By James El-Mallakh–
“I was single and I had a child… I also was a victim of domestic violence as well as being homeless,” said Terenca Hall-Juuko, a junior American sign language major at U of L and a resident of the Family Scholar House.
The Family Scholar House is a non-profit organization in Louisville with multiple branches. Their mission is to “end the cycle of poverty by giving single-parent students the support they need to earn a four-year college degree.”
“This is support like none other… It’s genuine support where they accept everybody as they are and they look at them as individuals and they help address the barriers that are keeping each individual from being successful,” said Hall-Juuko.
The Family Scholar House recently opened up their third local branch called the Stoddard Johnston Scholar House on Bradley Avenue, less than a mile away from Belknap Campus.
The organization supports single-parent families by giving them low rent housing while the parents are earning a college degree.
“They’re all below 50 percent of the area median income, they’re all coming from homelessness and – 95 percent of the time – domestic violence,” said Cathe Dykstra, President and CEO of Family Scholar House. “We have 167 families living with us with 264 children on three campuses: Louisville Scholar house, Downtown Scholar house, Stoddard Johnston House.”
The majority of student parents who are in the family scholar program attend the University of Louisville for their four-year degree and most will attend JCTC for their associate’s degree. The student parents attend a total of 11 different universities that include Sullivan University, Spalding University and Indiana University Southeast.
“It’s a natural fit for U of L to be one of the places where a large portion of our students attend,” said Dykstra.
Family Scholar house have a total of nine full time workers and depend on hundreds of volunteers to help with their case load.
“I chose Family Scholar house because I know they have a very good reputation throughout the community and they’re very well and highly respected,” said Amanda Cotton, an intern at Family Scholar and a student in the Kent School of Social Work pursuing a master’s degree.
“They’re one of the few non-profits that have been able to grow and succeed throughout this tough economy and so I knew they had a strong backing in the community so I wanted to be able to be a part of that experience.”
The Kent School has a formal relationship with Family Scholar and U of L students will often complete internships at Family Scholar. Most of Cotton’s intern work consists of work that a full time staff member would do such as case reviews, preparing clients for the housing process and helping with financial aid as well as admissions, outreach and home visits.
Last year, 884 volunteers worked for Family Scholar House, most of them being community members who support the mission of Family Scholar.
Family Scholar currently houses 167 families, but there are also 558 families on the waiting list. Hall-Juuko was on the waiting list but she says that her determination to change and improve her life let her be moved up on the waiting list.
“You can either sign up and be on the waiting list and sit around and wait for them to call you or you can be like a lot of the participants. You sign up, you go down there and participate in the workshop classes, you go down there and utilize the tools they are giving you even as a pre-residence, even while you’re on the waiting list,” said Hall-Juuko.
“I always showed up once a week and let them see my face and let them know that I was dedicated to the program. As soon as they had an opening, they chose me.”
The Family Scholar House is a growing program. They currently are planning on breaking ground on a fourth campus over the summer and the new residence halls are expected to be ready for occupancy before the 2013-2014 academic year.
“I can honestly tell you I would be dead right now or just worse off if it wasn’t for [Family Scholar],” said Hall-Juuko. “I contacted them and from day one… there’s nothing but support and everybody there loves their job.”
“I do believe we make a difference on a daily basis,” said Dykstra.
Photo: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal