The public will decide which of two student finalists will win a $15,000 grand prize scholarship from the nonprofit LIFE Foundation, a life and health insurance industry group.
The finalists are among 24 students receiving scholarships in 2013 as part of the foundation's LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program, an annual effort to help young people who have lost a parent or guardian achieve their dream of higher education. Both students will receive $7,500 and the chance to win an additional $7,500, based on the vote.
Voting is open through July 31 on the LIFE Foundation Facebook page. Individuals can cast a vote once per 24 hours. To enter the contest, high school and college students submitted an essay or video describing how the death of a parent or guardian has impacted their lives.
The two finalists are Thea Juacian of Long Beach, Calif., and Breann Loveless of Provo, Utah.
Juacian was a senior in high school when her stepfather had a stroke and fell into a coma for two years. She made the difficult choice to delay her college plans after graduation to work two jobs to help support her family. When her stepfather passed away, she and her mother struggled to keep up with mounting bills and were forced to leave their home. Now 20, Juacian is a sophomore and with the help of scholarships and financial aid hopes to achieve her goal to graduate college.
Loveless may have to put her dreams of college on hold since both of her parents passed away three days apart without substantial life insurance coverage. After their deaths, she and her siblings had to move to less-expensive housing, take on extra jobs and rely on help from relatives and friends to make ends meet.
"When a parent dies without adequate life insurance, their children's dreams of attending college are often the first to have to be put on hold. Thea and Breann are living examples of the financial struggles loved ones face when the people providing for them do not financially plan for the unexpected," Marvin H. Feldman, president and CEO of the LIFE Foundation, said in a press statement "We want to encourage people to support them with their vote and in hearing their stories, think about the importance of including life insurance in their own financial plans."
This year, LIFE will award 18 LIFE Lessons scholarships in the written 500-word essay category, and six scholarships in the three-minute video category. The winner of the online video vote, as well as the other 2013 scholarship recipients, will be announced in August 2013.