Meet Our Residents
I was born into poverty and lived my whole life in the welfare system. I got pregnant the summer after I graduated high school. I didn’t go to Morehead State, where I had a full academic scholarship for the honors program, but instead moved to Ohio with my daughter’s father. Over the next two years, I lost count of the busted lips, black eyes, and times I was knocked unconscious. After finding myself in a hospital bed from a concussion, enough was enough. I packed what little I could in the car, grabbed my daughter, Lily, and drove 300 miles in the middle of the night, in the rain, back home to Kentucky to live with my aunt. Within three days she had gotten me a factory job with her. I was making it, all on my own, just me and my baby. I thought that was going to be the rest of my life. When I was laid off a year later, I decided to go to the local business college to get some sort of higher education. Then I met someone who told me about One Parent Scholar House. I looked into it and applied to the program. I was shocked at how eager these people were to help me.
I eventually changed schools to Bluegrass Community and Technical College where I earned my associate degree with high distinction and was awarded a transfer scholarship to EKU. Next month I will graduate Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies. I am in at least the top 7.5% of my class at Eastern, and I currently hold a 3.76 GPA, and I have been accepted early into the Master’s degree program in Student Personnel Services at EKU.
One Parent Scholar House is home. It’s the only support system I have ever had. If I had been living any other place, I would have had to make more money, spend less time with my daughter, less time studying and more time worrying about living around others who looked down on me for being a young single mother. There are 80 single mothers living here in the same situation as me. If this place helps those other 79 as much as it has helped me, then I know the sounds this place will keep making – the sounds of breaking the cycle of poverty and the sounds of cheering as we walk across our graduation stages and the sounds of our little ones growing up knowing that they have a chance to succeed in school like their mothers.
I grew up in a rough neighborhood, where it was common for twelve and thirteen year-old girls to be pushing baby strollers down the street. I was determined not to become a teen mom, and I started college as a first-generation American and college student. However, I became pregnant during my sophomore year. My older sister had been a resident at One Parent Scholar House, but I never thought that I would end up there in the same position as her. But when I became pregnant, I knew that One Parent Scholar House was my best chance for success.
I didn’t want “single mom” to define me as a person, and One Parent Scholar House was my own place to figure out who I was. What I didn’t realize going into the program was just how encouraging it could be to live among other women going through the same things. If you’d told me before I came here that a welfare mom could be hardworking, strong, and intelligent, I don’t know that I would have believed you. Since going through the program, I have a different perspective. I saw how truly courageous and dedicated these women are. When I became a single mother myself, I realized how fortunate I was to be a part of this program. It makes a huge difference – being able to go to school full-time without worrying about losing your home, and having people there to push you through the hard times.
Before I came to One Parent Scholar House, I would have to take my son, Kendale, from house to house every morning, to whomever I could afford to pay to watch him, or whoever had food to feed him. Here, he had early access to education, plenty of kids to play with, and a safe community to grow up in. He is proud of what I’ve accomplished, and he understands the necessity of higher education; it’s been a part of his vocabulary since he was little. After I finished my Masters at UK and graduated from One Parent Scholar House, we were able to move directly into our own home. My new career took me to Dallas, Texas, and back home to Kentucky where I now work as a Technical Writer for Explosive Destruction Technology at Bechtel Corporation. Without One Parent Scholar House, there’s no way we would be where we are now.
I was pregnant with my first child when I lost my mother, my uncle, and my grandmother in a car accident. I was also a freshman in college who suddenly didn’t know how I was going to be able to finish school. I heard about One Parent Scholar House from an employee at Midway College, where I was studying, and I moved in here several weeks later. I lived here for about three and a half years, earned my bachelor’s degree and then went on to work as a corrections officer at a prison for three years. I became pregnant with my second child and found myself in an abusive relationship. When I realized I’d be raising both my boys as a single parent, I turned to One Parent Scholar House again for support. I’ve been a resident for almost two and a half years since then, and I am actually about to finish my second Masters’ Degree at EKU this May.
