When Tracy Basden was just 18 years old, she became the head of her household. With the death of both of her parents and becoming her younger brother’s legal guardian, she found herself overwhelmed with the enormous level of responsibility thrust upon her at such a young age. 

Tracy told us her story at the closing general session of the annual NAILBA conference held last week in Florida. She bravely addressed the audience and spoke about losing her mom when Tracy was four and losing her dad when she was just 18. After her father passed, Tracy became a single parent overnight, working two jobs, trying to get a college degree and taking care of a household and her younger brother.

But that didn’t stop Tracy’s educational aspirations. As she told the conference attendees Friday, her dad had always stressed the importance of a good education. Since her father’s life insurance policy provided only enough funds to cover funeral expenses, Tracy decided to sell her father’s house to pay for college and other expenses. But it didn’t cover everything.

Tracy found herself racking up student loan debt in 2008 when she got a call from Life Happens. They informed her that she was the winner of a $5,000 scholarship from the organization’s Life Lessons Scholarship Program

“I cried,” Tracy said. “Can this really be happening to me? It meant I could continue with my college degree. The scholarship not only helped with my education, it also led me to self-healing.”

Tracy received a much-deserved standing ovation at the end of her speech. She represents just one student who has had to deal with very adult situations before many others her age ever do. She’s just one student struggling with financing their education due to the loss of one or both parents. She’s just one student trying to make a better life for herself against all odds.

Tracy is now employed as an advanced general medicine nurse, is married and has a house of her own.

I truly feel strongly about the great things Life Happens is doing for others, but also for the life insurance industry itself. I was a judge for last year’s Life Lessons Scholarships and it was one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done. There are thousands of people like Tracy out there who need help after the passing of one or both parents. Hers is not the only story.

I doubt anyone at NAILBA’s closing session will forget Tracy or her story. Let’s never forget the organization that helped her get to where she is today. 

For more of our coverage of NAILBA 33, go here.