As the cost of a college education rises, the financial burden of attending school is heavy for many students. But for students who are single parents, attending school can seem nearly impossible.
One Lexington organization works to ease this financial load. The One Parent Scholar House serves single parents who are also full-time students. The organization provides housing, childcare and social support for single parents with primary custody of their child or children.
Originally, the One Parent Scholar House was known as Virginia Place, which opened in 1986. But in 2010, the Hope Center, a homeless shelter and treatment facility, took over management of Virginia Place and renamed the program. The House moved from Virginia Avenue to Horseman’s Lane in 1995, where it is still located.
“The Hope Center, in looking at the program, really wanted it to have a name that is more suited to what it did,” said Carrie Thayer, director of development at the Hope Center. “It’s an awesome fit for the Hope Center because the Hope Center’s mission is to rebuild lives,” she said of the One Parent Scholar House.
Frank Cisco Brown is one client who has rebuilt his life with the help of the Hope Center and the One Parent Scholar House.
“I owe my life to the Hope Center,” Brown said.
Brown, who is 40, graduated from the men’s drug and alcohol treatment program at the Hope Center and moved into the One Parent Scholar House in September 2011. After graduating treatment, he obtained custody of his 3-year-old son, Dominic, and enrolled at Bluegrass Community Technical College. Some of Brown’s college credits from 19 years ago transferred to BCTC, so he is about two semesters away from receiving his associate degree in Human Services with a focus in addiction social services.
“It’s not easy, being a true father, going to school and working. It’s trying,” Brown said. “Last semester was really rough because I was coming out of the Hope Center to here and I was trying to find job and things of that nature.”
Though his first semester was a challenge, Brown finished with a 3.5 GPA. After he finishes at BCTC, Brown, who is the fourth man to live at the One Parent Scholar House, plans to transfer to University of Kentucky eventually and get a bachelor’s degree and wants to work with youth to help prevent them from going down the path that he did, he said.
“If I can just share my story with someone to stop them from going down that road…life just spiraled out of control,” Brown said. He is now 15 months sober and is still involved at the Hope Center as a peer mentor and sponsor, he said.
Camillya Carty, 21, is a One Parent Scholar House client who is just beginning her journey to better her life. Carty, who has a three-year-old daughter, Kyah, was court-ordered after getting into legal trouble to Liberty Place Recovery for Women for treatment for 15 months. Carty completed the program at the beginning of January and she made the decision to go straight from Liberty Place to the One Parent Scholar House to ease into life after treatment.
“It’s going to take a lot of dedication, I’m sure. Especially where I was in treatment for 15 months and I haven’t had my child full-time, so I am jumping into a lot at once,” Carty said. “But that’s the reason why I chose One Parent Scholar House, because of the support that I can get here, the child-care, the one-on-one time that I’m going to get with my counselor each month, the workshops for budgeting and parenting that they offer. So, I still have a little bit of stability and accountability in my life just to help me stay on the right track.”
Carty is enrolled at BCTC and started school for the first time on Jan.10. She will also be studying social work.
“My long term plan is to get my Associates at BCTC and transfer over to UK for my four years, and eventually I want to get my masters in social work,” Carty said.
Brown and Carty are among the 80 clients who live at the One Parent Scholar House. All clients have to have a child that is too young to be in school all day and be eligible for Section 8 housing to live at the House, Thayer said. They are responsible for their electric bills and any other extras they want in their apartments.
Most of the parents receive scholarships, student loans or financial aid to help pay for school and many have part-time jobs as well. The House allows clients to stay in their apartments until they graduate and allows them time after graduation to find a place to live and a job before requiring them to move out, Thayer said.
The One Parent Scholar House receives much community support through volunteers who teach workshops and donate items. PNC Bank recently provided the House with several computers and a printer for a computer lab since many of the parents don’t have their own computers, Thayer said.
In addition to easing the financial burden for their clients, the One Parent Scholar House provides social and emotional support as well by holding workshops and meeting with parents to discuss grades and progress, Thayer said.
Thayer said when she talks to clients graduates of the program they frequently mention the importance of the support they receive from the other parents.
“They all talk about how you are in an environment where you are getting peer support,” she said.
For more information about the One Parent Scholar House, visit www.oneparentscholarhouse.org