Ameritas Recipient

Estevan Hernandez

AMOUNT: $5,000
SCHOOL: Western Governors University
I often find myself rubbing the scars on my knee when I’m nervous. I don’t know why, but something about them connects me to a time when both my parents were alive, and I find comfort. When I was 3, my family was hit by a drunk driver. It killed my mom instantly, put my brother in a coma, shattered my leg, and pushed my dad into a deep depression. That day set the path for the rest of my life.

Not having life insurance put more pressure on my dad to work longer hours and move more to provide for us. We lived in poverty and I moved schools 13 times before graduating. My dad was a migrant field worker with a middle school education. I went everywhere with him; he was my best friend. He died when I was 10 in a single car accident. He didn’t have life insurance either; I doubt he even knew what it was. Losing my dad had a greater immediate impact on me than losing my mom. I had never felt so alone.

I was an orphan. Survival became my driving force. My aunt took me and my older brother in, but she had her own kids to worry about. There was no talk of college. I was even encouraged to drop out of high school to work and help pay the bills. At one point there were 13 of us living in a double wide trailer. I didn’t have a room or even a couch; I slept on the floor in the mud room.

I got a job at 15, working in a warehouse packing fruit. My check went to my guardians. At 19 I became a supervisor at a grain silo with a national company and was given the option of life insurance as a work benefit. I signed up for it thinking it might come in handy in the future should something happen to me like it did my parents. But then the company was sold, I lost my job and along with it, the benefits.

Had either of my parents had life insurance I would have had the security of knowing college was an option. Maybe my dad would still be here if my mom had life insurance. Maybe he could’ve spent more time with me and less time moving for work. Maybe. I used to think about ‘what ifs’ often. And then I became a parent and the ‘what ifs’ turned to ‘here and now’. I realized I had to do better for my girls, and that college would be the way to do that. This is why, at the age of 23, I’m pursuing a degree to better the future of my two daughters. I can’t let my past determine 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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