By Megan S. Willman

Family Scholar House helps single mothers find stability and teaches them life skills. Jasmine Wilkins, one of the FHS participants, is with her daughter Brooklyn. 
In 2011, Kate Brackett selected Family Scholar House (FSH) as part of her Master in Social Work internship from Murray State University. A Louisville native, she thought it would be fun to spend the semester close to home while she worked to complete her degree. Kate didn’t expect to fall in love with Family Scholar House, but that’s exactly what happened. Today, Kate serves as the director of strategic initiatives, where she takes leadership for community engagement efforts as well as the bustling volunteer network that supports Family Scholar House.

The mission of FSH is to “change lives, families, and communities through education,” and it does so by providing a home to single mothers (and their children) as they work their way through college. One hundred percent of the women who are accepted into FSH are homeless; 95 percent of them have experienced domestic violence.

“When they first get here, I wouldn’t call them hopeless,” said Kate, “but they have felt beaten down. They don’t know what steps are next for them, but they are determined to make a change.”

Not only does Family Scholar House provide a home for these families, but moms and kids alike also receive a wealth of support and services to help them as they begin to rebuild their lives. The moms must be enrolled in college during their time at Family Scholar House; once they graduate, they are ready to move forward into a world that no longer seems so daunting. Kate says she is in awe of all the families accomplish and is grateful to be able to offer her support. “We get to be the cheerleaders and watch the evolution of these women and their children. It’s so amazing to see their confidence and self-esteem grow. They leave us with their heads held high.”

Family Scholar House offers proof on a daily basis that education can end the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Many staff members at FSH were previous participants, and seeing their success offers hope and validation to the women currently in the program. Jaydee is one of those women who came to FSH searching for a much-needed chance to succeed. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Louisville, went on to get her Master of Social Work from UofL’s Kent School, and now assists the women who live in Family Scholar House to reach their own goals. In 2016, sixty-two student-parents from Family Scholar House graduated from college, its largest graduating class to date.

(Left) Jaydee Graham with her son Barrett and Telesa Madole with daughter Zhiona.
It is also always seeking presenters who can offer an informative class on topics such as budgeting, resumé-writing, or any parenting skill. Donations of professional clothing and shoes in all sizes are also appreciated as the moms need to build a week’s worth of work clothes.

Both individual and groups of volunteers are welcome and appreciated, and Kate works with each to make sure the timing fits the volunteer’s schedule. At present, the youngest volunteer is a 2-year old who comes to Toddler Book Club every week with his mom. Marguerite, who is in her 80s, comes every Wednesday to write notes of appreciation to donors and notes of encouragement to the moms. There is indeed a place for anyone who wants to help at Family Scholar House. Kate encourages interested volunteers to call her for more information at 502.584.8090.

As the holidays and winter weather approach, two programs need immediate community support:

  • Warm Hands, Warm Hearts. Volunteers can donate new or gently used gloves, mittens, or scarves in women’s or children’s sizes.
  • Snow-Day Kits: Donations are requested to provide snow day kits for the families this year. Suggested items include hot chocolate, popcorn, family movies, and/or board games.

Check the “Get Involved” tab on the Family Scholar House website for an ongoing and current list of needs. Contributions can be sent or delivered to Family Scholar House, 403 Reg Smith Circle, Louisville, KY 40208.