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Michael Jacobson


Bold Points






If I’ve learned anything from life, it’s to be genuine. I had some rough luck in my twenties, but it’s made me who I am today. Among my essays are stories of trial and triumph… but each story I have told has made me stronger, wiser, and keenly aware. Each essay is unique, though I may retell some stories in different ways. I fail miserably at some, and I do well at others. That’s how life works. And of course, sometimes you’re just not the right fit for a panel. In Washington State, I grew up spending half my time at my dad’s farm, and half my time in the cul-de-sac of a housing development. At my dad’s I’ve learned to grow my own food, drive a tractor, and build outbuildings. I can shoot, bale hay, and start a bonfire. At my mom’s I learned how to golf, cook, and entertain. I learned the importance of education and keeping friendships. In Alabama, I became an adult. Most of my stories are from when I moved here at the tail-end of 22 years old. I’m 31 now. I can’t believe how time flies. I’m currently a full-time student at Athens State University, in Athens, Alabama. I work as a work-study in the Office of Veteran’s Affairs and International Students. I’ve answered phones, directed traffic through the office, and audited student records. We have a great team, and I look forward to sharing my story with them in due time. I’m majoring in accounting, and minoring in forensic accounting. Check out some of the tales on this page. (They're all true!) Thank you for taking the time to read my profile.


Athens State University

Bachelor's degree program
2023 - 2024
  • Majors:
    • Accounting and Related Services


  • Desired degree level:

    Bachelor's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Accounting and Computer Science
    • Criminal Justice and Corrections, General
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:


    • Dream career goals:

