Wyatt Lewallen

Wyatt Lewallen

On Easter morning, April 24, 2011, I woke up to screams. When most seven year old children were searching for their Easter baskets, I was watching my dad perform CPR on my unresponsive mother. She went into cardiac arrest in her sleep, and she was pronounced dead in the ambulance. Because of how long ago it was, it is often strange to remember how I felt. I was so young that I didn’t quite understand the uphill battle we were sure to face. I didn’t know it at the time, but any concept of a pure childhood was lost forever.

Before my mother passed away, she was in the process of obtaining a professional license to become a dental assistant. Being so young I didn’t quite understand the concept of a budget. We were already poor, and we would only become poorer from this point on. If my mother was able to achieve her goal of becoming a dental assistant, my father wouldn’t have had to work so much. Living on a single income is difficult, especially in a state like California. Without my mother’s death I feel confident that my family would have created a college fund. As of today, the only money I have for college comes from the scholarships I have earned. I have maintained a 4.07 GPA, and I refuse to let my situation dictate my life. I have sought athletics as a way to obtain scholarship funding, and any wages I earned would promptly be given to my father.

Over the next six years of my life, my father and I would end up far worse than we imagined. When you’re that young you feel so helpless. It’s daunting, it’s cruel, and I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. In all honesty, I didn’t know what life insurance was until ten years after my mom’s death. You can never put a dollar amount on someone’s life, but you can definitely feel how much you need their financial contributions when they are gone. We soon found ourselves living in a motel. From age 12-13 I lived in the same 120 square foot motel room. While there I witnessed countless drug deals, a neighbor commit suicide, and dealt with far too many drunks. I never choose to pity myself, but I will not invalidate the fact that my childhood was taken from me. In 2017 my father and I were forced to search for cheaper living in Arizona. Every friend I ever knew was now gone, I have missed holiday gatherings, and many birthdays. Any form of life insurance surely would have slowed the downhill spiral we got caught in.

My life goal was to make my dad’s life easier. Given the circumstances, he has done an exceptional job. Obtaining a degree will allow me to pursue a life that I want, not a life that was bestowed upon me. I don’t dream of riches, or jewels; I simply want a fresh start at life.

Leandro Torres Mantilla

Leandro Torres Mantilla

I must confess that writing this essay has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. Thinking of him, my old man, hero, and role model, makes me emotional every single time. After a long battle with brain cancer, my dad lost his life on December 22, 2017. Since then, I don’t see Christmas as a time for celebration but rather a time to grieve and commemorate his life.
I was only nineteen when I had to see him attend monthly chemotherapy sessions and spend his last days suffering in a hospital bed. Financially, his disease affected my family significantly as we couldn’t afford to pay the medical bills that started to pilled up in our kitchen counter. My mom, a teacher assistant, struggled to make ends meet, working two additional part-time jobs on the afternoons and the weekends. To help her out, I dropped out of my first year of college and started working a full-time and a part-time job to pay for the rent and feed my three siblings. If my dad had only had life insurance, we would not have had to struggle this way. Personally, this situation had a toll on my mental and physical health. I developed severe depression, panic attacks, and an eating disorder. I honestly never thought I could recover from that, but God gave me the strength of a phoenix, who rises from the ashes and flies high and proudly on the sky. I can now proudly say that I am on my way to achieving my dreams, making my whole family proud, inspiring my siblings to stand up after they fall, and letting others know that God’s love heals the deepest wounds.
Unfortunately, I was absent from school for two years following my dad’s death. But, in the fall of 2019, I enrolled in a community college where—two years later—I graduated with a double degree and highest honors. I am now a transfer student at UC Berkeley, double majoring in Global Studies and Spanish & Portuguese. Winning this scholarship would change tremendously. First, it would help me reduce my financial stress and focus on my studies more. The money would help me secure a place to live during my senior year and pay my student loans. Second, it would help me to get one step closer to achieving my dream of becoming a foreign service officer. And lastly, it would help me create an online platform to help other students who have experienced a similar situation get back to school and find the resources they need to thrive academically.
I’m no longer in ashes; I’m flying high, hoping to light up the way for those who haven’t risen yet.
I love you, Dad!
William Notarianni

William Notarianni

My father was the greatest man I have ever known. Strong, loyal, and incredibly kind, he led by example and always put my mom, little sister, and me above himself. Just two months ago, despite following all vaccination and other protocols, both of my parents became very sick with Covid. My mother recovered, but my father was taken to the ICU where he later passed away on January 9… thrusting us into pain to excruciating for words.

My parents were college sweethearts, and my little sister and I became the center of their world. Dad was deeply involved and present in everything we did and loved us more than anything. His devotion to us was palpable, and losing him feels unbearable.

On top of our grief, and with very little life insurance, we now face insurmountable bills from the hospital, funeral home, and cemetery without the ability to pay our creditors. If we had adequate life insurance, so many things could be different. A good life insurance policy would have supplemented Dad’s lost income and would have helped us to make ends meet. Instead, we now have to sell my childhood home and move in with relatives. My disabled mother, a teacher, must now find evening work, and I have tripled my shifts at both of my regular jobs while picking up various neighborhood jobs. We have had to borrow money from family just to stay afloat. We are selling belongings, including cherished items once belonging to my dad, but it’s not enough. Having adequate life insurance would have provided me not only financial stability but the emotional security that goes along with it. Then, my family could have focused our energy and efforts where they should be: on each other, and on our grief and healing.

Good life insurance could also have helped to make my dream of college a financial reality. Desired out of state and private colleges are now financially unattainable. I worked so hard through school to overcome my learning disabilities and to get accepted to colleges, but now, the price tag is my greatest obstacle. I have always wanted to literally build a better world through engineering, and I still hope to get that chance. I also hope to earn a professional salary in order to assist my mother as she continues to raise my little sister.

There is now a before and after. In the before, there was happiness, stability, joy, and normalcy. In the after, there is financial instability, profound grief, and learning to rebuild our lives. Here in the after, my mother and I still seek ways to make my college dream a reality. One step is to become a candidate the Life Lessons Scholarship. Any financial assistance will be sincerely appreciated, taken seriously, and put to good use. I hope to one day return the favor and contribute to a scholarship just like this one.

Thank you so much for your consideration and for the chance to tell my story.

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