Pacific Life Recipient

Leandro Torres Mantilla

AMOUNT: $15,000
SCHOOL: University of California, Berkeley
I must confess that writing this essay has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. Thinking of him, my old man, hero, and role model, makes me emotional every single time. After a long battle with brain cancer, my dad lost his life on December 22, 2017. Since then, I don’t see Christmas as a time for celebration but rather a time to grieve and commemorate his life.
I was only nineteen when I had to see him attend monthly chemotherapy sessions and spend his last days suffering in a hospital bed. Financially, his disease affected my family significantly as we couldn’t afford to pay the medical bills that started to pilled up in our kitchen counter. My mom, a teacher assistant, struggled to make ends meet, working two additional part-time jobs on the afternoons and the weekends. To help her out, I dropped out of my first year of college and started working a full-time and a part-time job to pay for the rent and feed my three siblings. If my dad had only had life insurance, we would not have had to struggle this way. Personally, this situation had a toll on my mental and physical health. I developed severe depression, panic attacks, and an eating disorder. I honestly never thought I could recover from that, but God gave me the strength of a phoenix, who rises from the ashes and flies high and proudly on the sky. I can now proudly say that I am on my way to achieving my dreams, making my whole family proud, inspiring my siblings to stand up after they fall, and letting others know that God’s love heals the deepest wounds.
Unfortunately, I was absent from school for two years following my dad’s death. But, in the fall of 2019, I enrolled in a community college where—two years later—I graduated with a double degree and highest honors. I am now a transfer student at UC Berkeley, double majoring in Global Studies and Spanish & Portuguese. Winning this scholarship would change tremendously. First, it would help me reduce my financial stress and focus on my studies more. The money would help me secure a place to live during my senior year and pay my student loans. Second, it would help me to get one step closer to achieving my dream of becoming a foreign service officer. And lastly, it would help me create an online platform to help other students who have experienced a similar situation get back to school and find the resources they need to thrive academically.
I’m no longer in ashes; I’m flying high, hoping to light up the way for those who haven’t risen yet.
I love you, Dad!

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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