Scholar House helps students ‘LEAP’ into education

Lizzie Kibler, Assistant Arts and Life Editor

You wake up early on a Monday morning to get ready for school. You make breakfast, get dressed and you’re on your way.

But it’s not that simple when you have a child who also needs to get dressed and eat breakfast. You have to get them ready for school before you even think about heading off to campus.

Your day doesn’t end there. During the day, your phone is at your side in case there happens to be an emergency at your child’s school.

Finally, your day ends, but you have to get to work. Then, you have to get dinner ready and your child in bed. Not until then can you finally sit.

And this is when you can do your homework.

This similar scenario happens to student-parents every day. Here at NKU, we have many student parents. Luckily for them, there is a program to help guide them called Learning And Experience Parenting (LEAP).


Vanessa’s Story

“My life is constantly going. I never sit down until probably 11 o’clock at night when it’s time for bed,” 29-year-old first year nursing major Vanessa Linville said.

Linville is a student-parent at NKU. Linville has a 10-year-old boy, De’Anthony, and a 7-year-old girl named Eiriyana.

Linville said her story began when she was 17 and she and her family moved.

“I started out… where my downfall went is when I was 17-years-old we moved out to Pendleton County from Newport. That was a big change for me and, um, I didn’t like it,” Linville said. “So six months later, I turned 18 and I was gone, out of there and I moved in with my brother back down in Newport.”

Linville attended high school there as a senior.

“But I was… one of those teenagers who my parents told me that this was gonna happen and I didn’t believe it. Ya know, ‘I know what I’m talking about and I know what’s going on,’” Linville said. “I dropped out my senior year, three months before graduating so I just became a party person and didn’t really care about nothing. I got pregnant with my son at age 18. So as soon as I became pregnant with him, I knew I had to change my life.”

Linville took on jobs as a server or a bartender because she knew she had to work to support her son. At the age of 21, she had her daughter.

When she was about 23, Linville realized that this was not the life she wanted for herself.

“I said, ‘I know that this is not my life. I don’t want to serve, I don’t want to bartend anymore. This is not the way I should be living my life’,” Linville said.

This was when Linville found a place at the Brighton Center participating in a Center for Employment Training. Linville became involved with one of the programs the center offered. In order to participate, Linville had to have her GED, but she said that didn’t stop her.

“They let me go ahead and do my GED and the medical assisting certificate at the same time,” Linville said. “It was a struggle.”

During that time, she was going to school full-time through the program while raising two children. Linville said at her graduation she gave a speech because she said she was really dedicated to the program.

However, after she graduated she couldn’t find a job.

“I stopped looking,” Linville said. “I gave up.”

Linville said she found a job working with cancer and blood disorder patients for two years, but she wanted to do more to further herself in the medical field. Knowing that she couldn’t work part-time there, she quit her job.

That’s when Linville found herself at NKU.

“Now it’s a struggle for me, not being at NKU, but being a single mom,” Linville said. “My son who is 10-years-old, he’s got ADHD so it’s kind of like raising 10 kids at once.”

Linville talked about how she gets calls from school often while she is at NKU or at work.

“That’s one thing I gotta focus on is every single day I have to worry about, ‘Is he gonna be on his best behavior? Is his medicine gonna kick in on time?’ That’s one of my struggles here,” Linville said.

Other than school, Linville has to focus on her work at the copy center here at NKU.

Linville described her life in one word: rush.

“My life is all about rushing and I feel like that’s gonna be my next three and a half years,” Linville said. “I feel like I never get to breathe. It’s stressful, but I know at the end it’s gonna be something positive.”

Linville said that she has been raising her children on her own since she had her first child. During her time at the Center for Employment Training, she was in a domestic violence relationship for three months.

“He would sneak in my house, break my doors down. He beat me up for three months,” Linville said. “But I got out of it. Every day it’s a struggle, every night it’s a struggle, especially for my kids. They cry constantly thinking he’s gonna break in the house so I deal with the mental aspect with those two. It’s more my son because it’s his dad.”

