Thankful Hearts

The email came to our Chief Possibility Officer’s inbox one Thursday evening, from a Family Scholar House supporter.

The supporter wanted to express her pleasure at a call she received from a Family Scholar House participant during this year’s Thank-A-Thon.

The Thank-A-Thon is exactly what it sounds like–a phone call blitz from participants to supporters to simply say, “thank you.”

This particular call came to the supporter while she was making Sunday dinner, not a time when she would normally answer the phone. But she expressed how grateful she was to have done so, and how glad she was to be able to connect with the FSH participant. That participant and the supporter’s daughter are, as it happens, both pursuing nursing degrees, and so they were able to connect in that regard as well.

One of the gifts of Family Scholar House is the knowledge that we are, after all, not so very different. As families we want good educations for our children, warm meals with our loved ones on Sunday evenings, and the blessing of human interaction.

The expression of gratitude is important–not because it’s necessary, or a “have-to,” but precisely because of what it did here–created an opportunity for one human being to connect with another.

We come to the end of this year with thankful hearts at Family Scholar House–for our staff, our board and committee members, our volunteers and our donors, as well as our community business partners. But most of all, we are thankful for our families, and for the opportunity they give us to all be family, in whatever way we can.


‘Tis the season, right?

Shopping. Lights. Parties and presents and Hallmark movies. Cookies and candy canes. Family and friends.

For many people in Louisville, ‘tis the season to revel in the joy of shared gifts and shared lives and shared meals. And in some ways, this is as it should be. It’s a difficult time to be alive for many folks, and the world can be a scary place–and taking respite in the spirit that often comes with this holiday season is not something to be ashamed of.

Perhaps you cannot wait to gather with friends for your annual Christmas gift exchange. Perhaps your office holiday party is coming up and you have just the perfect outfit. Perhaps you and grandchildren are baking cookies together this weekend. And perhaps you have one of those mischievous little elves at home, and spend a half hour every night deciding what ruckus he will cause next and where the kiddos will find him the next morning.

Perhaps…and, if so…may you enjoy every moment, and find in your heart gratitude for the goodness of it all.

Perhaps, too, you know that at Family Scholar House, there are single parents who don’t have a family–other than the one at FSH–to go home to. Perhaps, too, you know that at FSH there are children who have not seen one of their parents in many years. Perhaps, too, you know that at FSH there are single moms and dads working so hard towards a better future for themselves and their children, and while that future their working towards is so bright, the road is often long, and the holidays can sometimes make it harder.

And perhaps…you might also consider how you can bring a bit of Christmas to a family in need. And that could be as easy as a year-end gift–of any size–to Family Scholar House.

‘Tis the season…and that also means this is not the first request for assistance or donations you will receive. The need is great across our city. But so is the compassion. And what we know at Family Scholar House is that stronger families — of any kind — secure brighter and more stable futures for all of us. Because family matters.

Thank you for being part of the Family Scholar House family. We’d be honored to receive a year-end gift from you, if you are able and so led. Gifts may be given online at, or by contacting Kellie Johnston at

From our Family here at FSH, to yours–may the joy and gratitude of the season be all of ours.

FSH was more than an apartment, more than educational support, it is community…it is family.

Our Celebration of Education Gala last week was a night to remember. As our extended FSH family joined together to support our mission and our families. We had several FSH graduates in attendance and Keneysha (FSH c/o 2012) addressed the audience as she reflected back on her time at FSH and reflected on now being able to give back to current FSH families.


Good evening!
Where did my journey with family Scholar begin?
I think you would have to start with it’s mission to end the cycle of poverty.

I grew up in Florida to father who spent much of my childhood in prison or only saw in summers.  My Mom was a single mother who did the best she could and budgeted to the penny just so we could have the bare necessities. It can definitely be said that I grew up in poverty. I did not, however, grow up with a poverty mentality. I always wanted more!

You see, my father while in prison, earned his culinary degree and over the years worked his way from kitchen cook to executive chef. My mother moved to from entry-level secretary to administrative assistant.

