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2012 Grand Prize - Essay

Brittney LaCombe

Scholarship Amount: $10,000

Hometown: St. Petersburg, FL - School: University of South Florida

Growing up you don’t really imagine yourself parent less at the age of 21 but here I am, exactly that, all on my own. My mom passed away suddenly on May 9th, 2011 from a pulmonary embolism leaving me to care for and raise my sisters (15, 16) on my own. Although my biological father is still alive he has chosen to exclude himself from our lives and our future.

When my mom passed away, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. She was unemployed, behind on bills, had no life insurance or a savings of any kind. The $300.00 in her bank account was all we had. Within a week of her passing, shut off notices came for the electric and water and the bank called everyday looking for a payment on the mortgage. Since I was only working part time, paying these debts was out of the question. Even though I explained my situation, I was told I had only weeks before the house would be foreclosed on and our electricity and water cut off which would leave my sisters and I in unlivable conditions.

On June 1st, 2011 through assistance from Catholic Charities and the HUD program, we were able to move into a small two bedroom apartment. This meant packing up our entire family home, re-homing our family pets, choosing what to keep and what to donate and leaving behind the place we have called home.

Currently, I work 40+ hours a week, attend school full time, and keep up with daily chores and task. My schooling is paid through the limited government grants I receive. This impacts the amount of classes I can attend during the semester and the quality of books I am able to purchase. I receive no help towards rent or food assistance. Thankfully, if I fall short on providing for my sisters, I am able to borrow from friends and extended family. If I have to do without in order for my sisters to have, this is what I am committed to doing.

Death is something we tend not to think about and not to prepare for. If my mom had life insurance and made preparations for her death, my life would be completely different. We would have been able to bury her according to her wishes instead of settling for cremation paid for by the state. We would still be living in our family home with our pets and in our same neighborhood we grew up in. I would not have to struggle to provide the basic daily needs others do not think twice about.

I am determined to make my mom proud and be the first in our family to graduate college. It is now my responsibility to see that my sisters have as close to a normal life as possible. I am their role model and our mom is our hero. We are the survivors of the unthinkable and we are going to make it.

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2012 Top Recipients