      Forensic Accounting

    • Student Worker - VA and International Students Office

      Athens State University
      2023 – 20241 year
    • 50 hour Assistant Manager

      Burger King
      2021 – 20243 years
    • Key Holder

      Dollar General
      2017 – 20214 years



    2005 – Present19 years


    • Arlington High School Pit Orchestra

      Performance Art
      Peter Pan, , South Pacific,
      2007 – 2011

    Future Interests





    Elizabeth Schalk Memorial Scholarship
    If I told you that last week I came out of hospitalization for my mental illness, would that be a blessing or a curse? The funny thing is, when we talk about mental illness, there's always going to be a stigma. Whether you are offering a scholarship or not, chances are you felt negatively to that statement. Not in an unkind, unsympathetic way. But in a way that is inescapable to humans; feeling like you need to guard yourself. And if you didn't feel negatively, well, then my technical diagnosis would come as no surprise to you. I experience persecutory delusions as part of my delusional disorder. So either way we've come full circle. Last week my diagnosis from about 7 years ago was validated. I started to think it was a misdiagnosis but apparently it was confirmed, upon my stay for one week in a mental health hospital. We had been adjusting my medication, and midway through it, I moved across the country to Montana from Alabama, broke up with my partner, and had no medical providers. When that hamster in my mind tripped in its wheel, I realized I had to seek help. I checked myself in via the ER in hopes of getting to a psychiatric unit, and, I certainly got in. So, how does my mental illness affect me? Well, it affects my school. I had enrolled in summer classes and being gone for a week in a shortened semester is quite the big deal. But I've made up with my professors, and they're working with me. To be honest this is a super important semester for me. I'm bypassing the requirement for a prerequisite so I can jump right into Forensic Accounting I to see if I'm really passionate about it. Turns out, yes, I am. I was one semester away from meeting that requirement, but Forensic Accounting I is only offered in Summer semester. That would have meant I'd have had to wait another year to see if it was right for me. It adds up to this: I am overcoming challenges while pursuing my passions, related to my mental illness. I can't help but spell that out. The Elizabeth Schalk Memorial Scholarship was meant to address dealing with mental illness throughout your life. That can specifically apply to attending university. Perhaps Miss Elizabeth was a college graduate. Perhaps she endured through some of those years where it just didn't seem possible. Because it certainly doesn't seem possible to many people. And they have given up by now. Heck, I'm 31 years old now. I dropped out of college the first time because I felt I didn't belong there. I was undiagnosed then. The second time, I developed an addiction and stopped attending. This third time I have gone through just as much, if not more, and here I am writing this essay telling you I'm going to make it this time. The difference is... I am diagnosed. I have the tools required to finish. I have resources I never knew existed. But not all of them. I am writing to you today because I do need that extra push. Every dollar counts and, as an accounting student, the money today is worth a lot more than money tomorrow. Maybe this short essay will appeal to some of you. I hope the first reader doesn't toss it out. (Depending on the size of the panel, of course.) And the forensic professional in me believes you were looking into the pregnancy warning of benzodiazepine recently. Very much good luck in your efforts. Here's to Betsy.
    Elijah's Helping Hand Scholarship Award
    A flash of light came out of nowhere when I left the prison parking lot. Were they going to stop me? I slowed down enough to realize nothing was there, and pressed my foot back on the gas pedal. Looking in my rearview mirror the whole way home, I made a sudden right turn onto Lindsay Lane. Were they following me? The car behind me went straight, calming me down some. I made my way on Highway 251, and headed for Walmart. I needed to get my wine for the night. I parked in the side lot, nervous hands trembling. I took a breath and shut off the engine. The darkness didn't help any and I hurried onwards to the entrance. A young blonde woman walked in behind me and I glanced anxiously back at her. I made my way toward the bakery and she pursued me. I stopped, feigning interest in some day-old bread on sale. When she passed by, I held my breath and started following her. In my mind, she had been working at the prison and was given the task of tailing me. For what reason? I didn't know. She went down an aisle and I suddenly stopped, now realizing my mistake. I walked briskly towards the wine aisle. Two bottles of chardonnay, as I had every night. Three dollars and twenty-three cents. My clammy hands trembling. That was my worst episode of psychosis. What followed in the month to come was an intake assessment and a great deal of confusion. I didn't have insurance, and the first psychiatrist's office I called only dealt with child psychiatry. I asked for a recommendation of who to go to for help, and they made an exception for me. I got my diagnosis the next week: delusional disorder. I experience persecutory delusions which are non-bizarre. Sometimes I have somatic delusions, that is, delusions about my physical health. Bizarre is, as my psychiatrist put it, that "Donald Trump is coming down from Washington, D.C., in a helicopter and he's going to land in the cornfield next to your trailer and you have to go out into the cornfield and wait because he's going to pick you up and bring you back to the White House." That's not me. My delusions are that people are looking at me, following me, talking about me, they want me to fail, and nobody even really likes me. Things like that. It could very well be true of some people. That evening when I left the visitation yard, where my partner and I got to spend two hours together, my delusions were the worst they had ever been. Thankfully I sought help, and that has stayed my worst experience so far. It hasn't been easy, but I've stuck to my treatment plan. Many people think their symptoms are done with and over, and they quit their medicine not understanding that those symptoms come back. I don't want to be that kind of person. I'm not cured, but seeking help was the first step for me. Actually, I called my mom first and asked her. She's a nurse and my dad was a paramedic, so I learned from an early age if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. I think that lesson was instilled in me from a young age, and I was very fortunate. A lot has happened in my life since that day, but I'll leave those stories for other essays. For now, I hope this story will find someone who is finding it hard to reach out to someone.
    Social Anxiety Step Forward Scholarship
