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Pacific Life Recipient

Tama Henderson-Semo

Scholarship Amount: $15,000

Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA - School: University of California, Santa Cruz

During my first year attending university, my mother tragically passed away on February 8th, 2016 after a lifelong battle with liver cirrhosis and mental illnesses.

Growing up in the State of Washington, my five older siblings and I were under the care of my mother while she severely struggled with her disabilities. For most of my life, my family lived below the poverty line. My mother’s costly medical bills along with my father being regularly deployed by the Army kept my family in a difficult financial situation. Several of my siblings had to drop out of traditional high school to obtain GED’s in order to dedicate more time towards caring for my mother and family. Due to our turbulent upbringing, my family frequently moved residences; at times, we were homeless.

My parents separated when I was 11, and my siblings moved away by the time I reached high school. For a majority of my adolescence, I looked after my gravely ill mother while simultaneously striving to balance school. With the gracious support of my family, mentors, and advocates, I was encouraged to apply to college after graduating. Unfortunately, my mother was so sick that she could not attend my high school graduation. Only shortly after I became the first in my family to attend a university, the serious impact of suddenly losing my mother made me doubt whether or not I could continue my college education.

My mother’s passing placed my family under serious emotional and financial hardship, both made significantly more challenging as she did not have a life insurance policy. The expenses associated with her passing along with traumatic grief took a toll on my entire family. For me, the stress of mourning my mother’s passing while being expected to attend college and financially meet my basic needs deepened my anxiety. Despite this, my upbringing gave me tenacity. During my second year at university, I persevered and worked three jobs to stay ahead of financial costs.

I will not stop fighting to earn a degree and thriving while doing so. As a Politics major, I will continue to utilize my education to advocate for equity to increase opportunities for people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Having a mother who was disabled and a father who is a disabled veteran makes me passionate about bolstering accessibility.

Just as higher education is an investment for securing future opportunities, life insurance is an investment for securing lives. Planning for the future by having life insurance coverage grants families a stable opportunity to mend emotional wounds through financial security. If my mother had life insurance, my family would have more space to heal emotionally from a tragedy rather than grappling with the massive financial burden that came alongside her passing.

The adversities my family has faced instilled in me life lessons of perseverance, dedication, and ambition. I embody this by continuing to work towards securing a better future for my present and future family. I am grateful for this opportunity to share my story.

You can help students like Tama make their dream of a college education come true by donating to the nonprofit Life Lessons Scholarship fund. Donate here.

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