Zander Insurance Recipient

Erica Gahm

AMOUNT: $5,000
SCHOOL: Columbia College Hollywood
On September 30, 2012 my mother passed away from stage four colon cancer. She left behind my father, a middle aged man with bipolar disorder and depression, my brother, a ten-year-old who had previously won his own battle against cancer and was left with autism as a result, and me, an insecure thirteen-year-old that felt like her entire world had been shattered. She was the kind of mother that would make homemade Halloween costumes and would build a tent out of miscellaneous pieces of fabric and PVC pipes that spanned the entire living room because her daughter wanted a camp out themed birthday party. She was loved by the three us and the community, which made her death even more heartbreaking. Only adding to the emotional anguish her life insurance plan was only worth five thousand dollars. For a family of three, with a father working full time and a ten-year-old who still needed copious amounts of medications and cognitive therapy, and not to mention the mountain of medical bills from the four years of experimental cancer treatment programs that could not save my mother, that five thousand dollars seemed like nothing. Her funeral ended up costing my father twelve thousand dollars because my mother’s family insisted on a lavish catholic funeral. My father would have not agreed to such a costly funeral service if it were not for him not wanting to upset her parents and in turn her parents promising to pay for half of the costs. That was almost eight years ago, and my father has still not seen the other half of the twelve thousand dollars. The reason behind my mother’s insufficient life insurance was that despite her being sick for four years no one wanted to believe that she would lose her battle against cancer. Eight years on, my father still works full-time while attempting to manage his own depression and taking care of my autistic brother who has also been recently diagnosed with depression. I sometimes wonder if my mother had had adequate life insurance how that would have changed how I am paying for college; it would have probably helped significantly. Since age sixteen I have been working fifty-hour work weeks during the summer trying to save up for college because the money my parents originally saved for me to attend college had gone towards medical bills and my mother’s funeral expenses. Last summer I was working two jobs, one full time and one part time. I am currently working fifteen hours a week while taking fifteen credit hours and keeping a 3.53 grade point average. I have already had to take out a loan in order to afford my education, but I refuse to let money keep me from pursuing my dream of becoming a film maker. As of today, I have saved up enough to get me through the first semester of next year. It might be an uphill battle, but I will never stop fighting for my future.

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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