Faith Haley was days away from her 13th birthday when her father passed away from cancer. Samuel Skinner lost both of his parents within two short years by the age of 14.
The experience of losing a parent or guardian is traumatic at any age, but for Faith and Samuel (shown at right) the tremendous emotional burden was compounded by financial strain. Their parents died without sufficient life insurance coverage, which meant both teenagers needed to assume adult responsibilities to help take care of their families. For many young people in similar situations, taking on new jobs and responsibilities comes at the expense of other dreams, like a college education.
You can watch their heartfelt videos of what this loss has meant:
Through its annual Life Lessons Scholarship Program, Arlington, Va.-based nonprofit organization Life Happens recognizes students like Faith and Samuel who have persevered in the face of tremendous adversity following the death of a parent or guardian with little to no life insurance. Recipients are awarded scholarships, ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, that help pay for their college education. This year, Life Happens has awarded $170,000 in scholarship money to 22 students through the program.
Faith and Samuel are two of four recipients who received the Life Lessons Scholarship grand prize of $15,000. Both Faith and Samuel work multiple jobs, in addition to attending school full-time, to support themselves through college. The financial assistance offered through the Life Lessons Scholarship eases their financial burdens, so they can also focus on their studies.
"These students, as well as their inspiring stories and bravery, serve as an important reminder of how fragile life can be and the role life insurance plays in financially safeguarding our families and loved ones," said Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, RFC, president and CEO of Life Happens. "We are honored to help these deserving students pursue their college education."
"Even though life is difficult now and we've struggled," Faith said, "The experience has made me a stronger person. I will not stop pursuing my educational goals, so that one day I can use my career to love and serve other people."
To apply for the Life Lessons Scholarship Program, students are asked to submit a 500-word essay or three-minute video discussing the financial and emotional hardships they have faced as a result of the loss of a parent who had little to no life insurance.
Stories of this year's scholarship winners can be viewed here. The full list of 2017 Life Lesson Scholarship Recipients includes:
- $15,000 Scholarship Recipients (4): Faith Haley (Murray State University), Angel Hardy (Kaplan University), Samuel Skinner (Taylor University), Emily Trader (Bradley University);
- $12,500 State Farm Scholarship Recipients (2): Jesaura Peralta (LIM College), Sierra Toney (North Carolina Agricultural & Technical School University);
- Life Lessons American Family $10,000 Scholarship Recipient (1): Kimberly Baker (The University of Georgia);
- $5,000 Scholarship Recipients (7): Holly Brady (Rosemont College), Madelyn Bryan (Northwestern State University), Hannah Crawford (Southeast Missouri State University), Jodi-Ann Haynes (University at Buffalo), Chandler Jeppesen (University of Utah), Cheyanne Perry (North Greenville University), Kenya Tassin (University of Southern Mississippi);
- Life Lessons MIB Group Inc. $5,000 Scholarship Recipients (2): Brianna Clermont (Salve Regina University), Douglas Hein (Capital Community College);
- Life Lessons Zander $5,000 Scholarship Recipient (1): Tony O'Halleran (Story Brook University);
- Life Lessons Swiss Re $5,000 Scholarship Recipient (1): Jacob Stankewitz (Northwestern Michigan College);
- Life Lessons OneAmerica $5,000 Scholarship Recipient (1): Christaleigh Stephens (Texas State University);
- Life Lessons NFP $5,000 Scholarship Recipient (1): Kiersten Hansen (Western Michigan University);
- Life Lessons LIDMA $5,000 Scholarship Recipient (1): Kylee Ferris (Pepperdine University); and
- Life Lessons AccuQuote $5,000 Scholarship Recipient (1): Jessica Copley (Marshall University).
This is the 13th year Life Happens has sponsored the Life Lessons Scholarship Program, which was made possible in part by the generous financial support of the MDRT Foundation and the NAILBA Charitable Foundation, in addition to donations from Life Happens' board of directors and company organizations, including State Farm®, American Family Insurance, MIB Group Inc., Swiss Re, OneAmerica, NFP, LIDMA, Zander and AccuQuote.
As the Life Lessons Scholarship program has grown, a variety of industry companies have joined in. As an example, in 2016, AccuQuote began working with Life Happens to create the AccuQuote Life Lessons Scholarship.
This past spring, AccuQuote promoted this event via social media, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and on its own website. AccuQuote also sent out an email to a representative section of its customer base, inviting each email recipient to view the candidates' submitted entries. A link was provided to allow each participant to vote for their favorite candidate.
In her winning essay, Jessica movingly described the tragedy of losing her father while she was so young. Her father took his own life when she was only 13 years old, and compounding the tragedy, her family had no life insurance.
Jessica had to grow up to be a responsible adult practically overnight. This is what she said (in part) in her essay: "My teenage years were ripped away, forcing me to become a parent to my siblings. This could have been avoided if my father would have been insured." (View Jessica's story and video).
Jessica is currently in her sophomore year, studying Biology at Marshall University in West Virginia. She plans to go to medical school after getting her bachelor's degree.
"I'm grateful to AccuQuote and their generous support in the Life Lessons Scholarship Program and I'll continue to share my story with others about the importance of having proper life insurance and financial protection for the future," Jessica said.
Life Happens also accepts contributions from individual donors. To learn more about making a tax-deductible donation, visit www.lifehappens.org/donate.
Submissions for Life Happens' 2018 Life Lessons Scholarship Program will be accepted starting Feb. 1, 2018 through March 1, 2018. For more information on the program, including the application process, program rules and past recipients, visit www.lifehappens.org/lifelessons.
About Life Happens: Life Happens is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping consumers take personal financial responsibility through the ownership of life insurance and related products. The organization does not endorse any product, company or insurance advisor. Since its inception in 1994, Life Happens has provided the highest quality, independent and objective information for people seeking help with their insurance buying decisions. The organization supports the insurance industry by providing marketing tools and resources and convening the industry each September for Life Insurance Awareness Month. Life Happens is supported by more than 140 of the nation's leading insurance company and financial services organizations. To learn more, visit www.lifehappens.org.
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