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2014 Grand Prize - Essay

Hannah Schwartz

Scholarship Amount: $15,000

Hometown: Chicago, IL - School: University of San Francisco

Only nineteen days after celebrating my 10th birthday, my mother died. Although I have grown up nearly half of my life without my mother, her words of encouragement regarding adversity – one of the many life lessons she shared with me – echo in my memories of her: “Be prepared to make lemonade out of life’s lemons.”

I often reflect how my mother’s death continues to affect my family and me – even more so as I prepare to enter my senior year of undergraduate studies at Saint Louis University. Her death, coupled with her words of encouragement regarding adversity, continue to shape my current educational and professional direction as I pursue a degree and career in psychology, with an emphasis in family counseling, in order to help other young children facing the grief brought about by the death of a parent.

As I have matured, I have become more acutely aware of how her death acted as a catalyst for some of my life’s challenges and burdens. Specifically, I now recognize the additional financial burdens resulting from her death: loss of income; burial expenses; the need for after-school services to care for me; and a shift in my father’s professional career resulting in less responsibilities, travel and compensation in order to remain close to home to care for me.

Ultimately, these financial burdens were exacerbated by a key omission in the financial plans made by my family: my mother did not have any life insurance coverage. Other unforeseeable events have further negatively affected my family’s current financial predicament: providing care and support to my ailing grandmother and my father having been unemployed for the past several years due to the global economic downturn. As a result, we were forced to sell the house I grew up in to raise money to survive. Additionally, in order to financially contribute to my family, I have forgone opportunities with non-paying internships in my chosen field of study in order to take on odd and part-time paying jobs. Regrettably, I find myself in the position of currently seeking funds so I can complete my senior year as an undergraduate.

No one can put a value on a mother. Yet, if only my family’s financial plans had included the key ingredient of life insurance for my mother, my family’s financial position and my current academic path would now be more secure. Benefits from such coverage would have provided for the payment of her funeral service, the cost of my supervision and care over the years, my college tuition and kept us in our house. Ultimately, the financial benefits tied to life insurance would have brought tranquility and peace of mind; thereby, supplying key ingredients to my mother’s lesson regarding making lemonade – by allowing me to complete my degree in psychology in order to help others grieving the loss of a parent – to be all the sweeter.

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2014 Top Recipients