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2005 Grand Prize - Essay

Laura Diss

Scholarship Amount: $5,000

Hometown: Tampa, FL - School: Wellesley College

Death is one of life’s cruelest parts. Whether sudden or expected, death is a tragedy for which no one can prepare. Not only does death leave you without a loved one, it also leads to new and frightening situations that you may be ill-equipped to handle, situations ranging from dealing with the everyday depression of loss to finding ways to support yourself. With the sudden death of my father on Valentine’s Day this year, I find myself in just such a frightening situation.

The past four months have been the most trying time of my life. My father’s death left me without a parent, a guide, a source of support and a best friend. I had been living with my father for the last two years, and apart from being my sole guiding light and mentor, my father was also financing my college education. Though my mother and step-father wish to help me in any way they can, they did not plan on the burden of my college tuition and have dedicated their money elsewhere, particularly to the education of my brother and step-brother. I cannot be so selfish as to expect them to sacrifice my siblings’ educations for mine. My father had no life or health insurance, leaving me with no benefits and no estate after his death. Insurance might have paid at least the last month’s rent on his house without a strain on my very limited funds. Insurance would have allowed my brother and me some room to breathe during the terrible days immediately following my father’s death.

My responsibility as next of kin and my knowledge that my younger brother would be unable to handle the loss of my father on his own also forced me to make the hardest decision of my life: I chose to withdraw from school and return home to help handle the effects of my father’s death. I have taken on many responsibilities since my father’s death, including dealing with all his financial affairs, moving his things out of his house, taking a job to help pay for my living expenses as well as my schooling and helping to support my brother in our time of loss. Despite the restraints of these responsibilities and my recent hardships, I still refuse to give up on my dreams of getting a truly great college education. College has been part of a life long dream for me, the ultimate goal and experience I have always longed for. I have been accepted at the University of Chicago and hope to attend there in the fall. I plan to study English and Sociology and perhaps continue on to medical school. The opportunities available to me at the University of Chicago are endless and I can hardly wait to embark on my amazing journey there. The only thing that could keep me from attending would be a lack of funds. Still, with a little help from scholarships like this one, prayer, and determination, I believe that I can realize my dreams of receiving the exceptional education that Chicago can provide.

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2005 Top Recipients