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2015 State Farm Recipient

Emily Dompke

Scholarship Amount: $12,500

Hometown: Washington Island, WI - School: Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design

My Dad did not plan for my accident. I was six when my Dad left his electrical job to provide care after I pulled a pot of boiling water down from the stove and suffered critical burns. He was my on-call nurse gently changing my bandages, helping me to take medicine and teaching me to be tough when it hurt. His care made me feel safe. Without enough health insurance our first home was sold to cover the medical bills.

My Dad did not plan to have a heart attack. When I was twelve, my father died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack. He always joked that he’d live to be 84 years old, he lived to be 47. No words can describe the shock. The physical pain from the burns was endured, but the loss of my father is unbearable.

There were no options, after Dad died, other than sell the house. We moved from the city to a cramped farm cottage in a rural community. There is no more TV, dishwasher, air conditioner or icemaker; simple things that we once took for granted. The wood stove keeps Mom warm but on cold nights she buries herself under a mountain of blankets rather than use the heat.

We all plan to live. We never plan to die because the thought of dying is just difficult. The lesson learned in all of this is that death is inevitable, we don’t know when, but it will eventually happen. It seems to me that planning for the inevitable is a responsibility. Planning for the inevitable brings death into the present so that you can control the future today. Insurance is the means by which we plan for the future of the family. It eliminates the helplessness of survivors like me that must carry on. Planning before death is caring about the people you love to make them feel safe once you’re gone.

Not being able to pay rent, my reality consists of swapping room service for the privilege of sleeping on my benevolent roommates couch so that I can save every dime for tuition. I borrow textbooks, salvage used supplies, eat rice, and walk to the bus. For me, life is full of hardship, and embarrassment. Every semester I struggle financially, try to negotiate and navigate my way to a degree.

Three semesters strong, I’m a college sophomore with high marks, rock solid and not moving until my goal is complete. Despite hardships I won 1st place in the 47th annual Solon of Art Competition. My art portfolio won a full summer pre-college scholarship. I was placed in the major’s art program bypassing the core foundation courses. A local newspaper wrote a story about me. Seizing every opportunity, as a leader giving back, I have trained with the Wisconsin Alliance for Burn Injured Youth and worked at a summer camp teaching digital photography. Invited to show my art alongside established artists, for the first time, life with art seems hopeful.

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

2015 Top Recipients