My name is Kelsie Orman and I’m here with my 6 year old son Jonathan. For the past five years we have called the Family Scholar House home. This is our story:
As I stand before you today, it is hard to believe that I really did it! Today is my official Family Scholar House graduation celebration.
School did not come easy for me. In fact, I struggled through much of my academic career. I can’t tell you how many times I sat with Ms. Cathe as she encouraged me through my struggles and through my tears. But the tears I am holding back today are tears of pure joy for all that I have accomplished. I can’t thank you enough for everything you have done for me, Ms. Cathe.
I was lucky to have a supportive family. I had a lot of opportunities, and today, I can finally appreciate just how fortunate I am. You see, we come to the Family Scholar House from a wide variety of circumstances and backgrounds. Our stories are all different. But what we share is that we are all broken and desperate when we arrive; yet, ready to work hard to change our futures for ourselves and our children.
I was a sweet, quiet and compliant child. I remained that way throughout my high school years, but when I turned 18, I changed… almost overnight. I became defiant and determined to prove that I was an adult and that no one would tell me what to do anymore. I was making all of the decisions now… and most of them were bad.
My life took a major turn literally overnight. One minute I was living with my parents, enjoying the comfort of a nice warm bed. And the next day I was on the street, literally. Because I was convinced that I was invincible, I made the rash decision to leave home on December 26th 2011. The next morning I knew I had made a mistake, but I was prideful and determined. I was going to prove that even without a trade, vocation or college education, that I could make it on my own. A month later, I found out that I was going to be a mother, and things became more desperate. Still, I wasn’t ready to open up to my family like I should have. Soon I had a son and he and I spent the next couple of years moving from couches to shared rentals, living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes in filth, always in fear and loneliness. I was desperate and felt all alone. I knew I had to do something. I was just so tired. Tired of having no hope, no money, no education, no opportunity, no dreams…I was just tired of being tired.
And then I heard about the Family Scholar House. A safe place where I could begin to heal, have hope, earn a college degree as well as learn much needed life and parental skills. Family Scholar House provided me with the support I needed to finish college and tools to begin living my life and raising my son with dignity.
I moved into the Family Scholar House just before Jonathan’s second birthday. I knew that being a full-time student and a full-time single parent wouldn’t be easy. But, when Jonathan and I walked into our apartment on Reg Smith Circle, I immediately felt a comfort and peace that I had not known for a long time. I could finally envision the future I wanted. And in our home, behind the green door, Jonathan and I made memories and experienced many “firsts.” I slept well that night.
Because I was able to call this amazing place home, I also had the privilege of sending my son to the Early Learning Campus at U of L. I remember the first day I dropped Jonathan off. We were both crying. I was nervous about how Jonathan would do without me. And I was nervous about how I would do without him by side. I felt like it had been just me and him against the world since he was born. But when I walked into his amazing classroom at the ELC known as “the travelers” and saw him dancing to the Mickey Mouse clubhouse song, I knew he was happy. At the end of his first day of pre-school, we walked hand in hand down the side walk. As I opened our green door and stepped inside, I watched Jonathan run to his room to play. I knew we were home.
Jonathan settled in right away, but, for me it was a tougher transition. Two years into my journey, I wasn’t sure I would make it. The stress of a full-time class schedule, homework, full time motherhood and a part time job began taking its toll. And once again I went to Ms. Cathe for help. She gently guided me through this tough time in my life and helped me examine my options. Whether that meant sticking with my original 5 year education plan or using the associates’ degree I had just earned from JCC and start a career, she didn’t judge me nor tell me what I needed to do. She simply reminded me of the reasons that I came to Family Scholar House in the first place.
I could always count on a smile from the interns and AmeriCorp volunteers in the intake office. Brian was always there to help me figure out my student loans and class schedule and I always knew that I could reach out to Jocelyn, Della and Olivia for much needed family support services. I always knew without a doubt that everyone here was eager to walk alongside me, support me, and encourage me, even during my toughest times.
As I think back on my time at Family Scholar House, I am reminded how I’ve become a better student. I’ve become a better parent. But most of all, I’ve become a better person. Jonathan and I were surrounded by an amazing community, where he was able to grow up with other families that looked just like ours. I’m glad, that with Ms Cathe’s encouragement and support that I never gave up. Ms. Cathe and this place was exactly what I needed. And both were here when I needed it most.
On my graduation day from the University of Louisville, Jonathan walked with me across the stage to receive my diploma because we did this together.
Last week I packed up my apartment. Just as I had received it, I left my home clean and move in ready for that the next deserving family. As I closed the boxes and locked our green door for the last time, I was reminded of all the memories made in this special place, the good and the bad. We laughed together, we struggled together, but most importantly, WE WERE TOGETHER.
Family Scholar House was my first real home for my family of two. It is where my journey to become the best version of me began. Today can I proudly say, that I am a single parent. I am a college graduate. I am an amazing mom. Thank you Family Scholar House for everything you have meant to me over the past 5 years. Even though Jonathan and I don’t live here anymore, you will always be my family and I know I can always count on you.