    You know, it's funny that I should come across this scholarship right after a Zoom meeting for school. We had to speak about ourselves and I got so nervous I couldn't talk. But no, I do not have selective mutism. I have what's called delusional disorder. Which is probably why I started thinking I must have had selective mutism as a child. I would get so upset and cry and wouldn't be able to tell my mom why I was upset. But, I'll stick to what I am diagnosed with. Delusional disorder, a dash of substance use disorder (which persists even when clean and sober), with a sprinkle of anxiety thrown in. Ah, yes. My anxiety really stems from paranoia. My delusions are persecutory, which means I often believe people are out to get me. Or more like thinking negatively about me. People being false. Things like that. I was diagnosed after my partner was put in prison. I distrusted friends. I started believing they were in on it. They had set him up because of their disdain for me. My anxiety relates to being around other people and being in public in general because I am imagining all the things that people are thinking about me. If I think someone is watching me, they must think I'm walking funny, so I start trying to walk more normally. Which means my steps become erratic, and my paranoia gets worse. That's just an example, but I have that thought a lot. Pursuing my bachelor's in accounting is what I'm doing now. At the age of 30 I headed back to university to finish a degree. I struck out the first two times. Mainly because I had a lot of anxiety related to my paranoia disorder. My first withdrawal from Western Washington University was because I believed I didn't fit in with the people there. For one big reason, I'm a gay Christian. The Christians and gay community were quite opposed to one another at that time. My first election year in college I had to decide whether or not I supported gay marriage on the ballot in Washington state. That was a big ethical dilemma for me. The second time I withdrew was due to substance addiction. I had spent all my money on alcohol, and the last week of my one year program at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, I didn't have the gas money to get to school. I still don't know if I passed all my classes or not. But thankfully, I have grown tremendously since moving to Alabama. I tell people Alabama is the place where I finally grew up. And I have had a lot of growth here. That's a story for a separate essay, however. (It's showcased on my profile!) Now I've taken the next steps to finish my degree. My cumulative GPA isn't great, I'll admit. It's at 2.77. But my institutional GPA is 3.875. That sounds a lot better. I have to think it's because this time in university, I'm actually medicated for my disorder. It's not easy, but I'm determined. to be less scared than I was those first two attempts. I'm pursuing my bachelor's degree in accounting. I'm minoring in forensic accounting. Actually, I'm pretty good at investigating. I won my first scholarship because I could name the donor's boat, secretary, and CPA. Thank you for your consideration. P.S.- When they tore down that tattoo parlor across the street from St. Andrew's, I hope it didn't interrupt your joyful worship!
    Robert F. Lawson Fund for Careers that Care
    Hello all, my name is Michael Jacobson and I'm a 31-year-old returning to university for my bachelor's degree in accounting. When you think of careers that care, accounting may not be top of the list. But rest assured, I'm going to make a difference. I have a lot to give and a lot of work yet to do. I'm interested in forensic accounting as a profession, that is, fighting financial fraud. I do have a strong sense of justice, but it comes from my past life of living unlawfully. I was an alcoholic for 7 years and once I did get sober, I got into methamphetamine. That lasted about 2 years total. I'm turning my life around because sometimes bad things do happen to good people. That admission isn't meant to alarm anyone. Rather, I can say look how far I've come. I'm a senior at Athens State University, working two jobs and attending full-time. Actually, this semester I'm taking five courses. I made the President's list last semester. I'm in two honor societies. So when I say I'm going into the ethics-based discipline of accounting, some people may question if I have it in me or not. Spoiler alert: I have it within myself to succeed. I learn from failures and that has been a long and hard way to learn. It's so worth it, though. I think it's so important for you to know where I've come from. There's a desire in me to share my story and maybe even prevent someone from turning into what I had become. Social work and accounting, well, there is an intersection there. I would like to earn my CPA while studying tax law and also earn the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential. Not only is there a need for someone to provide tax services for inmates and other at-risk populations, but I want to also deter fraud from happening and keep people out of our crowded prison system. There are alternative ways we can approach this systemic issue. Prevention is first and foremost, and understanding why people commit financial crime in the first place is key. Everyday people commit crimes. There is a vicious cycle of imprisonment and homelessness. Reentry into society is a pivotal part of breaking that cycle, and in order to do that there needs to be someone willing to help on the accounting side of things to work alongside our social workers. I am a naturally curious person, and I enjoy investigating things. I also enjoy following the money and understanding why people do the things that they do. I find that the most pressing reason is because there is a lack of services in this country. That's why I appreciate this scholarship opportunity.
    Donna M. Umstead Memorial Work Ethic Scholarship
    At first, when I returned to school, I cut back hours at work in order to make the grades. The next semester, I went back to working the same number of hours. The only difference is that I'm a work-study and a part-timer at my previous employer. Attending school full-time is a challenge but I want to stress that it's a blessing. I don't want to be one of those people that says I wish it were over and done with already. I'm enjoying being back in school despite the work. I guess the hardship in my life came later than childhood, I was 23 when I moved to Alabama, and I hadn't finished my education. I didn't really get a job to be honest. I lived very poorly, economically and qualitatively. It took me about 7 years to get up on my feet. But I did do it, and I'm no longer just surviving. I applied to Athens State University at the age of 30. And as you can see, I'm in the thick of it now. I'm grateful for my experiences because I learned how to work hard. Yet I realized that working hard isn't enough, that I had to have an education as well. I had to experience for myself what life without an education was. I'm back at it and taking it seriously