Zander Insurance Recipient

Kira Cloonan

AMOUNT: $5,000
SCHOOL: North Central College

Losing my mother to complications of diabetes and kidney disease at the age of 13 absolutely broke me. Despite my mother’s illnesses, there was never a moment where I thought she would die at 52. Even the day she left us, I had no idea how much my life would change. Without my mother’s disability checks, my father was left struggling due to his own disabilities preventing him from working full-time. He did whatever he could to provide for us, but it was never enough. My mother never had life insurance, and this meant that every day after her death was lived in question. When will we have to move? How long can we make this financial assistance last? How will I ever afford college, or even the SAT? My life would absolutely be different if my mother had left us life insurance. I spent years worried about the financial burden I had on my father’s empty pockets that I barely had time to be a teenager. We had nothing for funeral expenses, medical bills or other costs. My half-sisters helped when they could but couldn’t support us completely. Life insurance would’ve granted me a moment to grieve my mother separately from our financial turmoil. One thing I have learned is that it is never too early to get life insurance.
Throughout high school, I struggled through adolescence while grieving the loss of my role model and confidante. I studied and tried every extracurricular possible in hopes to attend college on scholarship. Late nights at musical rehearsal and 18-hour debate tournaments taught me that nothing is easy, but hard work pays off. I chose my college solely for it being the most affordable. I did not get the opportunity to “shop around” as many students do. Currently a junior, I work seven different part-time jobs to pay bills and tuition. I am majoring in Secondary Education and this degree has many hidden expenses. My father is unable to even provide for himself fully, so I am alone financially. I am determined to graduate college as I know my mom wanted it wholeheartedly. A letter she wrote me while on her deathbed explains how she will always love me and knew I would go far in life. It means a lot to me that I am able to go far because of this. Her words comfort me through my grief.

Working 30 hours a week while studying and participating in extracurriculars is almost enough to shut me down. I envy the students with parents able to finance their degree without the endless hours at work and constant anxiety, but I always look to the finish line. I know graduating will feel like I am finally past a massive barrier worsened by the unfortunate loss of my beautiful mother. The sleepless nights, tireless study sessions and sadness felt on family weekend will all be worth it. I will soon be a teacher, able to advocate for students going through exactly this.

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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