Aug 31, 2019 27 min read

Making the Impossible Possible for Single Parents – with Cathe Dykstra

Image of a young Black woman 2021 graduate in cap and gown holding out hands and blowing confetti
Photo by Bigger Smiles on Unsplash

Episode 9, 44 min listen

In this episode, we interview Cathe Dykstra of Family Scholar House in Louisville, Kentucky. Being a single parent with custody of your kids can be a hard and lonely job.  If you're struggling financially, maybe you don't have good support from your family, or maybe you're just getting out of a violent relationship, it can feel downright overwhelming.  You feel like you're up against impossible odds.  Getting ahead, making a better life for your kids, all that seems impossible.  In this episode, we’ll learn how one community has changed the odds for their single parents.  They've made the impossible possible.  

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Link to Family Scholar House Site

Link to a great Washington Post article, if you'd like to read more

Short Video:




This is State of Inclusion.  I’m Ame Sanders.  Welcome.

This podcast is about single parents, those who have custody of their kids, and most of those single-parents are moms.  Perhaps you are one, perhaps you know one.  Those of you who know me, know I don’t have children.  Still, I have plenty of single moms in my family and in my life.  And honestly, if you look around, they aren’t too hard to find.

The majority of children still live with two parents, but between 1960 and 2016 the percentage of children living with only their mother nearly tripled from 8% to 23% and the percentage of children living with only their father increased from 1% to 4%.

According to, in 2016, there were a little over 20 million children living with a single parent in the US.  I said 20 million children.  And, over 80% of those were with single moms.  That’s a lot of single parent families.  Being a single parent with custody of your kids can be a hard and lonely job.  If you’re struggling financially, maybe you don’t have good support from your family, or maybe you’re just getting out of a violent relationship, it can feel downright overwhelming.  You feel like you’re up against impossible odds getting ahead, making a better life for your kids, all that seems impossible.  In this podcast, we’ll learn how one community has changed the odds for their single parents.  They’ve made the impossible possible.


Today, we’re going to meet Cathe Dykstra Chief possibility officer as well as president and CEO of Family Scholar House, in Louisville, Kentucky.  I’m thrilled that Cathe was willing to take some time to talk with me today.  I’ve been impressed by her work and feel certain you will be, too.  I’ll let Cathe introduce us to Family Scholar House, but I’ll take just a minute to introduce Cathe.  Following her studies at Wake Forest, Cathe started her career in banking and healthcare, but she’s been with Family Scholar House now nearly 15 years.

She also has a secret, or not so secret love of baseball.  Cathe, I read that if you weren’t running Family Scholar House, you’d secretly love to be a manager of a minor league baseball team.  That’s a diverse career and diverse areas of interest.  Still, I have to ask about your title.  That’s what really intrigued me, Chief Possibility Officer.

You know, that’s really a great title. How did you [choose that?  And, you know, what does it mean to you?


Well, one of the really cool things about it is that I didn’t choose it.  It was chosen for me. Our board was looking for a way to better describe what they saw me doing in exploring and vetting and creating possibilities for the organization, but also helping young women and young men and their children find within them the opportunity to reach for possibilities that they may have felt like were out of reach.  And, they realized we were always talking about possibilities and what started as an informal title became a formal part of my title.

I knew that they really understood what I did when they were describing someone else in the community, who always says no, as the chief impossibility officer.  And then, I got it. Then I knew that they really got that I start by saying yes, and then figure out how to make that happen.

-About Family Scholar House and How it Works

[00:04:43] Ame:

Can you tell us, now, a little bit about Family Scholar House and how it serves your community, what it does?

[00:04:51] Cathe:

So, the mission of Family Scholar House is to end the cycle of poverty and transform our community by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve lifelong self-sufficiency.  That’s a big goal.  And, it starts by working individually with the single parents and the children and the foster alumni that we serve.  But it’s not just working with individuals and their families.  It’s also economic development for our community.  It’s having employees that are trained to take the jobs that are available.  It is the financial benefit to the community when families become self-sufficient and are then able to become taxpayers as opposed to those that are living on tax subsidies.  And, it is creating a college-going culture for those subsequent generations so that they set bigger goals for themselves from when they are a little kid and live into those goals because they know that they can.

[00:05:51] Ame:

Even though I started this with talking about single parents, and single moms in particular, why do you focus on single parents?  I mean, don’t all individuals and types of families need this?