this time. All I need is a little more help in getting to where I'm going. Balancing two job schedules and getting study time in is important to me. I had gone through college the first time at 18. What did I know about work at that age? It's crazy for me to think that's when most people attend college. I remember still how I told myself I wouldn't study, because I was intelligent. If I was smart it would just come to me. That's just not true, and now I realize that. People at the college tell me I'm smart. Other students say, "Oh, you didn't do well on the test? Look at my grade!" (And if I could italicize the word "my" I would.) Maybe I am smart. But let's face it: Studying takes work. Doing well in school takes a strong sense of what work is. It's not floating through and leaving all of your homework until the last day to do it. Because it takes time to learn. You need to be proactive. To me, that's what work ethic is. You know, sometimes the material is hard to understand, sometimes it's just a class you need to take and it's not part of your major. I've learned the hard way that if it's part of your curriculum, there's something worth learning from it. Just like lessons in life, you have to experience them in order to get to the next level. It's a simple truth that I think too many people learn too late in life.
    Francis E. Moore Prime Time Ministries Scholarship
    My mother was the daughter of a reverend in the Christian Reformed Church, a Dutch division of the Protestant denomination. People sometimes wonder if I'm of the faith because I am also gay. I say this because about 8 years ago I moved to Alabama to be with somebody, and that person is now inmate number 306539 in the Alabama Department of Corrections. I moved to the Deep South where I had no friends or relations in order to be with him in his time of need. I suppose I knew he was going to lose his legal battle. But I never knew the pain that it would cause to lose him. I couldn't fathom how my life would change without sharing everyday moments with him. He is currently overseeing the Honor dorms, both of them, at Limestone Correctional Facility. Those are the faith dorms. To my surprise, he and my mother write to one another more than his own mother does. They really must have a lot in common with each other. He holds Structure meetings and he set up narcotics anonymous in those dorms. I'm really quite proud of him. But nonetheless, that's my background. Now, I could go into more obstacles I have experienced, but I trust you will read my other essays displayed on my profile. This particular essay is to show you what I'm capable of. My goal is to finish my bachelor's degree in accounting. I'm also minoring in forensic accounting. Working with the justice system is not an obvious choice for the partner of a felon, but I feel so strongly about it, I know its what I want to do. To be grounded in ethics and criminal justice, as well as the basic foundations of accounting, I can bring real-world expertise to the table. I intend to become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Not only will I understand the law, but I will understand the ramifications of prosecution. I think some people in our court system don't really have a grasp on what happens after court. In this, I think I have an upper hand. Financial fraud is only going to increase in future. And there needs to be boots on the ground to combat it. My former educational background is in linguistics. I took both Spanish and Japanese in high school and studied Chinese at Western Washington University. This is particularly useful because of the significant globalization which is occurring in this world. International fraud fighting is definitely something I am interested in. In just a few short years, the need is going to be great for people like me. I'd like to think I'm a good investment. I wouldn't be going back to school if it weren't for the opportunity God placed before me. I see that now. I wouldn't think I could afford to go back to school, I wouldn't be able to study like I study now. How have those obstacles I described affected my progress? Well, I made the Dean's list my first semester and made the President's list my second semester. I'm taking 5 classes this Spring semester, and I'm working two part-time jobs to put myself through college. None of this would have happened if it weren't for incarceration. It's the main reason for my success, for my partner's success even. We had been moving in the wrong direction. God intervened and said he had another plan for us. In all the past hurt, I can rejoice knowing that He is in control.
    Lost Dreams Awaken Scholarship
    The term recovery is celebratory. But it's a distinction that can be isolating. There's more to it than just being on the right path, or moving towards success. There's also the fact that you have to leave many of your friends behind. You have to accept the relationships you put on the back burner for years won't really recover. There's the social stigma that once you're clean, people are still going to associate the words "addict" or "alcoholic" with you. Having been both, I have to live with the choices that I have made. But there's another side to the same coin. With every moment we choose sobriety, we get closer to living a purpose-driven life. We have to work a little harder than other people to get back on the right track. It's worth the work, trust me. I do have the experience that life has taught me, so that's nothing to sneeze at. I'm still figuring out the details, but I have time. That's something you're not used to when you live under the influence. Recovery means you're able to experience life, not just live until tomorrow. I'm entering my second year of sobriety. When I did stop using, one of the first things I did was apply at Athens State University. Turns out all the shame of not being able to finish college in my younger years was unwarranted. I transferred in as a Senior. I think recovery is no longer being ashamed.
    Andrew Michael Peña Memorial Scholarship
