Bekah Hildabrand, a Doctor of Physical Therapy student at Bellarmine, was a single mom when she decided which career path she wanted to pursue. But she was living in an apartment, paying rent, making ends meet without much support. Finishing college was going to be tough.
That’s when she connected with the Family Scholar House, a local nonprofit that assists vulnerable individuals and families working to achieve their educational and career goals. Her son is now 7 and she plans to graduate in 2024 and start work as a physical therapist in women’s health.
“It’s such a great program, I cannot do what I'm doing without their support,” she said.
Bellarmine has forged a partnership with Family Scholar House to ensure students affiliated with the organization, like Hildabrand, have a seamless enrollment pipeline to the university and receive the financial, academic and social wrap-around services they need to succeed.
All Family Scholar House students and employees will be eligible for financial aid to minimize cost barriers. They may apply for Bellarmine’s many scholarship initiatives, as well, like the Hope Kentucky Scholars Program, Public Price Promise and the Jefferson to Bellarmine “2BU” Transfer Program.
The new partnership also makes sure students currently enrolled at BU will have access to all the services Family Scholar House provides. Zaria Lucas, a community outreach coordinator with Family Scholar House, has dedicated weekly office hours on Bellarmine’s campus, where she can meet with students personally and connect them to resources at the Family Scholar House or in the wider community.
These interventions can help students overcome challenges that might hinder them from completing their studies.
“Research and experience tell us that a student’s ability to persist through college isn’t usually about academic ability; it’s about all the other things going on in their lives,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cassady, assistant vice president of career and community engagement at Bellarmine. “The needs of students are complex. Bellarmine is a microcosm for the community around us, and we’re not immune to any of the community’s challenges.”
Lucas said she’d already met with several students who were having challenges with food and financial insecurities, debt and unreliable transportation.
“Sometimes they have personal things that come about that hinder them from being able to make it to class,” Lucas said. “I’ve had professors reach out and say, ‘You know, I’m kind of worried about them; they haven’t been in class.’ So, my job is about asking, ‘What do you need? What’s hindering you from being able to succeed?’ So, just having those conversations and letting them know that Bellarmine is here for them, that there are other organizations that are here to help them, too, and just making sure that they know there are resources, and they don’t have to do it alone.”
Hildebrand lives with her son in the Family Scholar House’s affordable housing complex near UofL’s Belknap campus. The organization has helped in other ways, too, like making sure she knows about government assistance she might qualify for and financial literacy education opportunities. And, she has access to the organization’s food pantry.
“I’ve felt so supported in my journey,” Hildebrand said.
Cassady, who has served as a volunteer and board member for the Family Scholar House, said the organization has impressive programs and outcomes and is thrilled the partnership with Bellarmine has come to fruition.
“We’re dedicated to helping our students stay and complete their degree, no matter what challenges they’re facing,” she said. “Mutually beneficial relationships with community-based resources are crucial in getting students all the wrap-around supports they need beyond the support we provide on campus.”