Colleen Costello

Colleen Costello

I was sixteen years old the day my father died, February 19, 2018. These past few years have been some of the most difficult and challenging years of my life. The summer before my sophomore year, my parents separated, and we moved from my childhood home. This was a very difficult time. My dad was suffering from depression and alcoholism which was a road filled with many ups and downs for my family. Then February of my junior year my dad tragically passed away. There are no words to truly describe how it felt to watch your protector, your guardian, your Dad spiral out of control. It changes you, and for me I found new strengths I didn’t know I had. I am strong willed, independent and a leader. I have inner strength to succeed and I know I can overcome adversity.

After my Dad’s passing, we acquired substantial debt. He did not have a life insurance policy to help with his debt, so the burden was on my mom and our family. This in turn affected my college choices. Out of state universities were no longer an option, and I needed to narrow my list to state schools only. I also work two jobs during the summers and winter break to save money for tuition. My mom tries to pick up extra shifts, but she is limited because she suffers from Rheumatoid arthritis and it is physically hard for her. If my father had life insurance, it would have made all the difference in the world. I would have been able to choose my options rather than they be chosen for me. The insurance money could have helped my mom pay off his debt and possibly help pay for my school, instead she had to use her savings.

I am now a sophomore in college, and I am happy with my choice. I am enjoying college life and my classes. I have met many new friends and have joined clubs. My dad’s passing and the events leading up to it have taught me valuable lessons about life. I intend to never take a day for granted and always dedicate myself to do my best in whatever I do. This situation has allowed me to be more empathetic towards others because you never know what someone is going through.

My core belief from a young age is to learn from the tragedies in my life and to find the positive in all situations. There will always be bumps in the road, but it is how you handle them that defines your character. My father’s choices do not define me, and I am determined to pave my own path. I have taken my experiences and have learned you have to take chances, make mistakes and get the most out of life.

Sarah Ibrahim

Sarah Ibrahim

August 5, 2005一 the day I watched the world I knew crumble before me. My mom passed away unexpectedly during childbirth. There’s never been a day that I made it my sister’s fault, but there are so so many days filled with suffocating grief and a multitude of ‘what-ifs’.

Her death also left us with an excessive amount of unpaid medical bills and one less substantial income to cover day-to-day expenses. Had the story unfolded differently, maybe with the intervention of life insurance or another safety net, maybe my dad wouldn’t have had to make the sacrifices he did, nor would I have had to sacrifice my childhood and step up at home the way I have throughout the years. The possibilities are endless, maybe he would be more emotionally attuned, maybe there would have more consistency in our lives, maybe I’d be attending UChicago, maybe I’d have completely different goals for myself that were not entirely based in survival.

My dad immigrated to the U.S just four years prior, only knowing the English he had learned in school, and had no family of his own here, besides his wife. My parents’ reasons for coming to the U.S included wanting to provide their children with a credible education, a safer life, more opportunities, and the chance to create more for themselves than my parents were ever given the opportunity to.

My mom was the breadwinner of our family while my dad was just starting up his business. The emotional and financial impact of her passing was evidently devastating on our lives. After my mom passed, it would have been so helpful to my dad if he had moved back home to Egypt. Instead, he stayed and stood strong by the idea of giving his kids a better life.
He worked seven days a week, ten hours a day, still to this day to give us the life he set out to. We rented our basement out to a family friend to help meet mortgage payments, and I started working the second someone would hire me.

There were a plethora of sleepless nights full of wondering how we’d keep the lights on next month or food on the table. We lived tighter than paycheck to paycheck, more so penny to penny. I worked three part-time jobs simultaneously while being a full-time high school student. My drive’s always been to validate my immigrant parents’ sacrifices and carry the goal of creating a better life for myself and being authentic to myself, which was something incredibly important to my mother.

I’ve been very aware of our financial situation since the moment she passed. Everyone around put immense pressure on me to succeed and gain some type of scholarship to be able to continue my parent’s and I’s dreams of creating success and security. I worked incredibly hard in school, got into my top local school (because out-of-state was not plausible no matter how badly I wanted it). Drexel University is a pricey institution, but one that I knew would be able to propel me into the future that I desire. This scholarship would help tremendously helpful in sustaining my time here and allow me to focus on school instead of “how do I pay rent, tuition, and bills at home?”.

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