By Brigid Morrissey

Accountability is a word that is learned as you age into more and more responsibility. It’s a word often associated with jobs and sports, coinciding with the ability to perform. It’s a word that, until the prospective residents enroll at Family Scholar House, might not be fully understood.

Although there are certain requirements eligible women have to meet to live in FSH housing — maintain a certain GPA, partake in community service, hold a part-time job, and attend personal development classes — all of them are actively choosing to rise above their current circumstances for a better life.

Christie Leigh Wells is teaching Family Scholar House residents about the basics of business and social etiquette through the organization’s career development program. Photos by Aubrey Hillis 

“That was the key for me… accountability,” says Christie Leigh Wells, a business etiquette consultant who volunteers her time to share her knowledge with the women in the program. “I have always been more than happy to give, but to give to a group of women dedicated to helping themselves — now that was a mission I could get behind.” The philosophy that Christie Leigh was raised on, that “the hole you give through is the hole you get through,” proved true, and a charity luncheon was the hammer that opened the hole she was looking for. “I ran into Helene Trager-Kusman and told her I had been thinking about how I could give back and make a difference to the women and families of our community. Helene understood the value of being empowered by professional etiquette, and we immediately devised a plan.” Helene, an academic advisor at Family Scholar House, had created a career development program and added Christie Leigh’s etiquette training to the curriculum.

Since that conversation, Christie Leigh has instructed countless women on the importance of business dos and don’ts — from having a firm handshake to how to hold a fork during a lunch interview. “These women don’t know what they don’t know. Once I open their eyes to how it is supposed to be done, they can’t get enough,” she says. No matter what she is teaching, Christie Lee doesn’t lose sight of the accountability the women are developing. “They are so eager to learn, to understand, to experience self-growth,” she says, “and are some of the strongest, most determined and kind-hearted women I have ever met.”

Tiffany Fitzpatrick is a participant at Family Scholar House who is learning professional etiquette as part of the job shadowing program. She is a business marketing major at Jefferson Technical Community College. 

Inspired by her experience with Family Scholar House, Christie Lee says, “I encourage people with an expertise to share it. Everyone has something to teach, but most of the time, I leave feeling like I’ve done most of the learning.”