In high school I read a story called Great Expectations. You’ll have to Google it! It changed my life! I knew there were and would be people along my journey that would fill the gaps my mother couldn’t, not only financially but in support and encouragement.

These lessons were important when years later I found myself a divorced single mother of 4 and 6 year old daughters and no longer able to live on Fort Knox. I put my girls in daycare for the first time in their lives, started a part-time job making $10 an hour. I  knew I didn’t simply want a job I wanted a career, so I enrolled in school. I knew I couldn’t wait on Miss Havishim to rescue me, I had to get going. 

I was nearing the end of my Associates degree at ECTC and knew it would be easier to keep the momentum and continue school at UofL where all of my credits would transfer instead of going home to Florida.

I was accepted accepted to UofL for spring semester 2010.

It pained me to think of leaving my children in Radcliff to travel an hour to school. I knew I couldn’t afford to go to school full time and afford an apartment and expenses in Louisville and I also knew It would take entirely too long to go to school part time.
I got on the phone a called UofL to ask about single family housing they did not have it but the lady on the phone said there is this one program. At that time Project Women was run out of a building on Chestnut St. It was not the FSH we know today. I called and began working the program.

One day I came to pick up Christmas items for my family and I met Jocelyn Fetalver. After she finished with what she had to do with us I grabbed my daughters close and I said see us, remember us please! A few months later I was moving into my apartment at the Louisville Scholar campus. (Yay nontraditional waiting list!) Not only did I no longer have an hour drive to school, I could walk to school!

That same spring I participated in my very first graduation ceremony at FSH and I was in awe. I had no family here in Louisville other than people that attended my church.
It was this day I learned what community and family are. Surrounding me were people giving their time, talents and resources to ensure my family had a secure place to live and the support I need to succeed. They were my Mr. & Miss. Havishims. 

People, just like you, helped me along my journey. There were tutors for my daughters, a 17 year old that taught me to play chess, cooking classes and people that thought enough to give a little extra during the holidays so that we would have presents to open.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude from the UofL in 2012 with a Bachelor in Social Work. I moved from the FSH but not from the support of the program and was able to finish my Masters in Social Work with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2014. I was hired where I served as an intern with Centerstone and secured my first salaried position. I am now employed as a family therapist with UofL Physicians department of Psychiatry on Chestnut street where it all began.

As soon as I was able I began to adopt a family for Christmas. It has been a blessing each year to my see my initially meager budget for my adopted family grow each year. This is one of the many ways I have fulfilled my promise to give back to the place that has given me so much.  I still keep in touch with many friends I made there and most importantly the staff. Cathe fulfilled her role has “Mama Cathe” in every sense of the word. She would teach my daughters financial skills by introducing them to matched funds for their school fund raisers and support their Girl Scout cookie sales and me personally by making herself available and truly present for various needs. She reached out to me when I lost my father 2 years ago and my mother 3 months ago.

FSH was more than an apartment, more than educational support, it is community…it is family. I am thankful to serve this community by being a merchant of hope to the many patients I serve in my career.

I now volunteer my time, talents and resources as my life has been tremendously blessed. My faith and God’s favor was the constant in my life.  The same Jocelyn I met many years ago will be taking maternity leave and I will be teaching her class at University of Louisville spring 2019! My daughter Kennedi will be 16 next month and is a sophomore in high school, Nadia is 14 and is freshman. And I have been blessed with the best, my handsome husband Brandon and our 8 month old son Miles.

When I first moved to Louisville there were banners that donned the streets of downtown that said “Louisville the city of possibility,” I have found that to be so and will continue to make it so in the the lives of others. 
Thank you!

A new beginning..

One week ago, we celebrated the grand opening of our Frank & Paula Harshaw Riverport Campus at Riverport Landings. Kalyn, FSH participant spoke about her experience at FSH, you can read below.


