Ameritas Recipient

Damien Duff

AMOUNT: $5,000
SCHOOL: Somerset Community College

When you go to bed at night, you expect that your mom or dad will be there to wake you up in the morning. You never think that your worst dream will come true not once, but twice. I never thought it would happen to me, until it did.

I was seven years old when my mom died. I thought then that I would never feel that kind of pain again. Until I did. I was 10 when my dad died. I lost my whole world before I was even a teenager. I was lucky that my grandparents were there and able to take my two brothers and my sister in to their home. They did the best they could with what they had.

However, my grandparents had never planned on having to bury their son or daughter in law and neither of my parents had life insurance. My grandparents were left paying for two funerals in three years, taking over bills my parents would have been responsible for and raising four children. This meant that there was no money for anything extra in our lives. We barely had basic needs covered and I began to realize that if I ever wanted to have a life different than what my parents lived, that I would be on my own.

By the time I was 15, my grandfather’s health was in a serious decline and he had a massive heart attack followed shortly by a series of strokes. My grandmother became his primary caretaker and, at the age of 16, I had to move out and that’s when I got my first part time job. At this same time, it became even more clear to me that if I was going to fulfill my parent’s dream of me going to college that I was going to have to do it on my own.

I have maintained a full-time job since I was 18. In addition to working, I have also gone to school full time and played sports. I have been working hard to be the person that I know my parents would have wanted me to be. To be a person my parents would be proud of. I often wonder about the “what ifs”. What if my grandparents weren’t in declining health? What if my parents were still alive? What if my parents would have had a plan to take care of their children when they passed away?

I will never know if they would be proud of me. I will never be able to see their faces when I walk across the stage and accept my high school diploma. I will never get to see their faces or hear the pride in their voices when I walk across that stage and accept my college diploma. But, with the help of your scholarship, I will know in my heart that I am fulfilling their dream of at least one of their children making a better life for themselves. And then, maybe I can finally wake up from the nightmare that started over eight years ago.


The Life Lessons Scholarship is made possible through individual donations and corporate sponsorships. Your financial support can make a world of difference for a young person struggling to afford a college education due to the loss of a parent or guardian.

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