For me, One Parent Scholar House has been many things. For my children, it’s been home. For me, it’s meant ongoing friendships and community – I keep in touch with dozens of One Parent Scholar House clients. But the sum of One Parent Scholar House means even more than all of that. If you look at the actual research, the odds of a child of a single parent going to college are not very good. But the odds for the child of a college graduate single parent, especially as my children have watched me go to school, are so much better. My oldest wants to go to college, get a PhD, be a teacher and work in archeology. Those are different aspirations than he would have if I hadn’t gone to school, if I’d gone and gotten an entry level job someplace with no college degree. And he’s in an incredible school that I never would have applied for if I hadn’t lived here because I wouldn’t have known it existed. One Parent Scholar House helps me secure a bright future, not just for me and my children, but for so many. People go on to do good things from here.
One Parent Scholar House is my second chance. It’s a stepping stone, and the support I need while I create a better life for my children and myself. I left the military at the end of 2011 when I was pregnant with my second child. I came back to Kentucky from Germany to go to school and earn my degree, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the community here. From the caseworkers, who are always willing to help during a tough month, to the workshops that teach skills like banking and finance, to all of us “bus stop moms” who huddle together on rainy days, we understand each other. We understand each other’s struggles, we empathize with each other, and we can knock on each other’s doors and ask for help.
Most importantly, I understand the example I’m setting for my children. My son is five, and he is at that age where he watches and he sees everything. I know that my son is picking up habits from me, so we have weekend study sessions. My daughter sits in her highchair with her ABC and 123 cards, my son sits at the table with his workbook, and I sit at the table with my homework and we call it our study session.
I currently hold a 4.0 GPA and I’m about to finish both my Associates in Science and my Associates in Arts at BCTC. I already have my Certified Nursing Assistant’s certificate, as well as specialized certifications in post-partum and birthing/doula issues. I am hoping to transfer to the University of Kentucky for nursing school, and then complete an 18 month Midwifery Certification after that. I’ve hit rock bottom before and I never want to do that again. So if I have to ask for help, this is me asking for help. This is me growing into doing what I know I can do.
Tabitha’s OPSH friends call her ‘the Mother of Building Six’ and it’s easy to see why. Tabitha looks out for everybody. She’s been at OPSH for three years, and chokes up when she talks about what OPSH has meant to her and her children. You can feel the love and gratitude she has, not just for the chance she’s been given, but for everyone she’s met along the way.
Perhaps it’s because Tabitha’s second chance, to her, felt like her last chance. She’s been a single mom since her eldest daughter was three weeks old. She’d dropped out of college twice because she simply couldn’t afford to not work while she went to school. And then the unthinkable happened. In January of 2010 she injured her leg so badly (HOW??) she almost lost her foot. On bed rest for almost a year, Tabitha found herself reflecting on life so far – and making a promise to God. If He would get her through this, she vowed she would do more with her life. She wanted to go to school, to make her kids proud. So as soon as she was off crutches she enrolled in Medtech College.
For awhile she tried to do it on her own, commuting almost daily from Cynthiana to attend classes. Once again, she couldn’t work for all the time she had to spend on the road. So when she found an application to OPSH at her school, she filled it out immediately and poured her soul into a three page entry essay requirement. She laughs about how simply she can sum up the essay now: If she earned a spot at OPSH, she wasn’t going to let anybody down. And since then, Tabitha has never looked back.
Tabitha graduated with her Associates degree (IN WHAT?) this past January. She’s planning to earn her Bachelor’s online while she works. Thanks to her time at OPSH, owning her own house and having a career is no longer just a pipe dream. “I had dreams before I had kids,” she reminds us, but when she talks about her role as a mother and moving to OPSH, Tabitha tears up again. “When you become a parent, you give your life to your kids. There are no papers to sign, but you give your life over to them without saying a word. All your choices revolve around them. This is the best decision I’ve ever made.” Her kids a proud to watch her study, she knows. They are safe here. They are loved here.
And Tabitha’s caretaker role has grown along with her. For two years she volunteered her time at the Hope Center’s Women’s Recovery Program. So when you ask her to sum up how she feels about OPSH and the Hope Center, be ready. Tears will come again. “It’s really humbling to know that people out there actually care about someone like me. To anyone else I’m just a statistic. I’m trying to prove those people wrong. Life happened to me. I didn’t make bad choices, life just happened to me… It means a lot that people actually care about the people that life happened to.”