    Before I tell my story I do have to confess one thing: I'm not so sure where I'm going to go in my career. I have the passion to do what is right, and I want to help people who are experiencing what I have experienced. But, my dream career is in forensic accounting. I've heard that social work and accounting do, in fact, intersect. It's just going to take a few extra resources to get me up to that point. I moved from Washington state to Alabama in the hopes of finding myself. As an alcoholic, I had just finished a year-long horticulture program but decided against getting the paper degree. I thought the education was enough at the time. I was wrong, and in my regret, I made the choice to move away from it all. I moved into a ramshackle trailer during the simmering heat of late summer, and that's kind of how it all began. I started a lawn care business, though I hated cutting grass, just to make it through a few days at a time. My partner was also an alcoholic at that time, and what better job was out there? Driving that new Troybilt and gulping down a cold beer was heaven. Working from sunrise to sunset was his motto. I spent most of those days sick and in bed. We soon found a temporary solution to our expensive habit. The solution wasn't a very good one: methamphetamine. Compared to alcohol, meth is incredibly cheap if you know where to find it. It was his relapse and my first time using. Time passed quite quickly, as you can imagine, but we thought that we were able to work harder and pull longer hours. So, in that small corner of our minds that could still rationalize, we abused logic. It wasn't a good time in my life. And it was about to get much worse. Well, see, we had been in trouble with the law in an unrelated matter. To make a story short, my partner in crime became my partner in prison. Yes, I spiraled down quite a bit but that night he was taken into custody I flushed the drugs and went through my first withdrawals. I went back to drinking, instead. The years of drinking that ensued caused me to develop delusional disorder, or in the least, brought it out in the open. I started antipsychotics and antidepressants and antianxiety meds through a psychiatrist, and when I was ready to start naltrexone for my drinking, I quit within a month. I was quite shocked to be sober again. I hadn't been sober in seven years. We made some changes to my medicine now that I wasn't drinking-- I started Wellbutrin. Most people don't know that it will cause the withdrawals to start again. I was knocked right back into meth, and the worst part was, I didn't know why. I was so upset with myself. I was ashamed, and hid in my new apartment all alone for most of two years. But, I did eventually get sober. New Year's Day 2023. There's a lot of regret still in my heart. I've channeled it into my studies. I've been going for three semesters at Athens State University, hoping one day I'll make it. Working two jobs, going to school full-time, well, you get the picture. As far as my career goes, I'm a bit unsure. My passions are criminal justice, forensic accounting, and recovery services. Maybe there's a niche for me in this world. Count on me to keep making it.
    Patrick Stanley Memorial Scholarship
    I was a high school student who never learned to study. I used to think that if you were smart, you didn't need to do the work. Maybe I grew up a bit privileged, I can admit that, but I went through school like I went through life, easily. After high school I missed the deadline to apply to my first choice, the University of Washington, so I ended up applying and getting into Western Washington University. I went through a year and a quarter and realized maybe I wasn't ready for university. I never studied, again, and made B's and C's for the most part. I was studying linguistics at the time. After withdrawing from WWU, I went on to study horticulture at Lake Washington Institute of Technology. I did better but didn't quite finish. I missed the last week of school and never reached out to anyone, I figured the knowledge would be enough to get me through. I was wrong. I ended up in Alabama and worked a few odd jobs every year. I went back to working in retail. Turns out my education-through-osmosis plan didn't work out too well. I struggled to make it through life and things didn't turn the corner until I got my first full-time job in Alabama. I moved up to management in a fast food restaurant, and learned through hard work and dedication what work was. Real work. That made the difference. The only problem was that I was putting in the work, but I knew I couldn't make any money unless I had a real career. With that job came some new opportunities though. I paid off my student loans that had defaulted, my credit cards, and kicked a few habits. I applied to Athens State University and got accepted. Turns out my transfer credits came in handy. I've never studied so hard in my life. I work two part time jobs, and I'm taking five courses this semester. Last semester I got straight A's. I'm entering my third semester at Athens State University, I'm majoring in accounting -- the language of business. Turns out I still get to be passionate about languages! I'm minoring in forensic accounting, and right now I'm not sure if I'll pursue a master's degree or not. But I know for sure I'm going to be getting my bachelor's degree. They say third time's the charm. I never expected to be back in university at 31 years old, but what's so great about my situation is that I needed a little more time to realize my passion. I needed to get thrown into the world, which I wasn't prepared for, and grow up. I'm finally making it. I guess I'm allowed to be proud of where I'm headed. Thank you for reading my story.
    Janean D. Watkins Overcoming Adversity Scholarship
    My name is Michael Jacobson, and I'm an alcoholic. I also have Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Of course, I'm sober now. You can't really make the grades if you're not sober going through university, and believe me, I've tried that before. I've been briefly homeless, tried the college route twice before, and have a psychiatric disorder. Yet, here I am, feverishly applying for scholarships because I know now what is at stake if I don't succeed. I did a lot of growing up in my 20s. I'm 31 now, and I've learned the most important lesson of all: you can change your life if you work hard enough. I'm unabashed to say I've been succeeding this third time attending university. With an institutional GPA of 3.875, I am a full time student working two jobs. I'm pursuing forensic accounting, and I will earn my bachelor's degree in the Fall of 2025, if not sooner. After making straight A's last semester I've decided to take five courses this coming Spring 2024. My ambition is to finish strong. The motto of Athens State University is: "It's how you finish." I know that because of what I have been through in life, I will succeed. It took me a long time to figure it out, however. My passion for accounting started when I first read a book by Suze Orman. Specifically, I fell in love with personal finance and how to handle money. At the time I was a meth addict, trying to figure out where my money was going. I was a mess, but that book changed my life. Because of Miss Suze, I managed to start rationing my addiction. I thought in terms of how much I could spend and how much money I could put aside towards my crippling debt. Using the snowball technique, I paid off credit card debt and student loan debt. I decided in the New Year 2023 that it was time to quit my addiction. It just didn't make financial sense. It's because of her that I'm returning to school. I will always be grateful for that. When I paid off my student debt, of course, I realized I was eligible to take out more student loans. Even though I had defaulted, I still had the opportunity to go back to school. I decided on accounting as my major because I had loved working with money. Of course, it's turned out to be quite the challenge. But because of these challenges I've faced, I have discovered that accounting is my passion. My dream is to work with those who have no hope left. I have the credibility to relate to people that most of society wishes to forget. In some way, I want to help those struggling with addiction, homelessness, and those reentering society from incarceration. My next challenge is finding a career that involves accounting and some kind of social work. After a few more courses in tax accounting, I plan on volunteering for United Way in helping prepare taxes for the underserved in my community. There's something powerful in climbing out of a dark hole, and seeing the daylight once again. I know this isn't the end of my story, but the beginning.
