This semester a group of students enrolled at Indiana University Southeast volunteered to assist in telling the story of Family Scholar House. Students spent time getting to know our participants and learn more about the FSH experience. This is part of the story from one of our 2021 graduates: 

With a few technical difficulties, Heather joins the Zoom interview. Instantly, we are greeted with a smile and warm welcome from this energetic and highly motivated woman. Heather is a senior pursuing her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) at the University of Louisville and is graduating this semester. She currently works as a CNA (certified nurse assistant) in the excitingly fast-paced world of the emergency room where she will soon work as a registered nurse (after graduation). Heather is an amazing mother who, above all else, enjoys spending time with her child; her face beaming with pride whenever Khloe, her five-year-old daughter, is mentioned. From this first impression, it is not possible to tell the struggles that she endured before coming to Family Scholar House.  

Heather found out she was pregnant during her junior year of high school, and soon after was asked to leave the school. Determined to graduate, Heather attended a program called TAPP (Teen Academic Parenting Program) where she was first introduced to Family Scholar House.

Navigating being a new parent in high school was difficult, while living in a maternity home and experiencing the negative impacts of an unhealthy relationship. Through the support of her teachers and Family Scholar House, she graduated from high school with her eyes set on the University of Louisville (where she obtained scholarships). Heather and Khloe moved into Louisville Scholar House, and she recalls it being a “critical turning point in our lives”. Family Scholar House provided her with a new home, support system, and advocated on her behalf. Heather quickly built new friendships with other single-parents that lived on campus at Family Scholar House.  Heathers neighbors at Family Scholar House became like family, looking out for each other and sharing in the struggles of being single-parent college students. 

She became involved on her FSH campus, often attending cafe nights, representing FSH in the community, and signing up for every Toddler Book Club.  Being a people person, Heather told her advisor at FSH that she wanted to be in the nursing program. Growing up, she “always wanted to help people.” To her, it is all about building relationships. 

Heather makes it very clear that failure was never an option. “The advisor at school asked me what my backup plan was in case I didn’t make it into the nursing program, and I told him that this is my one and only plan. There is no backup plan.” But things were not easy. The nursing program is demanding, “and adding a kid into it [made things] ten times harder. “There were many nights where she stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning studying after caring for Khloe during the day. Although she often thought about giving up, she never did. She persevered and is now on track to graduate in May 2021. Even now when thinking about graduation, she beams with pride. Despite COVID-19 affecting her school work, the hard work has paid off. Heather will graduate cum laude this spring semester. 

Outside of school, every moment is spent with her daughter doing “fun things.” Heather hates sitting indoors—her constant pacing around the house and spirited personality on Zoom confirms this. They spend as much free time outdoors as possible. “I try to do activities to keep her active.” Heather wants to pass down her love for the outdoors, “I definitely plan on getting Khloe into sports of some kind soon,” she says. 

Shortly after, Heather calls Khloe into the room to introduce us. She mischievously smiles into the camera—a bit nervous—swaying from side to side. Khloe hesitantly says hi in her Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle t-shirt. Then, just as quickly as she came, she runs out of the room again to return to her cartoons. Heather tells us how Khloe is “the biggest girly girl. She did not get that from me.” She also enjoys being with her friends, “she loves them. If she can be around her friends, she is content.”

As the sun sets and Khloe is getting restless, the conversation winds down. We talk about the impact Family Scholar House, along with her strong support system made up of a few close friends and family, has had on her life. She is currently employed, has a place to call home, and is eager to see what else life has to offer. Above all, Heather is an independent, resilient, and highly intelligent woman. Knowing what obstacles she has overcome in the past, there is no doubt that she will continue to be successful in all that she sets her mind to. Her story reflects the depths and strengths of the human spirit, and everyone could learn to be more like Heather: strong, fearless, confident, and energetic. Despite all, Heather carved a path for her family—one that will stand the test of time. It goes to show that every participant’s journey and accomplishments are unique and certainly their own.

By: Richard Stettenbenz, Hayden Seelye, and Paige Adams