Thank you. Hello everyone, I’m a little nervous, but I am also extremely excited for the opportunity to be here today. As Ms. Cathe said, my name is Kalyn Maddox and I call The Frank & Paula Harshaw Riverport Campus home. I moved in earlier this year with my four year old daughter, Makari. There are not enough words to describe what these past few months have been like for us as we settle into this new chapter in our beautiful apartment. It has not been an easy path; becoming a teenage mom, navigating motherhood, managing school and financial responsibilities. But thankfully, my path led me to Family Scholar House, which has made all of those responsibilities and struggles feel more manageable.

I have to admit, when I first found out about Family Scholar House, it sounded too good to be true. Hearing that people were there to support me, provide my little family with housing, academic coaching and life skills – all in one place. I attended orientation, learned all about the program and immediately began going to workshops, calling to check in and doing everything I could to move up the waiting list. When I found out we were going to be moving on this campus, tears filled my eyes. I couldn’t contain all the emotions, the opportunity to live in our own space, to focus on school & continue to grow as a mother and a student.

I am currently a sophomore and attend the University of Louisville, majoring in Nursing. Right now my focus is getting accepted into the upper division of nursing for the spring. My ultimate dream is to help others by sharing my passion with my patients and their families. I hope to show people how much possibility there is in life. My daughter is a bundle of light and laughter. Watching her grow up and discover the world around her is my favorite thing – I pray she never loses that sense of wonder. I love that Family Scholar House provides programming, not just for me but also for my daughter. Just as I am afforded an opportunity to learn and grow, so is Makari. Family Scholar House isn’t just my home, it’s my community. Makari seeing me complete my dreams while she works to figure out hers is something I never thought possible.

In closing I just want to say THANK YOU, thank you to everyone that made this campus possible for us. From the very first conversation, to all the meetings, planning and construction, to donating furniture and clothes to fill our new homes. By supporting this project, you are supporting my family – you are making it possible for Makari to play in a safe environment with other kids and for me to pursue my dream. I will officially graduate and become a registered nurse IN 2021, and you are all invited. Thank you again for believing in this program, this project and this family – your belief helps me continue to push on those long days and sets an example for the type of person I want to be, a person that pays it forward to the next family in need.

A Leap of Faith, A Decade Later


(Chief Possibility Officer, Cathe Dykstra with FSH grad Ricki and her daughter Ashiyah in front of the apartment – Ricki & Ashiyah moved into on Louisville Scholar House campus 10 years ago…TODAY. Ricki is now a therapist serving families in our community!)

Ten years ago, our organization took a big leap of faith.  On August 19-20, 2008, we opened our first campus, moving 32 residents in at Louisville Scholar House. This was Family Scholar House’s first foray into providing the affordable housing critically important to stabilizing families so that single parents could focus on their education and career preparation while also providing for their children.

As we mark this important anniversary, we recall those first residents not only as they were when they moved in but also see them as the awesome community members that they are now, working in their careers, raising bright children, and planning for the future. I also remember their struggles and how having a place to live and an academic coach and a family advocate focused on their success, provided them with a fresh start and hope.

Many people stepped up to help us build our first campus.  This was the beginning of important new collaborations that included Jake Brown of the Marian Group, leaders from the University of Louisville and Louisville Metro Government, Gladys and Lewis ‘Sonny’ Bass who named our campus, and service partners throughout the community who referred homeless families to us. Many other community members came forward to support our work both with funding and with their volunteer time for special projects.

One of my favorite projects from these early days involved a chaplain who offered her services to help interested residents create a special prayer for their new apartment homes.  Regardless of their faith tradition or personal background, they were given a chance to write something for their family’s new home that expressed their feelings at this new beginning. Here is one of the special blessings from this project:

May we never forget today, even as we prepare for a better tomorrow.

May this home be a refuge from the realities of poverty; a place to heal as a family; and grow in mind, body and spirit.

May we start and end each day with “I love you” because both parents and children need to hear these special words.

May we never take for granted the roof over our heads, the food in our cabinet, the clothes and furniture donated by others, or the opportunities that are being given to us.