    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    When I was a kid I was fascinated with the world of espionage. Looking back at it, I don't think I was just playing a game in my head. I would walk home from elementary school, knowing that I was being watched or followed. I would look over my shoulder constantly. Not in a scared way, but with the desire to find someone there. To know that my delusions were real. I was a depressive kid. I'd withdraw slowly from my friends and family over the course of the next several years. Or at least, I thought I did. To most people, I didn't show much emotion. I guess there was a fear that somebody would use them against me, or in other words, become a friend when all they wanted to do was abandon me later. It wasn't until I was about 25 years old I realized something was wrong. That these feelings weren't exactly normal. I had been diagnosed with depression which is pretty standard for most teenagers, but when I went to a psychiatrist for the first time as an adult I was finally diagnosed: delusional disorder. My delusions are persecutory, but lately they have also been a bit somatic in nature. I think people are judging me or following me, or I believe I have a medical condition which can't be found. Those days I walked home from elementary school thinking the CIA was keeping tabs on me, I didn't know that it wasn't a game, it was actually my psychiatric condition. Later on in life, in university, I kept dropping out because I didn't feel like I belonged. I couldn't quite put my finger on why I was getting so worked up and passionate about career paths and then a year later, change my mind and withdraw. It frustrated me that I couldn't do anything right. I've been medicated for quite a few years now, and I can't tell you how much it helps. I do occasionally veer off the path, I'll admit it, but I get my act together again and keep moving forward. I don't feel desperate anymore. Now I'm back in university at the age of 31. I'm entering my third semester at Athens State University, pursuing forensic accounting. I'm still a paranoid person, and wonder if entering the world of financial fraud will be a right fit for me. But at the same time, my disorder gives me passion for investigation and helping others who have experienced what I have. I am empathetic and ethical, a dual specialization that I know will propel me forward in this career path. I'm grateful for my past. Yes, even those episodes of psychosis in which I found myself curled in a ball, rocking back and forth and crying. It changes you in a profound way, I agree completely. But through our trauma we move forward still, as survivors. We become the people we were meant to be: more understanding, caring, and generous. As I go forward in my education, I am emboldened, knowing that I am on the path towards making a difference.
    Solomon Vann Memorial Scholarship
    1. Expand the country’s mental health professional workforce, AND 2. Increase access to evidence-based mental health treatment and common-sense solutions. The first step toward destigmatization of mental health services is to bolster the ranks of those who are educated about, and keenly aware of what mental health is. Availability of psychiatric services, for instance, are often sought out but are seemingly unavailable to many. For those persons experiencing homelessness, is it really convenient to travel 20 miles away for appointments that occur in 1-month or 3-month periods? We know that our homeless community is disproportionately affected by mental illness. Expanding our mental health professional workforce is crucial to fill in the cracks, and increase availability of services. 3. Enhance our nation’s crisis response services. While this would be priority number one in a country where evaluation services are already meeting the need, the United States is far behind the nations who lead the world in mental health, such as Finland or Sweden. The US must put second priority to crisis response as the foundational need of availability is not yet met. Triage is important, but first priority is meeting the threat. There must be services available to follow up after crisis services intervene, otherwise we as a nation will continue to fight with no hope of winning. 4. Improve prevention and early intervention efforts. It's tough to list prevention last in the list. However my idea is that prevention happens when someone or something is already healthy. In the sense that I believe America is not in a good place when it comes to mental health awareness and treatment. I believe a major priority for mental health in the United States lies in housing security. If you look at the relationship between those who are securely housed and those who are homeless or precariously housed (and again, the homeless are disproportionately affected by mental illness), we see trends such as returning to jail/prison and relapse odds increasing. If we think of Maslow's hierarchy of needs it makes sense. Security lies in knowing where you're going to sleep tonight, or where your next meal comes from. I believe these unmet needs contribute a great deal to our mental health struggles. We are a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world. For how developed a country that we are, our homeless rates are also high. Constantly we are being warned of drugs and criminal activity. All of these issues are intertwined. Housing instability contributes to major emotional distress and carries a strong social stigma that can cause feelings of isolation and depression. It is for these reasons that I believe the bipartisan Caucus should consider housing stability as a mental health solution.
    Bruce & Kathy Bevan Scholarship