[00:06:05] Cathe:

Yeah, I agree with you, and I appreciate the data that you shared at the very beginning, Ame. But the reality is if we look just at 2017 statistics from the Children’s Defense Fund, nearly 8.3 million children are poor and live with a single parent.  58.2% of all poor children are living in single-mother families, and 8.3% live with a single father.  So, almost two of every three poor children are living with a single parent.  So, as we look at it, If you want to have the greatest impact on the children in poverty, you need to address [00:06:00] the situation where you have them living with one parent, who is trying with one income if any income if with one income to provide not only for themselves but for their children.  So, the poverty rate among the approximately 20.2 million children in single-parent families is greater than 1/3, it’s 35.8%.  The best way we know to lift children out of poverty is to help their parents, and in the majority of cases that is a single parent and those single parents were often the children in a previous generation.  So, we keep seeing this cycle will repeat itself over and over and over again.  And, while we know that all families deserve the help, our sweet spot is where this great need meets our ability to impact it.

[00:07:41] Ame:

Those are some staggering numbers, and that’s a great reason to target that group.  It makes a lot of sense.

So, Family Scholar House is at least partly a housing program.  So, tell us a little bit about how is it different from other kinds of housing programs?

[00:08:16] Cathe:

Yeah, so the way we look at it is, we are not a housing program, we’re an education program with a housing component.  So, last year, we served 3,962 families with 5,179 children, 455 Foster Alumni, and 112 senior citizens.  So, people say well, how do you know those numbers?  I’m like, well, do you know how many people are in your family?  I just have a bigger family.

When you look at all of those people that were served, not everybody needs housing.  But those that are in the most vulnerable situations do, and we have housing for the most vulnerable of those that we are serving.  We have a full continuum of care that is everything [00:08:00] from pre-residential and non-residential to residential to post-program support.  And, about just actually a little less than 10% of the families that we serve in any given year live with us.

[00:09:12] Ame:

So, that’s an interesting way to describe it, and a very, very helpful way to think about it, as well.  So, I was intrigued by the program that you have for people who were foster kids.

[00:09:27] Cathe:

Yeah.  We refer to them as Foster Alumni, and that is more than just aged out.  Foster Alumni are defined as young adults that were in foster care after their 13th birthday.

So, they could have been 13 and a day and they were in foster care and then maybe they were reunited with their families.  Maybe that wasn’t as successful as we would like to think that it was and then they become 18, and they no longer have that family, but they didn’t age out directly from foster care.

So, all Foster alumni they could have aged out, or maybe they didn’t.  We saw a recurring pattern where the young adults in our program had been in the foster care system, and either had children while they were in foster care or had children shortly after leaving foster care.  And it occurred to us in one of our really bright moments that if we could help them before they had children, that we would that that would be very effective and efficient in helping one person instead of waiting until they were a family.  So, we decided to do a pre-parent prevention program for Foster Alumni.

And we started doing the work several years ago.  We started the housing in 2018 when we opened our fifth Louisville campus.  We built some one-bedroom apartments specifically for our Foster Alumni.  We have 32 units to house the most vulnerable of the Foster Alumni that live with us.

[00:11:00] Ame:

That’s great.  Because a lot of communities struggle with meeting the needs of their foster kids, particularly as they get older.  And, that’s a very interesting and I’m sure impactful way to work with those young people who are moving into adulthood and to give them some type of opportunity and anchor to move into adulthood successfully. That’s awesome.

[00:11:26] Cathe:

I sure don’t want to make it sound like that’s easy that’s very difficult work, but we don’t shy away from doing difficult things because they’re difficult. We do things that need to be done.  I often tell my staff you anyone could do the easy things.  It takes leadership to do the tough stuff.

And we know that if we can have an impact on them before that, before they have children that are dependent upon them that they will be better prepared to be parents.

[00:11:51] Ame:

Yeah, you’re absolutely right about that. I guess maybe the listeners might not completely understand still how things work.

Tell us a little bit about how this works for your parents and for the kids that are in the program.