May we show our gratitude by setting high expectations for ourselves and then exceeding them as often as possible.

May the experiences we have had fuel our desire to be successful and may we then pay it forward to others who deserve a chance too.

These words of wisdom remind us that this little family was taking a leap of faith also.

In the ten years since opening our Gladys and Sonny Bass Louisville Scholar House campus, we have continued to stretch our resources to expand programs, build more affordable housing and serve our community. We have added collaborations, including those with True Up and other foster care service providers. Yet, the needs are still great with hundreds of families and foster alumni on our housing waiting list.

Our outcomes show the impact of the combination of housing and intensive services, with 431 college degrees earned by FSH graduates now employed in our community. With each new campus development, we accelerate the positive economic impact to our community that comes with the transition of a family from poverty to employment and self-sufficiency.

On August 29th, we will celebrate the grand opening of our fifth Louisville-area campus, bringing our housing capacity to 247 single-parent families and 32 unaccompanied foster alumni.  All of these residents are focused on education and career preparation so they can become contributing members of our community. We invite those who have been involved, volunteered and cheered for our participants on this journey to join us to celebrate the grand opening of Riverport Scholar House and Riverport Landings. Find more details at

What began as a leap of faith continues because of the faithful support and encouragement from our community members and the dogged determination of our very deserving participants. To each and every one of you who have helped with funding, household donations, volunteer projects and advocacy on our behalf, we say thank you. Thank you for having faith in us. As we celebrate this special anniversary and another grand opening, “May we never forget today, even as we prepare for a better tomorrow.”

Cathe Dykstra
Chief Possibility Officer
President & CEO
Family Scholar House

Career Camp at FSH (Week 2)

By: Lydia Kotowski (volunteer/college student)

One of the many lessons Family Scholar House (FSH) teaches is that post secondary education is an incredibly important step on the path to achieving big dreams. As a current college student and believer in the transformative power of education, I whole-heartedly agree with that statement. The 2nd Annual Career Academy, hosted by FSH, strove to share this idea, in addition to many others, with kids from FSH families. At this camp, 20 kids aged six-18 learned about different career and college opportunities while simultaneously talking about and establishing their own goals for the future.

On the first day of camp, the kids had the opportunity to experience an art therapy session that helped them to identify their passions and goals. During this activity, the kids shared their feelings about current political debates, social issues, and personal goals articulately and professionally. I was blown away by the depth of their knowledge and evidence-based supports for their beliefs. Later during the same day, mentors from a variety of fields came in and took part in a “speed mentoring” session. During this component, I conversed with kids about college applications, study habits, and graduate school opportunities. Once the kids learned that I am in the process of preparing for law school, the future lawyers and social activists among the kids held back nothing when talking about how and why they want to change the world we live in. All the mentors who took part in this experience could see the curiosity and ingenuity brimming in each kid.

In the subsequent days, the kids went on field trips to four sites around Louisville; these included the University of Louisville, EOP Architects, Bellarmine University, and Red e App. Through these excursions, the kids got to see what college campuses are like, to learn what levels of education are needed for various careers, and to explore different careers. This year, the careers the kids were exposed to included architecture, the arts, athletics, medicine, safety work, technology, education, and agriculture. At all of these sites, the kids took pictures and videos, asked questions, and acted in an incredibly mature and professional manner.

At the end of the week, the kids had the chance to take their pictures and videos to the technology company Red e App and learn how to make iMovies. It was the hands-on learning experiences like this that really got the kids excited and invested in each site visit. From interacting with robots to building towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows to walking around campuses, the kids were able to have exciting new experiences. I loved getting to help them problem-solve and be creative with each challenge they were presented with. The intelligence of the kids really stood out during these interactive activities

When reflecting on what they learned, the kids shared many statements including: “technology is a way of life”; “I should decide what I want to do in my life before or in college”; “be positive”; “that going to college is important”; “if you do something, keep your mind on it.” Even though the camp was just five days in length, it seemed to have a real impact on the kids, volunteers, and businesses that took part in it. The camp was such a unique and important experience for the kids to have, and I am humbled to have gotten to be a small piece of it.

