Zander Recipient

Taylor Collins

AMOUNT: $5,000
SCHOOL: Maryville College
I am Taylor Collins. I was born in St. Louis, Missouri in the year 2001, but I currently reside outside of Nashville. I’m a senior in high school and I’ll be attending Maryville College to study Psychology in the fall. I am fortunate to say I have a hope for my life now, but things weren’t always this way.

In June of 2013, my parents walked out of grandpa’s house where we were staying at the time. Grandpa had made a call to our police department after finding his checks and some of his electronics missing. Everyone in the house knew who had stolen from him. A few days later, an officer came to our door to inform us of my parents’ suicide.

Their deaths hurt me worse than anything ever could. Although I was just eleven when they passed, I sank into a deep depression where I self harmed and had multiple suicide attempts. I gave up any dreams I had for my future. I was once a happy, optimistic, and soulful little girl and I turned into a shadow of my former self. Mom and dad left me and my brother behind in grandpa’s care. He was disabled, with many health issues. I had a feeling he’d pass sooner rather than later. At this point, he didn’t have any money to his name anymore, so we were on benefits to make ends meet. My parents had to be cremated due to lack of funds. I knew that I wouldn’t have a way to pay for college. I also felt that there’d be no way for me to ever get this broken feeling to subside enough for me to succeed in the future. I truly gave up on everything.

When I was twelve, I started to hang out with the wrong crowd. My new friends were fun to be around, in my mind. They were tough, problematic, and all idolized gang life. I saw a new possible joy to my life. I thought I could demand respect and attention if I were able to join a gang. In addition, I figured I could get the protection and support I so badly desired, even if the support was for me beating someone up, or dealing drugs. Those were my plans, but my aunt and uncle, who I hadn’t known at the time, came to us from Tennessee to take us home.

It took me years to start recovering. It happened gradually, painfully, and with buckets of tears, but I was able to get on the right path for me and my life. My story, past, present, and future, is no longer written with details of gang banging and pain; it’s constructed by a beautiful, hopeful future where I can help love and heal people with my experience. I’ve come to feel so grateful for where I’ve been and the pain I’ve experienced. I am overjoyed daily to see what life can truly consist of. Thank you for reading my story.

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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