Newport's Scholar House puts career, life goals within reach of single parents

Housing, daycare provided while residents study

NEWPORT, Ky. -- One mom was seeking a way to start over. Another, a better life for her kids.

Both are heading in the right direction with nearly two years of life at Newport’s Scholar House, a program that provides housing, daycare and other resources to help single parents go to college.

When Tashiba Shorter learned that Scholar House could help her get a degree, she jumped at the chance.

“I’ve always wanted to finish college,” she said.

For Heavon Cullum, it offered a chance for a better job and life, and doing something she wants: working with youth. 

Having a place to turn to is important for parents, said Lauren Copeland, program director. That’s where Scholar House, supported by a state initiative, comes into play. Their state-rated 5-star daycare is across the parking lot from the apartments where participants live. They take children 6 months of age up to 12 years old in after-school programs. 

This scholar house, open just two years, partners with the Brighton Center and Newport’s Neighborhood Foundation for funding and support, said Copeland. Residents can take advantage of 39 different programs that range from financial education and workforce placement to crisis intervention. 

Tashiba Shorter poses with her children. Shorter finally got her wish to go to college through help at Scholar House in Newport.

Participants attend various colleges with degrees ranging from nursing to human resources to communication. The majority start at Gateway Community and Technical College, said Sarah Young, community resource success coach at Gateway.  

Young helps the students find grants or scholarships, as well as referring people to Scholar House. Covington also has a program. “We help eliminate those barriers that they face,” she said. 

“(The participants) are motivated and they motivate each other,” said Young. “They have a greater support network with each other." 

Why Scholar House?

Shorter, 33, said she ran, kids in tow, from an abusive situation in Florida, her home. She was headed to Cleveland to stay with a friend when that plan was derailed. She ended up in Kentucky, and a shelter sent her to Newport’s Brighton Center.

That’s where she learned that Scholar House was starting up two years ago to help degree-seeking single parents. 

“I said, 'I want to go to college.' I had tried off and on for 10 years, but working full time and going to school at night, and kids, I couldn’t reach a balance,” she said.

Shorter’s path is clearer than ever. She’ll wrap up a two-year’s associate degree in communication at Gateway Community College in December and switch to Northern Kentucky University in the spring. She interned with The Carnegie in Covington and found her passion.

“My goal is to be a development director,” she said, adding that it fits her personality. She can’t wait to complete her bachelor’s degree and get a job. “I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck," she said.

Scholar House is giving Cullum, 22, a chance at a career and the ability to take care of her kids in the future. She’s studying criminal justice through Indiana Tech in Fort Wright and wants to be a youth probation officer. 

“I think youth just need more guidance,” she said, recalling cousins who were in and out of trouble when she grew up. 

Indiana Tech offers intense five-week classes. Cullum takes one at a time and will finish her degree in about 18 months. “It’s going to take me a little longer,” she said.

Supporting each other

For now, Newport’s Scholar House is all moms and kids, and though single dads can also apply, there’s a waiting list to get into one of the 45 apartment units and join the program, said Copeland. Participants get a discounted apartment rate because they qualify for Section 8. 

“I love my apartment,” said Cullum. “It came fully loaded with a washer, dryer and microwave. And I love the community, I love the girls.”

To help pay expenses, Cullum works as a waitress and Shorter is a work-study student at Gateway.

That community supports each other, said Copeland. All participants are facing similar issues, and they help each other. 

Shorter took that support out of the Scholar House by giving back to the community. She and other moms started Scholar Chefs, a volunteer group that prepares meals and takes them to a shelter in need once a month. Last month, it was a chicken dinner at the Henry Hosea House in Newport.

“It was a group of us on our own, but once Lauren caught wind of what I was trying, she helped provide some of the food and got us T-shirts,” said Shorter. 

It’s important to give back. “They helped me when I needed it,” she said.

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