Career Camp at FSH (Week 1)

Our Community Engagement Intern, Becca Broda (Bellarmine University) has been busy this summer, learning about Family Scholar House and spending time with our families. Two weeks ago, Becca spent her mornings at our first week of Career Camp. It was a great week and she was able to capture it below:

When the final bell rings and summer break begins, many children are ecstatic about getting to sleep in and play with their favorite toys all summer. However, here at Family Scholar House, our youngest scholar’s learning doesn’t end with the beginning of their Summer Break. Our children aged 6-12 spent a week at our Stoddard Johnston Scholar House participating in Career Academy. These young scholars learned from many professionals in our community with unique and inspiring professions.

When walking into Career Academy, the kiddos are greeted by smiling and inspiring faces. They take a seat at the table and begin reading or drawing to begin their day. In the front of the room sits a dry erase board with the information for the day. The whiteboard states the learning topic for the day and the goals of Career Academy: be respectful and kind/nice, follow directions and listen, and use your manners. These goals keep our kiddos focused and motivated for their inspiring and educational day ahead.

On Monday, the learning topic of the day was, “Architecture.” Out students learned from Monica Brown, an Architect at her own firm, Reyes Brown, PLLC. When asked what she wanted to get out of her experience of presenting to our kiddos today, she had a wonderful answer.

“I was in their shoes or worse, I had a lot of naysayers. I wish someone had come to talk to me and tell me that I can do this, I can do anything. I’ve been doing this since I became an architect. These experiences really stick with you.”

Monica talked to the kiddos about her life journey, how she got to college, and she shared elements of her work with them such as hardhats, work boots, and the many unique tools of an architect. She also encouraged their creative minds by helping them build masterpieces with the Imagination Station.

On Wednesday, the learning topic of the day was, “Agriculture.” Mandy from Pure Pollen Flowers came to talk to our kiddos about flower farming.

Mandy explained the importance of protecting pollinators such as bees, birds, and butterflies and also explained how important these pollinators are in ensuring that our flowers continue to be produced. She also passed around seeds for the kiddos to look at with a magnifying glass. Many of them really enjoyed these activities! It even made them more excited for the flower art project that each of our kiddos made. Mandy ended the day with our children by helping them each make their own mini floral arrangements, which they absolutely loved!

Career Academy exposed some of our youngest scholars to careers they may not have known even existed, AND they got to meet real and exciting people who work those professions everyday!



Summer at Family Scholar House

It’s summertime in Kentuckiana.  For many children, that means lazy days spent by the pool, away at summer camp, running up and down a Florida beach, hiking in the mountains with family or taking lessons meant to hone their soccer, football, music, dancing or crafting skills.  Bare feet are the rule, sleeping late is a possibility, and across warm, sunny days, there’s all sorts of fun and adventure to be had.

This is not the case for most children at Family Scholar House.  Hello Kitty or Sponge-Bob themed band-aids to nurse scraped knees are a luxury. So, too, are bubbles, sidewalk chalk, and the sort of pull-ups that make it okay for the littlest and diapered ones to swim or run through a sprinkler.  In other words, what many families take for granted in the midst of summer fun, our families are often not able to manage  on very, very tight budgets.

How can you help?  Well, because we know FSH is supported by some incredibly generous folks, we thought you might ask just that!  So we’ve made our own “Target List.”  Via this list, you can discover some of the basic needs of our families this summer, choose them yourself on your own trip to Target, or, order the items straight off the website and have them shipped directly to us at Family Scholar House.  It couldn’t be easier–and we’d certainly appreciate any item–no matter how large or small—you’re able to assist our families with.

Please cut and paste the link below into your web browser and follow it to our FSH Target List–and know how grateful we are for your assistance.  Our families thank you!


FSH Target Summer List

We did it!

A past FSH graduate and now Family Advocate for FSH, reflected back on her journey and those that helped her little family achieve their biggest dream!

