Nonprofit looks to help more single-parent families

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — A local organization that lends a helping hand to disadvantaged single parents attending college is opening its doors to the public in several upcoming meetings to spread the word of the resources it offers to community members.

And before long, the organization could expand its services.

The Sisters of St. Benedict Family Scholar House — a chapter tied to the nonprofit Family Scholar House organization in Louisville, Kentucky — has made it a mission to end the cycle of poverty and transform the community by empowering families and youth to succeed in education and achieve lifelong self-sufficiency.

Currently, the group either provides or can refer participants to academic advising, mentoring and tutoring services, as well as financial literacy training, life skills workshops and more classes. To date, the St. Benedict Family Scholar House has impacted single-parent families in eight southern Indiana counties, and those resources have translated to more than 30 college programs completed by participants since the nonprofit chapter formed in the fall of 2012. The nonprofit also points children to outside organizations, such as libraries, for programs.

General information meetings will be held at the Monastery Immaculate Conception at 2 p.m. today, at the Ferdinand Library on Friday at 10 a.m., and at the monastery on Tuesday, July 3, at 10 a.m.

Within the next few years, the nonprofit might be outfitted with residential quarters for families enrolled in the program.

Sister Barbara Catherine Schmitz is the co-director of the Ferdinand nonprofit. She isn’t sure exactly how the housing will look in future years, but she’s positive it would make a difference. Schmitz is hopeful the rooms will be available in two to three years.

“If you believe it, it will happen,” she said of the time frame. “There will be little blocks along the way, but it’s what you do with those blocks. Nothing can stop us if we really believe it.”

The project would be orchestrated by the Sisters of St. Benedict, but how it would be paid for is yet to be determined. The Louisville Family Scholar House offers subsidized housing in various apartment complexes around the city for single parents going through school and young adults who have “aged out” of foster care at age 18 and need support and housing to continue their education, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

In the meantime, the Sisters of St. Benedict Family Scholar House will continue to reach out to the community by providing programs and referrals to local agencies such as Tri-Cap and Habitat for Humanity for single parents pursuing a collegiate degree, as well as referring them to academic resources. To date, the Ferdinand nonprofit has partnered with five area schools — Ivy Tech Community College in Evansville, Oakland City University, OCU’s Rockport branch, Vincennes University and Vincennes University Jasper Campus — to provide general mentoring to those in need.

Those unavailable to attend the general information meetings today and early next month can contact Schmitz or Sisters of St. Benedict Family Scholar House Co-director Sister Traci Stutz at the monastery for more information. Their email addresses are barbarac@thedome.org and tstutz@thedome.org, respectively.

The Sisters are actively looking for single parents — both mothers and fathers — who are either in college or hope to attend school.

Schmitz said she has seen the children of parents who completed their degrees with help from the program following in mom or dad’s footsteps and signing up for their own classes. She wears many hats through the program, from mentor to coach, but celebrating the participants’ successes is something Schmitz enjoys.

“It’s exciting,” Schmitz said of the completion of the group’s mission. “Sometimes, I think, for Sister Traci and myself, just to be a cheerleader for someone, just to listen and hear what they’re saying or what’s bothering them can be an important part, too. I think we all need good cheerleaders at times.”




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