thing in this life is to be kind. The most important thing is to care about other people, and be the best person you can be. Money and power get you nowhere, but love and selflessness will get you anywhere you want to be. As corny as this all sounds, I really think being kind is the most important thing you can be. It doesn’t matter what job you have, or where you go to school, the clothes you wear, or the nice things you own if you’re a terrible person. I just hope he learns to love himself, and to love the people around him.”

 

And so, reader…. What’s your most important thing? And how do you stay focused, like Madison does, on that thing as you live your life and build your future?

How Amazing it Feels!

An FSH Participant Story

“Someone forgot to tell me how amazing it feels to accomplish a college degree. Wow! I DID IT!”

These are the opening words to an email from an FSH participant to FSH staff following her college graduation this past December. Barbara’s email goes on to speak beautifully of the values and mission of Family Scholar House: community.

Which is to say, family.

“As I reflected all the way back to dropping out of school in the seventh grade and living on the streets of Los Angeles, I never thought that at the age of 47 I would be a college graduate. While it is true that obtaining my college degree has been the most challenging yet rewarding accomplishment I have ever experienced, it is just a true that no one person accomplishes a college degree on their own. It takes a community! A community of family, a community of friends to encourage, push and support you along the way. I am so grateful for the community that God has blessed me with through my college journey, the words thank you seem so small.”

Barbara’s words encapsulate the Family Scholar House journey at its best and brightest–a journey that no one participant makes alone, and that no staff person or volunteer works for in isolation. The choosing of “Family” in the organization’s name is intentional and vital in understanding the culture of place where folks like Barbara can walk in, determined to secure a more stable future for her family, and succeed. Not once was Barbara alone. She was, every step of the way, surrounded by chosen family.

This is Family Scholar House. Family matters. And when our families are strongest, so is our community as a whole.

Congratulations, Barbara. And thank you for sharing a bit of your story and your tremendous success with us. We’re grateful you are part of our family.