One day our kiddos landed on the playground together. Our kids (my son and her daughter) LOVED being outside. We started talking and quickly realized our journeys had similarities and we were working toward some of the same goals. As we talked, we glanced over and realized our little humans were having a blast together.

We had both just recently moved into Stoddard Johnston Scholar House (her on the 1st floor and me on the 3rd). We were both going to school full-time, working and trying to be the best moms we could be to our little ones. We were both making penny’s stretch as long as we could, living on extreme budgets and spending hours upon hours diving into our studies. Over the course of our time at SJSH, we had many late nights on the porch with neighbors talking each other through hardships, sharing our goals and supporting one another. (Grateful to have an entire community of single-parents – all pursuing the same ultimate goal – graduation and full self-sufficency) Even on our hardest days, we were all grinding to ensure we met our goals, loved our kiddos and became successful women – that could provide for our families.

We did just that!

There were many more days spent on that playground with our kids. We both graduated, moved into our own homes and pursued different career paths, we have always stayed in touch. Our kids love each other and we still fiercely support each other, as we each work toward new goals we have set for ourselves. You see, the bonds made at FSH last long after graduation day!

A few weeks ago, we joined together and took our kids on their first trip to LegoLand. When you work THAT HARD for something it makes it that much more special when it’s made possible. Every single laugh, hug, giggle, and step was monumental.

Yes, it took us – time, tears, therapy, saving, moves, coffee, making mistakes and learning, frugal lifestyles, boundaries, prayers, support from Family Scholar House, support from each other and relentlessly pursuing what we knew we needed to.

The last night of our vacation, we were soaking in the fact that WE got to take them on a vacation, solely from each of our own bank accounts and on our own. (I always dreamed of the day I could take my son on his ‘ultimate dream vacation’ – he LOVES LegoLand 🙂 )

We have been waiting for this day for YEARS & we did it!

Still, as single mothers but with degrees, huge thanks to the support of where we met FAMILY SCHOLAR HOUSE. We could not have done it without those that supported us, cheered us on, watched our kids while we worked or attended night classes and those that never stopped believing in us, even when at times we doubted ourselves.

Sitting on the plane waiting to return home, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Cherishing that I have a career I love, my little human is flourishing into an intelligent compassionate little man and we can both proudly say we have both been off all government assistance since graduation!

See…we both desperately wanted to pay our own bills (like all of the families that live at FSH), we wanted to do this without assistance and WE DID but it took support from Family Scholar House, hard work, and others seeing us as capable of success.

Now, I get the opportunity to work with single parents at Family Scholar House  EVERY.SINGLE.DAY and remind them that – they can do it too!  Day by day…Step by step


Thank You to everyone that supports Family Scholar House and families like mine – because you believed in us, we learned to believe in ourselves!

It take a village..

Have you ever heard the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”? If you have spent any time on one of our campuses, attended a workshop or sat in on a family café night, you will see that old saying brought to life. You will witness volunteers serving food, participants facilitating an inter-generational conversation about bullying, a community member entertaining an infant while mom gets a few uninterrupted bites of her dinner – you will witness our village in action. The type of village that comes together, supports and celebrates one another on the journey through life. The type of village that is essential in ensuring we deliver the services and programs at Family Scholar House that help our families break the cycle of poverty.  In 2017, we had 12 full-time staff and 1,994 volunteers that were a part of this village. These volunteers ranged in age from 2-88 years old – all with different backgrounds, skill-sets and passions – but they all made the decision to share their time and talents with our families. (Our youngest volunteers are 2 and accompany their parent/guardian to Toddler Book Club!)

 Interested in learning more about Family Scholar House or volunteering – Mayor’s Give a Day Week of Service is only 26 days away – April 14-22nd. During that week, we will have opportunities to learn about our mission by touring a campus, collections and volunteer opportunities that can be completed both at FSH and off site.  Follow us on Facebook (Family Scholar House),visit the official website Mayor’s Give a Day Week of Service or email us at to learn more about how you can get involved and make a difference.