Linville said her pride is what kept her from reaching out to someone for so long. Finally, after her ribs were fractured, she reached out for help.

“I try to stay strong for them [her children] so they don’t become weak or think I’m not able to take care of them,” Linville said.

Through all of her struggles in life, Linville still feels that she can carry on.

“God has given me strong willpower,” Linville said.

The Learning And Experience Parenting (LEAP) program at NKU has been a big help for Linville.

“I wanted to give up when I came here because my life is rush, like I said. At the copy center there is no down time really, and I’m afraid to ask for down time… once again, my pride steps in,” Linville said. “There’s been times I wanted to give up… I know I have to let my pride down.”

Linville said the LEAP program is really supportive, much like the Brighton Center.

“If it wasn’t for them, I probably would have walked out,” Linville said.

According to Linville, students involved with LEAP have to complete so many hours of work and school a week. It’s also a support system because LEAP will help find resources for student-parents to help in their schooling.

Linville is now engaged to a pastor and will be getting married this weekend.

“I wasn’t made to be set up for failure, I need to be successful and that’s what I’m here for,” Linville said.

Jennifer’s Story

“In 2004, I became a single parent and I went through several programs at the Brighton Center to get on my feet because I was at rock bottom,” 39-year-old senior business management major Jennifer Noel said.

Noel is also a student here at NKU and has an 18-year-old son named Austin.

“The time I hit rock bottom, I was in a domestic violence relationship… He had complete control of me and I really didn’t realize it. My parents separated when I was young and I didn’t want that for my son so I stayed,” Noel said. “It came a day… I just said I couldn’t do it anymore.”

Noel said after that, she lost everything.

Through the programs, Noel said she learned to manage her money, and in three years she was able to own her own house.

“It has now been 11 and a half years that I’ve been working on my schooling,” Noel said. “I graduated from Gateway in 2013 with an associate of science.”

Noel is now attending NKU and is graduating in May.

Noel said that she has had a lot of support through organizations like Newport Foundations and the self-sufficiency programs at the Brighton Center.

Noel said that she found a mentor while she was at Gateway who kept her positive and motivated through her schooling.

“She was working on her degree also and she was 55 and legally blind,” Noel said. “She guided me through the schooling because at some points I was ready to give up. Being a single parent is hard.”

After buying her house, she created her own “micro-neighborhood.”

“We wanted a safe neighborhood,” Noel said.

Within her neighborhood, neighbors organize a babysitter exchange and hold raffles and fundraisers for the community.

“I love giving back because I hit rock bottom in 2004 and I’ve had a lot of help to get me back on my feet,” Noel said.

Noel said that she supports the idea of the Scholar House that will be put in and wants to work at the Scholar House.

“I love helping people,” Noel said.


Scholar House

The Scholar House will be a place to call home for many students. Scholar House will serve as a complex for student-parents who are attending Gateway Community and Technical College, Cincinnati State and Northern Kentucky University.

Located on the corner of Brighton Street and West 7th Street in Newport,the center is used strictly for parents who are in school trying to pursue a higher education and will provide a childcare center for children ages 0-5.

“We want to do whatever we can to support those who are on the path to higher education,” Brighton Center President and CEO Tammy Weidinger said.

Scholar House will work to serve students who are struggling in school.

“Do you need tutoring? Do you need help with financial aid?” Weidinger said while discussing how they can help students stay school driven.

Weidinger said the center will be focused on safety and community. Only the resident and his/her children will be the people living in a unit. That means that significant others will not be brought into the complex to stay the night or live.

“Everybody is there for the same reason,” Weidinger said. “To pursue your education.”

Scholar House will be gated and residents will have to swipe in after hours. It is also a non-smoking campus.

“Safety is a high, high priority,” Weidinger said. “We want a supportive community at Scholar House.”

The Scholar House will be opening the first week of August 2015 for the first available apartments and the rest will be opening a month later. There will be 48 units available.

These kind of facilities and programs at NKU like Learning And Experience Parenting (LEAP) assist many of the student parents on campus like Jennifer Noel and Vanessa Linville.