[00:12:05] Cathe:

I think it’s hard to imagine all the things that happen at Family Scholar House.  So, what I often do is talk about all the things that I got out of my family.  And, it was everything from mentoring and coaching and experiences to discipline, and the most beautiful thing I got from my family growing up was a combination of unconditional love and accountability in equal measure.  And, that’s what we’ve created here at Family Scholar House.  So, you have an opportunity if you’re a single parent or Foster Alumni you have an opportunity to complete the post-secondary education necessary for the career of your choice, not one we’ve chosen for you.  But the career you would like to pursue.  And, you have an academic coach, if you’re in an apprenticeship, you have an apprenticeship coach, you have an advocate that is like a care manager, but even a little bit more than that.  You have all sorts of peer activities, there are children’s activities, there are parent and child together activities.  There are senior citizens that come in as surrogate grandparents.  There’s mentoring, there’s job shadowing, there’s career development, financial education, financial education for little kids. We have a program called Children for Change, which is for two to five-year-olds.  We teach little bitty kids about money.

So, it’s a very comprehensive program, and it is a very structured program for those that live with us.  If you’re in the residential program, you have requirements every month in order to be able to stay.  The housing is dependent upon your participation in the program and your progress in your education.

So, they’re saving money in their future fund. their volunteering in the community as a way to say thank you to those that are supporting them.  They’re meeting with their academic coach or apprenticeship coach the are meeting with their family advocate. They’re coming to peer support, they-re full-time students in whatever program post-secondary program.

They’re in, and they’re maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA, and our average is a 3.1.  We inspect every apartment every month. Our children must be an age-appropriate education and also being set on the right educational path for their future.   If that’s what you’re interested in, if you want to get to the goal line and recognize that the reason teams have coaches is to help them do that.  Then we can be your team.

[00:14:34] Ame:

That is a lot of wrap-around, around a family to help them find their way to success.  I have several questions for you, but probably the most obvious question to ask you right after that is holy moly that must take a lot of resources to keep that going because that sounds like a whole lot to me.

So, I mean, how do you keep all that going?  And, I don’t mean to be rude, but how in the world do you afford all that?

[00:15:06] Cathe:

That’s a very good question. We do not receive any, currently, we do not receive any federal or state dollars for program operations.  So, when we build a campus, we get some low-income housing tax credits to help us with the bricks and sticks, but that does not provide those wraparound services.  So, we are dependent upon donations, foundations, corporations, grants, and two large fundraisers. We have a year to raise our budget.  This year, that’s a little over $2.2 million dollars.  And, in addition to the paid staff that we have, the qualified professional staff that we have working with our families this year, we have a little over 2,000 volunteers that do all sorts of things.  Our volunteers are mentors, and they do children’s programming, and they help with toddler book club, and mommy and me cooking classes, and all different ways that they can be involved in the work that we do, and also feel like they are part of the success of our participants.

[00:16:14] Ame:

Well, one of the things that strikes me in listening to you talk about over 2,000 volunteers and the money that people donate to keep this going, is that your community is a very generous and very much behind your mission.  Because I mean, I know that Louisville is a pretty good-sized city, but that is still a very strong and powerful commitment from the people in your community to help you advance this mission. That’s incredible.  And I guess one of the other things I wanted to ask you is it seems that not only are you advancing this mission in Louisville, but I understand that you have kind of branched out and you’re working with other communities and helping them achieve this same kind of program in their own community.  So, tell me a little bit about how are you’ve branched out.  What communities you’re working with and what that looks like.

[00:17:15] Cathe:

So, I think there are two pieces there one is to understand that other communities sought us out, and then to understand why.  So, if we look just at Louisville and you look at all of our employment partners, but all also all of our educational Partners. My 279 adults are in 15 different colleges and universities having all sorts of post-secondary educational experiences, and they are the folks that normally stop out and drop out.  So, when a college or university can partner with us to have help for those students, then that college or University’s graduation rate improves.

And when your little, it’s a minuscule Improvement, but when you’re big, it’s a significant improvement. And that’s what they want.  They want students to complete their degree and enter the workforce within that time period that is considered the success rate for the college or university.

So, we were so naive. We just figured if we had it here in Louisville, surely, they had this everywhere.  And, we were meeting with the Department of Education and I said that and they stopped me and said, “no wait, wait, wait there are a lots of communities that have pieces and parts of what you do, but the comprehensive, holistic nature of what you do is unique, and we don’t want you to lose sight of that.”

