Northern Illinois University junior Shakira Barnes (North Chicago, Ill.) was one of 24 students awarded a scholarship from the Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE). Barnes earned the $2,000 scholarship through the nonprofit’s ninth annual LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program.
New York Life’s Chicago North Shore General Office Managing Partner Van A. Ewing II personally matched the scholarship by contributing $2,000, bringing her award to $4,000.
“I want to thank the LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program and New York Life for giving me the opportunity to share my story,” said Barnes, who is studying to be a pediatric nurse. “I am thankful for the scholarship, which will help me reach my goal of receiving my degree at NIU and helping others in the future.”
The LIFE Foundation is dedicated to helping students like Barnes pay for their college education, offering financial support to college students and college-bound high school seniors who have persevered despite the loss of a parent or legal guardian.
The LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program asks applicants to submit an application along with either a 500-word essay or 3-minute video describing how their lives have been challenged, both financially and emotionally, by the death of a parent or guardian who did not have adequate life insurance. Barnes’s essay documented her and her siblings’ financial struggles after her father died in a car accident without enough life insurance coverage. This year, LIFE has awarded a record total of $125,000 in scholarships to 24 students ranging from $2,000 – $15,000.
Over the past six and a half years since her father passed away, Barnes has had many ups and downs, she said. She works three days a week on campus to pay for tuition and also helps her mother and siblings at home when she has extra money.
“I always wonder how my life would be if my father were still here. I truly felt the emotional and financial impact of the absence of my father,” Barnes recalled. “I remember the struggle to get here, the struggle to pay for my ACT test and worrying how I will pay for college. The struggle, the stress and the bills all seem overwhelming at times, but somehow God always makes a way for us.”
Barnes hopes to make enough money after graduating from NIU to move her mother into a safer neighborhood and a better home. “My mother has always been there for me,” she said.
“The stories of the young people involved in our LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program should be a reminder to us all of how important it is to plan ahead and to make sure the ones we love are protected financially should the unexpected happen,” said Marvin H. Feldman, CLU, ChFC, President and CEO of the LIFE Foundation. “No parent would want to see their child have to give up their college dreams because they are not around to give the financial support they would have wanted to provide. That’s where life insurance can play a role – to make sure those that depend on you financially have a safety net to fall back on to help maintain their quality of life and continue with their life plans.”
September is national Life Insurance Awareness Month.