Imagine you are a young mother, trying to care for your child and working to sustain both of your lives. School is usually put on the back-burner with no time nor support to go to school and take care of your family. The Family Scholar House has created a solution for these young parents, giving them a stable home and support for their children while they go back to school. Once these parents are armed with degrees, there is no limit to their future success. With no federal or state funding and no endowment, the Family Scholar House manages to raise $1.6 million dollars each year to make their operation possible. As of February 2018, they are now managing five campuses across Louisville and the expansion possibilities are endless. At the helm of this organization is a dynamic woman, whose official title is Chief Possibility Officer (along with President and CEO), and it is her vision and commitment that has taken this organization from serving four families in 2005 to serving over 3,500 families now. When she’s not working, she loves shopping for shoes (preferably four-inch heels) and watching baseball. Meet Cathe Dykstra, our FACE of Louisville today.
Tell us about Family Scholar House and the services it provides.
Family Scholar House (FSH) is a regional nonprofit, headquartered in Louisville, with a mission to end the cycle of poverty by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve lifelong self-sufficiency. By providing a holistic, comprehensive continuum of care that includes affordable housing, academic coaching, counseling, career development, childcare and life skills, our scholars of all ages are supported in transitioning from homelessness, poverty and often domestic violence to enter the workforce and become contributing members of our community. Each year, FSH serves over 3,500 single-parent families with over 5,000 children through residential and non-residential programs. Currently, 215 families live at FSH’s four Louisville campuses with an additional 32 families and 32 foster care alumni moving into the fifth campus this month.
What makes this organization unique?
Family Scholar House is the only organization of its kind in our area and is recognized as a national best practice for its two-generation solution to poverty. With the recent addition of housing for unaccompanied foster care alumni, FSH is addressing the needs of underserved individuals for post-secondary education and career development in order to succeed in the classroom and in life and become financially independent from government subsidies.
We are especially proud of our graduates and their successes as examples of our program outcomes. In September, we released our first book of graduates successes called Stories That Define Us, written by Pam Platt, that shares the experiences of ten of our graduates. A copy of our book is our gift to supporters with every $25 donation.
You have a background in banking and healthcare. How did this prepare you for the job you have today?
I think my degree in economics from Wake Forest University provided an excellent foundation for viewing challenges and opportunities through the lens of a cost-benefit analysis. I am sure that we would not have completed $78 million in construction if I did not have a framework for examining our options to see what will provide the best return on investment. Further, I appreciate that by attending a liberal arts college, I had the chance to explore possible majors while learning a little about many things before making a choice. Economics was my fifth field of interest, and I would not have found it were it not for Wake’s curriculum requirements. Understanding micro- and macro-economic principles has helped me in banking, healthcare, nonprofit business and in my daily life.
You are a strong proponent of “servant leadership.” Explain this concept as you see it.
Servant leadership is the philosophy that by serving others, we create a better community, a better world that benefits us all. On a practical level, for me this means that I seek ways to care for others, giving them opportunities to contribute and succeed, and in the process, our community is more connected and compassionate and our community’s economy is stronger.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The most rewarding?
The most challenging and often exhilarating part of my job is piecing everything together to fund our work. We do not receive any federal or state dollars to operate our programs, and we do not yet have an endowment, so it is necessary to raise our $1.6 million program budget every year. It takes individual and corporate donations, grants and strong fiscal management to make it all work, and I am grateful for a very engaged board and many community leaders who see their support as an investment in our community and its next generation of leaders.
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing our scholars graduate, accept employment with local businesses, raise awesome children, participate in our community and embrace new opportunities such as home ownership, volunteerism and membership in civic groups and on nonprofit boards.
What are some ways people can help Family Scholar House?
Become volunteers, donors and advocates. Our small but mighty professional staff appreciates help with mentoring, job-shadowing, tutoring, children’s activities, weekly family cafe and a host of seasonal activities. Call us to get started. We look forward to connecting your interests and expertise to the needs of our scholars. As you get to know us better, we know you will share our work and outcomes with others. That advocacy helps new people learn about us so that they too can get involved.
If you were not in your current job, what would you secretly love to do?
Manager of a minor league baseball team — that’s where raw talent gets developed for the majors.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I can’t keep a houseplant alive.
What are three words that describe you?
Creative, collaborative, perseverant
What advice do you treasure?
Fear and faith cannot coexist. You can only choose one.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my: ___.
A locket my aunt gave me with my mom’s picture — I miss her every day.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Favorite thing to do in Louisville:
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
What are three of your favorite things right now (besides faith, family and friends)?
Thank you Adele Reding Photography for the beautiful images of Cathe.
To learn more about Family Scholar House and all the ways you can help this great organization, click here.
To be inspired by other great women in Louisville, check out our other FACES of Louisville here.