Program aims to aid single-parent families

Herald Staff Writer

A new program to break the cycle of poverty in single-parent families is taking shape as community partnerships are solidified.

Sister Barbara Catherine Schmitz of the Sisters of St. Benedict in Ferdinand spoke to the Northeast Dubois School Board on Tuesday evening as a way to begin spreading news of the program’s message and needs to local school corporations.

Family Scholar House, which started in Louisville in 1995, supports single parents who are working to earn a college degree and attain an independent lifestyle. The Sisters of St. Benedict are working with the Louisville program to provide the same services to families in southern Indiana.

Family Scholar House offers academic advising, case management, family support, community activities, connection to other resources and peer support and eventually could expand to include housing in Dubois County. Sr. Barbara said she is still finding more resources for prospective students during the next couple of months before the program can officially begin.

Northeast Dubois Superintendent Bill Hochgesang said he invited Sr. Barbara to speak at the meeting so the board could learn about the program’s mission. The corporation already has become a partner of the sisters, with Hochgesang making several recommendations of single-parent candidates in the school district since the program launched in mid-October.

Hochgesang said reaching out to help parents gain a college education will improve the lives of their children who are students at Northeast Dubois schools.

“It’s such a great way for us tohelp those families out there who are single (-parent) families and are struggling. If you help the parent, you are helping the child. It makes for a much stabler home,” he said.

Sr. Barbara will soon begin to forge partnerships with the other school corporations in the county. Many local superintendents have had a preliminary meeting about the project. She also is securing further support from Tri-Cap and Crisis Connection.

“There could be opportunities for support groups, cooking classes, (classes on) managing money, weight control, dressing for success and raising and nurturing healthy children. Tri-Cap teaches many of these programs,” Sr. Barbara explained. She added that the sisters also could collect clothing donations for the families and work with local libraries that offer toddler reading programs to provide stimulation for the children and nurture an “educational environment.”

The program is currently run on-site at Monastery Immaculate Conception. Sr. Barbara will act as a case manager.

“If we have a mother or father in college, my job is to ask them how they’re doing,” she said. “I could see how things are going and see what they might need so they can be successful. In time, we would hope to have a computer lab on our campus.”

Sr. Barbara said she has interviewed about 20 prospective candidates from Dubois County, Tell City and French Lick, and she is looking for more.

Program participants may attend any accredited college, and most likely will attend Vincennes University Jasper Campus. Sr. Barbara said as the scholar house becomes more fitted to southern Indiana’s needs, technical schools could be added. Funding for the Louisville program — which in turn provides money for the Dubois County addition — comes from a variety of sources, including grants, tax credits and donations.

Board members expressed their excitement about becoming part of the partnership to bring higher education to struggling families. Sr. Barbara said she hopes the corporation and other support groups can help the program grow, and she added that she has “no doubt” the scholar house will succeed in its mission.

“I see my job as a cheerleader. If there’s somebody out there who has not been to college, my job is to help them to get the necessary resources to go on to college,” she said.

Contact Claire Moorman at

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