    If it weren't for paid work, I probably wouldn't be in school right now. Not in that typical I-need-money sort of way, but because before my first full-time job I didn't know what the value of work was. I had tried school twice before, and I didn't apply enough discipline to my studies. I'm 31 years old now; I'm a late bloomer. Now I apply dedication and passion into my studies because I have been at that bottom rung already. I know what's at stake now. Moving out of my parents' house in Washington state, I moved to rural Alabama. I held a part time job for about 4 years, never making more than 200 a week. Some weeks in January, I only got 10 hours. I was paid $9.75 an hour. I was living in a ramshackle trailer, drinking every night and playing the hustle game in the bars. If I was out of money, I could still find a way to get drunk every night. My life changed when the floor of my trailer's bathroom fell through one night. My FEMA trailer with the blankets and towels nailed to the windows to keep out the cold, and plastic bags shoved in the cracks of the floor, was all I had. My landlady shut off the utilities the next night. I moved into the old dorm rooms of Athens State University the next day after that. I ended moving into downtown Athens, Alabama, and that presented some good opportunities for me. I hadn't really found a reason to get a full time job because I was just surviving every day until then. I found a new job at a fast food restaurant, full-time. Mostly because I knew my car was going to break down -- which it did -- and I needed to be able to walk to work. It's a little silly to think that a quick service job would give me a purpose in life, but it did. With that job I started making real money, at least, compared to what I had been making before. I paid off two defaulted credit cards, and my defaulted student loans from those first two tries. I realized that saving money was easier than ever because I was putting in real work. 50-hour weeks as an assistant manager meant I could open a Roth IRA, and I realized I should be making more money to save more. It hit me that this old dorm room I'm living in now presented an opportunity. Why not go back to school? If it weren't for putting in the work, I'm not sure I would have appreciated this transition. I was completely motivated to make more money and support myself, because I was worth it. I applied to transfer into Athens State University and made it in. I now live a football field away from my school. I had two interviews, and now I am fully immersed in college life once again as the work-study for the Veteran's Affairs and International Students Office. I also work at that fast food restaurant on my off days. I am a full time student, with an institutional GPA of 3.875. I feel like I'm finally making it. It took me a good, long while to get to where I am now, but I am well and truly on my way. I am pursuing accounting as a profession, and love every minute of it. I know that in just a couple short years, I'm going to be not only surviving, but thriving in my new career.
    Outstanding Indians at Orchards at Monroe Scholarship
    It isn't my current financial situation that warrants attention, but my past. Not so far back as when I moved out of my parents' house though. At the age of 30 I made a significant step in achieving financial security. And then what did I do? I took on more loans and credit card debt, but this time it's good debt. I have a plan. I grew up pretty privileged, yet I was still a kid and didn't have a plan. Everything seemed easy to me. I didn't understand that just because things seemed to fall into place when I was growing up, that didn't mean it happened for everyone. I learned in my mid-20s that it takes hard work and discipline to keep it together. I didn't manage that transition gracefully, that transition into adulthood, but I made it. That's what's important to me. I moved to Alabama after pursuing linguistics and horticulture, never quite finishing. I moved to the Deep South maybe because I felt I had failed miserably. From the Seattle area, I moved to Athens, Alabama. No money or plan in place. I was just going to wing it. The years that followed gave me more knowledge about the world than I could have expected. I moved into a FEMA trailer, plopped next to a corn field, in an old and nearly abandoned trailer park. I mowed grass for some cash when I needed it, eventually giving it up for a part time retail job at Dollar General. I was making 12 thousand bucks a year. I had never had pangs of hunger before, I had never been to the food bank. I had never evaded the law before (because at that time I couldn't afford insurance for my car). Last but not least, I had become an alcoholic. And that is where all of my money went. I learned in time that I was never going to make it unless I started making money. Once I changed jobs and started making that money, I didn't know where it all went. A book by Suze Orman turned me back in the right direction, and with her guidance I was able to pay off my defaulted credit cards and student loans. I got so passionate about saving my money again, like when I was a child, that I decided to return to school and study accounting. I didn't even know what accounting was. But I knew it had something to do with money, and there was no economics major at the local university. I'm now underway into my third semester at Athens State University. I'm pursuing forensic accounting. Financial fraud is a fascinating subject to me. I may not be especially good with numbers, but investigation and making a difference in victims' lives is important to me. I know explicitly what it's like to have your money taken away from you. To go from everything to nothing, and it's not a good feeling. I also have interests in prison reform and providing stable housing. I believe it's a unique combination. A scholarship will propel me through my studies, specifically it will allow me to study harder than before. I currently have two jobs and attend school full-time. This spring semester I'm taking five classes. I'm succeeding. Some people think of scholarships as free money. To me, no money is free. It took a lot of hard work to get to where I am now. I intend for my money to work just as hard as I am, too.
    Trudgers Fund
    It all began on my 21st birthday. The obligatory "getting drunk for the first time". That first time, it so happened, spiraled into 9 years of addiction. What was deemed harmless fun transformed into half of my life seemingly wasted. I struggled financially, mentally, physically... all because of a liquid. What a crazy concept! What's even crazier, is that I was literally spending my change to get my wine for the night. I would drive up to Walmart after work, pick out two or three bottles of wine. If I was off the next day, I'd get a box. I didn't have a valid ID, so I knew which cashiers would check for it and which cashiers wouldn't. Eventually they got so tired of checking my expired license they just waved me through. That's what my addiction was like. I can tell you the price of two bottles of Oak Leaf, with tax: $6.23. My interest in botanical medicine probably saved my liver. I took milk thistle daily just so I could detox. Eventually though, I moved into smoking my drugs rather than drinking them. Cigarettes, weed, meth. I had just quit alcohol with a drug called naltrexone. I got bored, and soon after I was a meth addict. You live a certain way for a long time and once you quit one thing, up comes another. Or so it seemed at that time. It was during that time, on meth, that I got super interested with personal finance. It was definitely not a trait many addicts had. I started rationing my drugs. Slowly I paid off thousands