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Sisters part of new education service
Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand are collaborating with the Family Scholar House of Louisville to bring a new service to Dubois County to fight poverty through education.
The effort, called Family Scholar House, was begun in Louisville in 1995 to end the cycle of poverty by giving single-parent students the support they need to earn a college degree and attain a viable independent lifestyle.
Family Scholar House started operations in Dubois County recently by opening an office in Monastery Immaculate Conception, the home of the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand. Sister Barbara Catherine Schmitz of the monastery is the on-site staff person beginning the program’s implementation.
The program seeks to provide academic advising, case management, family support, community activities, connection to other resources, peer support, and eventually, housing, for qualifying single-parent students. It predominantly serves women, often single mothers, who are unemployed or underemployed and desire additional educational and career opportunities.
The Louisville program has grown to include 173 families in residence on three campuses, with a fourth house due to open in summer 2013. There are another 659 families in the Louisville pre-residential program receiving services while waiting for housing to become available.
Cathe Dykstra, CEO, president, and chief possibility officer of Family Scholar House, said, “We chose to collaborate with the Sisters of St. Benedict because of their commitment to community, hospitality, and service. We believe the location of the monastery in Ferdinand will serve as a good home base as we provide educational information and assistance to the area.
“We look forward to having the sisters involved as tutors, mentors, encouragers, and supporters of those seeking to improve their lives through education. To educate a mother is to bless her child. The sisters will be involved in laying a strong educational foundation that promotes prosperity for families now and for generations to come.”
The program’s first phase in Dubois County will be assessing what services are available through Tri-Cap in Jasper, Crisis Connection in Jasper, and Lincoln Hills Development Corporation in Tell City.
Family Scholar House representatives have begun talking to area groups, looking for referrals to single parents interested in entering the program and pursuing a college degree.
Joyce Fleck, executive director of Tri-Cap, said, “We see dozens of families annually that would be good candidates for this program.” Beth Stein of Crisis Connection also sees a need in the area for such a program, noting that many people they serve “could very definitely be candidates.”
Although the program will start in Dubois County, Family Scholar House is also open to eventually serving surrounding counties.
Sister Barbara L. Schmitz, director of mission advancement for the Sisters of St. Benedict, said, “Our collaboration with Family Scholar House is an ideal way to serve the people of Southern Indiana and to continue our commitment to education. We could also eventually have distance learning through a computer lab on our campus.
“The sisters have been teachers since arriving in Ferdinand in 1867. We feel education is absolutely crucial for the family unit. Many children are in need of the resources they need to succeed in life. This is particularly difficult when a single mom or dad has little support for advanced education. So, we want to help the parent so the children are helped, too.
“We have met with Vincennes University Jasper Center and area school superintendents, and they are all excited about the program coming here. We see this as a wonderful fit to help single parents become healthy citizens and contributing members of the area.”
Bill Hochgesang, superintendent of Northeast Dubois School Corporation, said, “The Sisters of St. Benedict, along with the Family Scholar House, will become a huge asset to all our communities. What a great way to help single parent families, to help both the child and the parent achieve a college degree.”
Program participants can attend any accredited college. Funding comes from a variety of sources, with housing funding supported by tax credits. Additionally, strong community collaborations assist students in accessing benefits and subsidies through community programs.