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2015 State Farm Recipient

Topher Otake

Scholarship Amount: $12,500

Hometown: Columbia, MO - School: University of Missouri - Columbia

My mother was my best friend. She was my mentor and my companion. Despite the four hundred mile distance between my school in Missouri and my hometown near Chicago, we spoke on a daily basis. I was extremely excited to tell her about my new experiences as a first-year college student and she was always eager to listen to her youngest and first college bound son’s stories. Finally, after a month of separation, I was going to see my mother. She was going to visit me for my school’s Parent Weekend. Little did I know, the late phone call telling me she is only one exit away from her hotel would have been the last time I heard my mothers voice tell me she loved me.

The morning of Parent’s Weekend I anticipated to hear from my mom, instead I received a call from a Missouri State Patrol officer. My mom had a heart attack in the car and had been rushed to the University Hospital on campus. The officer drove my nephew to me and as soon as he arrived, we ran to the hospital. Her prognosis was not looking good. I called my family to tell them what happened and experienced the saddest moment of my life: telling my grandmother that she would never speak to her daughter again. Later that evening I held my mothers hand for the last time as her lungs expanded and contracted one final, heartbreaking time.

The months that followed have been the hardest of my life. In addition to the extreme emotional, intellectual, and physical turmoil that comes with the loss of a parent, I was caught in a very difficult financial situation. My mom did not have any form of life insurance so the financial burden of her passing fell firmly onto the shoulders of my brothers and I. I was forced to move out of my college dorm room and get a job that offers housing and meal plans as compensation for work as well as a job serving tables for school expenses and bills. I have been and still am working upwards of fifty hours per week while attending seventeen credit hours in school. If my mom had had life insurance, my brothers and I would not have to make such drastic lifestyle changes. I would be able to focus more on my academics and would not be worrying about whether or not I will be able to afford to return to school in the fall.

The experience has taught me a valuable lesson. While we could never prepare for the profound emotional pain of losing a parent, we could have been better prepared the financial burden. Life insurance would have eased the transition to life without my mother by taking the financial weight off of our shoulders. When you lose a parent, you lose a best friend, a mentor, and a companion. You should not have to sacrifice your aspirations as well.

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

2015 Top Recipients