Well, that was great to hear, and it was wonderful compliment but they didn’t just tell us they started telling other people and as we picked up some additional attention national articles The Washington Post, Hechinger Report most recently in April we won the American Planning Association’s HUD Secretary Award for 2019 for opportunity and empowerment.  All of that popped us up on other people’s radars, and they called to see how do we replicate this in our own community?

And we want to be helpful with that.  But we also want to make sure that we’re protecting the integrity and excellence of our brand.  And so, we have an affiliate program that provides support for other communities that would like to replicate Family Scholar House in their own hometown.  Where we provide the technical assistance, bring tremendous resources to the relationship, and help them do what we do where they are.  And, it’s important to us that we don’t own those other projects.  You know, here in Louisville us being a part of this makes sense. This is our hometown.   These are our families, but if you’re looking at a program in Cincinnati or in Chicago, or even Covington, Kentucky, or Knoxville, Tennessee those programs should be led by hometown people who care about their community, know their community, and love their families, too.  And so, the affiliate program takes that approach

Currently, we are working with groups across the country, 15 different groups across the country are in the early stages of discussing what that affiliate might look like in their community.  We turned down quite a few people, often because they’re not ready.  So, often it’s not a no, it’s a not yet.  Sometimes we see that the missions don’t align.

And so that that can be a concern and we really want to make sure that they understand what they’re signing up for and we want to make sure that we can actually be helpful to them in replicating our model.  Our model is trademarked. Our program materials are copyrighted.  And so, we believe we bring tremendous value to a community that would like to have this where they are.

[00:20:58] Ame:

So, you have an affiliate program.  And you’re working with, did you say 15?


We have four approved affiliates, and we’re working with 15 different communities across the country in the early stages of those conversations.

-A Little Bit of How To


So, one of the questions I had for you is, so, let’s say a community wants to embark on something like Family Scholar House.

I mean maybe through the affiliate program or maybe on their own.  That’s, you know, it’s up to each individual community how they would want to pursue this.  What advice can you give them in order to not fall into the not yet list?  Well, yes, but to be ready and to build themselves up to the point where they could embark on something like this.

[00:21:47] Cathe:

Well, the first thing is, if they’re interested in the affiliate program, they should just call us. We’re glad to talk to them about, you know, what that looks like.  Regardless of what group they want to help, or what issues they want to help with, anyone who’s looking at being helpful in their community, starting a non-profit, or starting an initiative, or they already have a non-profit and they want to start a new program we always look at, you know, basically a feasibility study. What is the need?  Who would it serve?  How would you serve them?   Who would be involved in serving them and who benefits?  And, so just like when we started out, I think people expected us to talk about the single parents that benefit the Foster Alumni maybe that benefit, and certainly the children that benefit.  And, they often miss the connection to the educational institutions that benefit, the employers that benefit, and the general community well-being of the benefit that comes from families that are currently receiving subsidies coming off of those subsidies and being able to pay in.  And so, there’s an economic well-being benefit to the entire community.  So, when you look at who all benefits, your stakeholders are a very large group.  And, those are all folks that can be involved in what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, who you’re serving, and what the outcomes will look like.

[00:23:24] Ame:

So those are some good things to think about because you’re right. There is a very broad base of stakeholders who benefit from this and organizing it in a way that recognizes that seems like a very important first step for a community, and I’m sure that, in our listeners, there will be some communities who are interested in this kind of program.

Now, I’m going to admit that everything in your program sounds so polished. I mean copyrighted and all of that and honestly, you’re very polished.  I mean, it couldn’t have been easy.  There’s got to have been some things along the way that were difficult or that people, our listeners, need to think about and learn from.

[00:24:05] Cathe:

Oh, my goodness.

I’m glad what we come across this polished.  We are constantly polishing our little apple.  But it hasn’t always been that way.  And, I think that we’ve learned more from our mistakes than we’ve learned from our successes and that that actually relates to the affiliate program.  We don’t want people to stub their toe in the same exact spot we stubbed ours.  So, if we’ve had an experience and learn from it, then we want to make sure that other people don’t have to repeat our mistake.  One of the things we’ve done here, and I guess technically this is me, and I’m awfully proud of it, we’ve created a blame-free environment.  So, we have accountability.  We don’t like to make the same mistake twice.  We like to learn from our mistakes, but we don’t blame each other.  And by when I think of blame, I think of the shame component that comes with it.  Sure, you made a mistake.  Okay.  Did you fix it? What did you learn from it?  Did we set something in place so it won’t happen again, but not you’re a horrible person because you made a mistake or how could you be so stupid.

