For Tara Williams, staying at her mom's house with her 2-year-old daughter was not an ideal situation. She knew she wanted to go back to school to start on a path toward making a better life for herself and her daughter. A nurse friend mentioned Family Scholar House (FSH)1, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, as a place where she could get housing, educational support and the opportunity she needed for a fresh start.

PNC has been a Family Scholar House partner since 2006, working with the nonprofit through the PNC Foundation, PNC Grow Up Great, Community Development and the Tax Credit group. Participants can be single parents or young adults who are aging out of foster care at age 18. Those who need stable housing can apply for a subsidized apartment on one of five Louisville campuses, paying a portion of rent based on HUD guidelines. All participants enroll in an accredited college or registered apprenticeship of their choice and meet regularly with an academic coach. There are also individual meetings for goal setting, support counseling and community resource referrals.

From FSH to PNC

"The program was absolutely amazing," Williams said. "They provided housing for us, and my daughter went to an early childhood center. I started at community college, then transferred to The University of Louisville. It was very convenient taking her to school and walking to class. And the families were all there to support each other.” Williams started in general courses, but a financial literacy class provided by a local bank teller was a light-bulb moment. "I used to be clueless about my finances," she said. "My focus was on having a roof over our heads and not wanting to live in poverty. But the first step is understanding your financial goals. I talked to my Family Scholar House advisor about pursuing a business degree, and he said, 'Go for it.'" The interaction with the teller led to Williams becoming one herself, and eventually she became financially secure enough to exit the program. "I had a great job with great pay and great benefits and was able to provide for myself and my daughter," she said. "I knew it was time for me to move on and someone else from the waiting list to move in."

She's been out of the program for almost three years and joined PNC two years ago this April. Recently, Williams was promoted to Branch Assistant Manager. On the personal front, she's currently house shopping, which will check off one of her biggest financial goals.

"My manager has pushed me to become better and wants to help me succeed," she said. "I feel like I have lots of opportunity to continue moving up with PNC."

Breaking the cycle.

Williams’s experience is just one example of why PNC has been supporting Family Scholar House for so long, in so many ways.

"It helps to break the cycle of poverty," said Deborah Benberry Williams, Community Development Banking market manager for Kentucky, Southern Indiana and Southern Ohio. "Your children are watching you and they're going to mimic what they see. When a parent focuses on going to school to better themselves, the kids are thinking about the importance of education, too."

PNC has financed four of Family Scholar House's five campuses through our Tax Credit team. Some of the facilities have an early education center onsite; others partner with nearby centers. PNC has helped to fund two on-campus playgrounds, and volunteers have helped build them, as well as providing financial education to FSH participants. PNC Community Development helps by providing grants through the PNC Foundation. FSH receives PNC employee donations as part of Grow Up Great school supply and book drives, and is a go-to partner in many PNC-sponsored collaborations between community partners to support early childhood school readiness.

"Family Scholar House graduates go on to great things," said Chuck Denny, PNC regional president for Louisville. "We've seen nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers and financial professionals like Tara make the most of the opportunity. FSH really tries to remove all the barriers possible so participants can focus on their education, family and future."

Williams is doing some virtual volunteering with other nonprofits in the community, and looks forward to getting involved with financial literacy education at Family Scholar House when volunteer opportunities resume.

"I want to give back to the community and pay it forward, since that was the first step in starting me on the road to where I am today," Williams said. "I would tell anybody in my position to learn more about Family Scholar House. It's an amazing, life-changing program."