Life Happens Board of Directors Scholarship

Mitchell Bartram

AMOUNT: $10,000
SCHOOL: New Jersey Institute of Technology
I was 10 years old when my father died from malignant melanoma. Although he had life insurance, the amount was insufficient to cover all the expenses he left behind. This forced my mom to sell our home in New Jersey and relocate to a lower cost, rural area, in Pennsylvania, three hours away from the community I had grown up in. My mother had to decide what we could and could not afford. She decided her life insurance policy was too expensive. Additionally, she settled for minimal health insurance. When I was 11, Mom was diagnosed with liver cancer. There were now more bills to pay, and insufficient finances to take care everything. Between her medical treatments and having to rest, I had to help around the house, vacuuming, fixing meals, caring for pets, shoveling snow, and more. I was 12 when my mom died. I had no choice but to live with my aunt. Everything we owned was sold to cover my mom’s exorbitant medical expenses. My aunt also forced me to give up my four pets. I was an emotional wreck. I’d lost both parents, my pets, my home, and it seemed, my whole life. My aunt committed me for psychological evaluation. When it was done she decided she didn’t want to take care of me. I relocated back to New Jersey to live with my parents’ closest friends, changing communities yet again. Then I had to repeat 7th grade to make up for the schooling that I missed while my mom was sick. My life just seemed to be getting worse and worse, with no end in sight.

If my parents had maintained adequate life insurance, much of the personal turmoil that I experienced could have been avoided. I would not have had to move between schools so often, losing friends and stability along the way. Certainly, the financial toll would have been significantly less. I would have had more of an estate to inherit to help cover college expenses, which is a real concern. I want to major in Computer Engineering, but because of my financial situation I will have to settle for a lower caliber school. I’m even considering taking two years of community college, first. Unfortunately, there are basic, required engineering courses that I cannot get at a community college.

This turmoil has had an impact on my life and my grades. It has only been in the last year that I have been able to focus on my school and career goals. Still, my experiences have molded me. I am not a quitter. I earned my Eagle Scout rank, I have a part time job that enables me to pay for my used car, maintenance, and insurance, and I work an unpaid internship at the Information Technology department at Stevens Institute of Technology. I contribute my Social Security (which ends May 1, 2015) to my guardians, for supporting me. Life has been a struggle, but I will be successful!

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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