So, because we don’t focus on the blame, I think we are more quickly able to learn from our mistakes and move forward.  And that contributes to the polish.  I think because we tend to be more creative and Innovative because we’re not afraid to make a mistake and most of the mistakes have been little.  You know, we’ve learned things all along the way, but because we’re not afraid to try something new we’ve also hit on all kinds of opportunities that we hadn’t thought about before different ways to do things.

In the very beginning, we had some donors who said you don’t need a campus. You should just serve people wherever they are, scattered site.  So basically, we would have been in our little vehicles running around all day long from this shelter to this house to this, you know, public housing project, to over here to somebody who’s not sure where she’s going to sleep with her baby tonight, but we could meet her at her at her school or at her work.  And, I understood what they were saying. We don’t want to invest in the in the infrastructure.  But I thought back to when I was at Wake Forest, and at that time, if you were a freshman or sophomore, you were required to live on campus.  And, that wasn’t just because they had housing and wanted to fill it. It was because the data showed them that you would be more successful, their outcomes would be better, if you lived together, if you were surrounded by other people who were doing the same thing you were doing, pursuing, you know, degree in a program in a learning environment and that the delivery of those services is less expensive if everybody is congregated together.  So, we pushed forward with campuses.  And the first one 56 rooms, the second one 54, the third one 57, and the fourth one 48, and then with the fifth campus we did 32 families and 32 Foster Alumni.  And those are very intentionally designed pieces for program delivery.  And that’s just an example of how we learned.  You know we heard, we listened, we sometimes agreed, we sometimes disagreed, but we moved forward.  And in that learning, I think we’ve had a lot of polish up what we do and how we do it.

[00:27:35] Ame:

That helps kind of get a picture, but I still think is there something that a group, if they wanted to undertake this, should anticipate as a challenge or some difficulty that they need to kind of get their head around. You talked about facilities as being one of them.  Is there anything else that you want to share with one of our listeners out there that they should be thinking about and get ahead of before they get too far down the road.

[00:28:05] Cathe:

Yeah, well with any program whether ours, or you care about breast cancer, or you care about children with cancer, whatever that is, figuring out who your partners are and how they’re going to support you is critical because some of that is funding, and some of it is stuff that you don’t need funding for if you get it in an in-kind donation or a partnership. So, we do a lot of Venn diagrams at Family Scholar House. We draw circles all the time.  And where those circles overlap is really important.

What is it that the people that are most like you have in common with you?  And what is the people that are least likely least like you still have in common with you?  Where is that tiny little intersection?  And what can you do there?  And I think that’s one of the advantages that we bring with the affiliate program with the technical assistance is we’re really good at thinking that through and we can help other communities. Do it as well.

[00:29:06] Ame:

So, you talked about the facilities, and you listed off a number of facilities.  So that’s a lot of buildings.  You must have an incredible Capital program. Do you build new buildings?  Do you renovate buildings and turn them into Apartments?  How do you tackle all this building that you have to do?

[00:29:32] Cathe:

I can hear my developer laughing now because he says I’ve never done it the same way twice, and you don’t really learn much from doing it the same way twice.  So, we’ve done everything from build ground up first campus, second campus was everything from historic preservation to renovation of an existing building to building from the ground-up, third campus was historic preservation and fresh build.

Fourth campus was historic preservation and fresh build, and the fifth campus was from the ground up.   So, we’ve done a little bit of everything.  And, just here in Louisville, that’s about $59 million worth of construction, and we do not have an endowment, and we do not have guaranteed funding for any of this.

We apply for tax credits, that covers about 65% to 70 % of what we built.  The rest of it has been built with dollars that we’ve raised.  Where we started was not with what can you build but with what do we need to serve our families?  And then how do you get that?  So, you don’t need money for bricks if people give you bricks, it’s those sorts of things.

It’s figuring that sort of stuff out, and we’re not done yet.  We’ve got more campuses to build.  So, we have five here in Louisville with 279 apartments, and we’d like to build two more in Louisville, one in Indiana just across the bridge, and then support our affiliates as they are building, as well.

[00:29:57] Ame:

That’s a great building program and a great list of experiences and experiments that you’ve had in building and looking at the photos of the properties, they seem very well suited for your folks who live in them and for the kids.  It’s a really impressive set of sites that you’ve built up over time.


