Coming Full Circle

Helene Trager-Kusman, one of our Academic Advisors, shares a glimpse into her time at FSH.

2016 has brought many new opportunities for me, including the life-changing experience of being introduced to Family Scholar House. When I first learned of the non-profit that supports low-income, single parents access wrap around services, including housing, as they work towards their degree, I thought it was too good to be true. Programming for parents and young, impressionable children that inspired and scaffolded their becoming successful students and citizens… available to them for free? I was absolutely intrigued and eager to learn more.

Meeting with the “Chief Possibility Officer,” Cathe Dykstra and VP of Programming, Kristie Adams, I learned more about the mission to break the cycle of poverty by empowering families with education. As aformer public school teacher in the DC area, I had spent years working with children and families in poverty wishing I could do more. I grew to understand that without family support and long lasting solutions, there was a brick wall that stood between education and hungry minds. These were the first of hundreds of women, who would inspire me day after day in this rapidly growing, dynamic community.

Family Scholar House has partnered with the Petrino Family Foundation to encourage and teach mindfulness to the community. I started as a volunteer at Family Scholar House with one of my first events being an eight week mindfulness training with the Earth and Spirit Center. It moved me to watch how mindfulness could lift the heavy weights off participants’ shoulders, even if it was just for a few quiet moments. Continuing as a full staff member, I now see how mindfulness is incorporated in so many practices of the program, including a Mindfulness Superhero day for kids where I got to connect my work to my passion of teaching children’s yoga. This mindfulness practice has encouraged me to take the time to think about what has inspired me in 2016 and what will motivate me in the new 365 days to come.

I can’t put into words how inspired I am by the students I support. I often wonder if they know that they give me so much more than I could ever give them through the academic advocacy and support I provide in my role here. Instead of trying to do it for them, I would like to share the inspiring story of one of our participants which came across my desk this week while editing some scholarship essays. Seeing these familiar stories in their beautifully written words really resonates and allows for mindful reflection of how all of our journey’s can be connected to a bigger and greater long lasting purpose.

Coming Full Circle

Life has never been easy for me, but I will beat the odds. I am my son’s teacher, nurturer and mother. My goal is to lead by example for my child. At 15 I was diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes. My health has been an issue since and it is a daily struggle. My goal is to help other diabetic’s understand the disease and manage a healthy lifestyle. I am currently in school to become a Nurse Practitioner, with a GPA of a 3.8.

“Life has never been easy for me, but I will beat the odds.”

I became homeless at 18 years old, with nowhere to go, no source of income, and a high school dropout. I went to Salvation Army. My case worker had mentioned the YMCA Safe Place as a place I could go for a shower, clothes and food. With the support I had from the staff at the YMCA, I got a job, and my first apartment. I became a motivational speaker and leader for the YMCA Safe place. I speak at events and encourage young adults my age that where you are now, is not your future.

During this time, I found out I was pregnant. I had no idea of how I was going to take care of this little heart beating inside of me. I made a decision sitting there in the hospital that this child would never go without, or have to endure the pain and abandonment I had been through.

After having my son, I went back to high school and graduated on September 12, 2015. I spoke with my teachers about furthering my education. That same day I applied for Community College. I began school in January 2015 and have remained determined in continuing my education since. My short term goal is to get my Associates in Science and get accepted into a university to get my BSN-PhD in Nursing. My long term goal is to become a Nurse Practitioner, work at a family office, and help diabetics who struggle with the disease.

My first semester of school, I worked full-time and went to school part-time. I received a 4.0 GPA. I am now a resident at Stoddard Johnson Family Scholar House. With my degree, I will educate and inform other diabetics that we can live healthy lives and achieve our full potential.

FSH participant

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