Back to Life Lessons

2007 Grand Prize - Essay

Brijna Canter

Scholarship Amount: $5,000

Hometown: Orlando, FL - School: University of Central Florida

After my fathers construction company went bankrupt, in Michigan, my parents decided to move to Florida for a fresh start. After moving, my father tried working for a few construction companies; none of which seemed right. With this, we moved to Lake Mary. With our furniture in storage, we relocated to a rental house and set up air mattresses all in the same room. On the third night in the house, my father and I were on bad terms over some meaningless disagreement, so I went to bed without saying “I love you”. This is something I will always regret.

The chance to say “I love you” never came again. I woke up the morning of January 13, 2000 to hear my ten year old brother ask, “Mom, why is dad so cold,” as he tried waking my dad. I laid in the bed next to my father and listened to my mom, from across the room, instruct my brother to simply cover him with a blanket. I watched him do as my mom said. When I heard him respond, “Mom, dad isn’t moving and he won’t wake up,” I began to notice what happened, and in turn, yelled to my mom that he was blue and not moving. My mom sprung out of bed, hurried over to my father, and screamed, “Get the phone!” She called 911 and was instructed to administer CPR, but reality hit, and we all realized it was too late. The ambulance arrived after two long minutes and announced that he had been gone for a while.

I did all that I could to console my three little brothers, while we watched our mom collapse to the ground. This moment in time is something I will never forget. It seemed as though time had stopped, but the room and people kept going. I sat in the corner, dazed, and held my three little brothers close. Everything was unexpected; it was a bad dream, that’s what I kept telling myself. It was real, however, and something I can never forget.

Merely a month later, our mom got the news that her father had passed. Despite all that our mom had been through, she tried her best to pay the bills and take care of my brothers and me. Our father left nothing for us to survive on, after “temporarily” canceling his life insurance as a result of his constant job changes. This left our mom with no choice but to work upwards of 80 hours a week to provide for the family. Despite help from our church and neighbors, we were evicted from our house and two apartments, over the course of four years. The third time, during my freshmen year of college, we were left virtually homeless for a month, with my brothers staying at a family friend’s house and my mother and I at another. With our finances the way they were, I stayed home after high school to help my mom with my brothers while taking classes at a local community college. Everything was too much for me to handle, so I relied on antidepressants to calm me.

It is something I hate to think about, but I can only imagine how different my family’s life and mine would have been if my parents would not have cancelled the life insurance policy; not only emotionally, but physically and financially as well. I can imagine that college wouldn’t have become such a debt for me; having to take out many loans to pay for my school, books, tuition, and rent. My mom does everything she can for my brothers and me, including having a life insurance policy.

You can help students like Brijna make their dream of a college education come true by donating to the nonprofit Life Lessons Scholarship fund. Donate here.

2007 Top Recipients