Thank you.

-Getting a Little Personal


We’ve talked about the program, but we haven’t talked about you very much, and you know, you’ve been there I think for almost 15 years.




Is that right?




So, I’m sure our listeners would want to know, how did you find your way to Family Scholar House?  And what was it like when you first got there?

[00:31:42] Cathe:

That’s a great story.

I did not intend to leave the employment that I was in.  I was the economic director of an economic success program at the Center for Women and Families, The Domestic Violence Shelter.  Helping people buy homes, start businesses, go to school.  I had a terrific staff of 13. We were doing some great work, and it wasn’t my intention to leave my job to take another job.  But there was this opportunity.  It was a small organization that I had worked with.  I knew it well.  We had a shared what they call the client what we call a participant.  And they their executive director had left, and they were serving a very small number of people.  They had the opportunity to be so much bigger than they were and just weren’t there yet.   I’m not a social worker, I’m an econ major, and I saw the opportunity to take it to scale.  To create sustainability and economies of scale and efficiencies and build it out.  The day I arrived was March 28, 2005, and they were serving four people.  Four.  And I knew that the need was significantly greater than that.

They didn’t have any facilities.  They were renting apartments and putting people in apartments that they were paying full price rent for.  It just looked like a lot of fun to me.  So that was my first day, and we grew really quickly.  And as I said, it was 4,000 families in 2018.  It’ll be more this year.  So, we’re really building out a Continuum of services that would allow people to participate in a lot of different ways.

I have had a blast, you know, we often talk about the lives that have been changed, and none has been more change than mine.  The opportunity to be a part of this journey of so many families and young adults has been an experience for me, and I’m nowhere near done.

[00:33:46] Ame:

So, you’ve moved Family Scholar House a long way since you started.

But I can look at you and tell you are not done.  So, what are your dreams for Family Scholar House in the next 5, maybe 10, years?  As you look forward into the future, what are some of the things that you guys want to pursue as strategic directions?

[00:34:09] Cathe:

So, I talked a little bit about building more campuses.

So, locally, we want to have a bigger footprint.  And, we want to expand the footprint through the affiliate program.  So more that we own and more that we help other people build create run manage and serve.  So, that that’s one piece of that, but a second more important piece is impact.  We’ve now had this year, we had 71 graduates in the class of 2019, and we’ve now had a total of 502 college degrees earned by our participants, which we’re so proud of that.  We also launched our first book. We did that in 2017.  The first book of graduate stories, called Stories that Define Us.  The second volume comes out this year. And those stories provide some additional insight into the experience that our participants have had that led them to Family Scholar House, while they were at Family Scholar House, and what they are doing or plan to do, you know, post-graduation.  The third book, if it’s you know, we haven’t even got the second one out yet, but I’m already thinking about the third book.  The third book is the story of our children, children who have come through the program and are old enough to reflect back on what it meant to them.  And I think that’s where you really see the impact of something that says it breaks the cycle of poverty.  Early on, one of my participants said, Miss Cathe, don’t fool yourself.

If you’re not helping me with my kids, you’re not breaking the cycle anything, and there was great wisdom in her words because nobody had helped her, and she didn’t know how to help her children.

What are our graduates actually doing?  About 60% go into healthcare.  So, we have lots and lots and lots of nurses, but we also have teachers, and social workers, and marketing majors, and communications majors, and one engineering student, and a whole bunch of apprenticeships.

And, what are they doing in our community? And how is our community better off because of that? It’s not just about telling the story but it’s about maximizing those opportunities so that the employers are benefiting from the work we do and our participants are benefiting from our relationship with employers and that other partners like healthcare partners see the work that we’re doing in health and well-being and recognize our ability to impact a family may be greater than their ability to impact that same family. And how do we work together to help that family have what they need to address their health and well-being needs?

A perfect example is asthma. We’re very good at helping families. Manage their asthma more effectively, and part of that’s because the average stay here’s three years. That’s a long time so we can work with you and your child over a longer period of time to lay some groundwork for understanding some of the basics the difference between a daily asthma medication and a rescue inhaler when to use each and why they’re different.

Just like a seatbelt is different from an airbag, your daily medications are more like your seatbelt. Your rescue inhaler is more like an airbag.  And, so by putting things in context, we’re able to help families realize their full human potential, and that benefits everybody.   And, as we look at that we want to capture what are those graduates doing, what are their children doing, and how is our community better off?

-Wrap Up with a Story

[00:38:07] Ame:

So, in those books that you talk about, there’s got to be some great stories.


There are.


Maybe as we close up. Can you share one of the stories that you think could help our listeners kind of wrap this up and see how this benefits the community and benefits the people that you serve?

[00:38:28] Cathe:

So, let me tell you the story of a young woman we have served.  And, it’s very fresh in my mind because the because of some new information that’s happened recently.  So, she was in her senior year of high school. She told her mom she was pregnant, and her mom found that unacceptable.  She kicked her out.  She spent her entire senior year living from friend to friend, staying on couches, staying with extended family members, but she was so focused on her education and on preparing for this new baby and being a good parent that she was valedictorian of her high school, despite the fact that she was homeless her entire senior year.  That’s impressive.  She then moved into Family Scholar House.  We had the opportunity to serve both her and her child with everything from parenting to all sorts of opportunities for them to [grow together as a family and opportunities for her child and opportunities for her educationally, personally, and also for her to explore her career path.

She graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in nursing.  She entered the workforce as a nurse.  She was quickly identified as a really, really, strong candidate not just for the nursing she was doing but for advancement opportunities and was chosen for a specialty unit, had the opportunity to learn there and she decided she wanted more education and though she no longer lives with us, she’s always going to be part of this family, as is her child.  Two weeks ago, she got her Doctorate of Nursing Practice, white coat, all of it.  Along the way, she’s bought a home through our home ownership program.  You know, we’ve gotten to see her really realize her potential and explore so many things and one of the first things that she did when she got her doctorate because our families never really leave us even though they move out they’re still family, she came by here.  To show off her white coat with their name on it and to tell us how much our support has meant to her.  Now, I understand her gratitude, but I also understand mine.  Our community needs more professionals like her people who understand the challenges of families, can relate to a single mother all of those sorts of things and can serve our community with compassion and professionalism and competency.

[00:41:06] Ame:

That is an incredibly inspiring story both for Family Scholar House, but for that young woman because you guys didn’t do all of that for her.  She did that with some help maybe from you guys, but still, she put a lot of effort and work into that.

You guys helped her with the conditions to make that possible.  And so that’s a very, very, inspiring and encouraging story.  So, you’re right. Our communities do need more people like that who work through whatever challenges they face and who have the opportunity to raise a family successfully and that’s really, really, impressive.

So, before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to say?  It is hard to follow that story I have to admit, but is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up, that you haven’t had a chance to?

[00:42:01] Cathe:

You know, I as we look at the takeaways that I would want people to have, I certainly want them to know that the stories are meaningful and that we have data to back it all up.

But often I still think that we see this as helping others and not always recognizing how it’s helping ourselves. Poverty is more expensive than a second chance.  And, to truly break the cycle of poverty, programs need to have a two-generation approach to working with adults and children separately and together and in for those 8.3 million children in poverty that are living with a single parent the single best thing we can do is to help their parents get the education necessary to enter a career and have the support service to make it possible to balance work and parenting and a full, full, life.


[00:42:56] Ame:

Well, Cathe, I knew it would be a great opportunity to talk with you. I knew you’d have a lot of good stuff to share with our listeners and I really thank you for taking time today, and I wish you the best with your program in Louisville, and also with your affiliate program.     Because helping more communities find their way to create these similar type programs [00:42:00] can be very impactful across the country.  So, again, thank you very much for spending time with us today.


Thank you so much, Ame.  I’ve really enjoyed it.

[00:43:31] Ame:

That was Cathe Dykstra of Family Scholar House in Louisville, Kentucky where they’re working every day to break the cycle of poverty.

They’re helping single parents change their own lives and the lives of their kids.  Yeah, and this was our second interview from Kentucky.  If you haven’t heard it already, you might want to check out the episode Awaken Compassion in Your Community with Corey Wilcoxson certainly sounds like they have some good things going on in Kentucky these days.

This has been State of Inclusion.  Join us again next time.  Hey, and if you enjoyed this episode, the best compliment for our work is your willingness to share these ideas with others.

Thanks so much.


Guest: Cathe Dykstra

Host: Ame Sanders

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator: Kayla Nelson

Podcast Coordinator: Emma Winiski

Sound: FAROUT Media

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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