of dollars of debt I had accrued. I worked longer hours at work. My two credit cards that defaulted: paid. My student loans I defaulted on: paid. I started saving for my retirement, even. I had five thousand in a Roth IRA by the time I decided meth was not a good expense to have, and quit, one year ago today. Sobriety has been interesting so far. It's a novel concept for me. I am 31 years old and I had been an addict my entire adult life. I'm still pretty fascinated with money, after all that I'm going into accounting. Forensic accounting, even. Though I'm not quite sure where I'll go from here. I had planned on helping the spouses of those incarcerated to get financially independent. Maybe specialize in tax laws for prisoners, or become a social worker. But these days I'm more interested in fighting fraud as a CFE. I still have a desire to help people get out of situations like I was in. I have wrestled with thinking of ways that accounting fits into the grand scheme of things. But it really is my passion. I think as I gain more understanding of what fraud is and how the concepts of accounting work, I will figure it out fairly quickly. Accounting is actually quite a diverse field. My main goal right now, however, is to complete my degree. Earning my bachelor's degree is an absolute must. I will use my education to show others that they can do it, too. Addiction held me back from so many things. I know that in sobriety, and with an education, nothing will stand in my way.
    NE1 NE-Dream Scholarship
    I was born and raised in Arlington, Washington, about 45 minutes north of Seattle. My parents were divorced, so I grew up a little differently. When I was at my dad's farm I was driving a tractor or learning to plant a garden, sometimes we baled hay. My mom, on the other hand, lived in a housing development with a golf course. Those two different locales shaped who I am today. I went to school for linguistics at Western Washington University, then studied horticulture at Lake Washington Institute of Technology before eventually moving to the Deep South: rural Alabama. I had met my partner and just wanted to get away from everything for awhile. That little while has turned into 8 years or so. My partner? Well. He's in prison now. I've decided to use this time to get myself financially secure and go back to school. It hasn't been easy though. I had been a very codependent person, and we did everything together. It's still pretty hard on me, I'd be lying if I said it weren't. We were both alcoholics and we spent most of our nights at the bars in town. We hustled and made money how we could. Now, of course, we're both clean and sober, though we arrived there by different avenues. He's doing well; he runs the faith-based dorms at Limestone Correctional Facility, in the same county as me. I'm working two jobs and going to school full-time. This coming Spring semester I will be taking 15 credits. I can't say I really regret anything at this point. In fact, it's these circumstances that landed me at Athens State University. I am majoring in accounting and minoring in forensic accounting. I love being back in school, and this time I have no doubt in my mind I'll finish. I may even get my master's degree someday. My intentions are to earn my Certified Fraud Examiner certification (CFE). Forensic accounting certainly excites me, and my colorful past has proven quite an education in itself. I just need to gain credibility. So, I'm determined to finish strong. Although I'm not sure exactly where I'll end up in my career path, my intentions are to work within our troubled justice system. A combination of corrective actions and fraud preventions. What could be more exciting than that? I feel I finally have direction in my life, even if I'm unsure about the destination. I know I'm headed towards something truly meaningful for myself and my community. I'm all about ending the repetitive nature of crime and homelessness. I believe in recovery from drugs and alcohol. I know that reform is possible for anyone. My strengths are in ethics and compassion, and with those strengths comes a great deal of possibilities for my future. We have a slogan at Athens State: It doesn't matter how you started your education. It's how you finish. Will you help me get to that finish line?
    Fallen "Freaks" Scholarship
    Forensic accounting isn't an obvious career choice. But delving into the world of financial fraud and understanding the players is a rewarding prospect. I'm currently limited to OSINT in how I work, but hope to one day have access to additional resources. I wasn't always on the right side of the law, however. And truth be told, my partner is a convicted felon. However these experiences shaped me into who I am today: someone who cares about justice reform and investigative procedure. It may sound dichotomous to provide evidence in court while also advocating the release of certain prisoners, but I'm more concerned with prevention and ending the cyclical nature of crime. I believe that good people can do bad things, and perhaps that's what sets me apart from others in the field. It's amazing how many people get caught up in fraud who just can't keep up with it anymore. It goes on so long, and many have intentions of not only covering up their mistakes but also trying to replace the money at the same time. It's a slippery slope. The average fraud takes 18 months to discover, which is why prevention is especially important. Having the right controls in place prevents the crime in the first place. Along that line of thinking, criminal behavior can be circumvented through increased access to social services. I am passionate about reentry for the formerly incarcerated, and while I believe in justice, there are far too many prisoners in the United States. You may can tell, I get excited about the social causes and the nature of crime. It's not something I expected to go into when I applied for admission at Athens State University when I was 30 years of age. I am majoring in accounting with a minor in forensic accounting, but I'm also planning on taking some criminal justice courses. I'm in the process of deciding how far my education will go. I may very well choose to focus on criminology for my master's degree. But first, I am anticipating a need for scholarships and financial support in order to finish my bachelor's degree. While I am planning on finishing in the Fall of 2025, this upcoming Spring semester I will be taking 15 credits, in the hope that I can finish faster. Last semester I took 12 credits and managed a 4.0 GPA for the term, while working two jobs. I work part time in a quick service restaurant and I am also the work-study in the Veteran's Affairs and International Students Office at Athens State. Gray and Kris, thank you very much for considering me for your scholarship.
    Redefining Victory Scholarship
    My success is seeing myself fail. Sometimes many times. But I'm looking at those failures from a place of growth. I used to be afraid to fail. The thought of letting myself or others down was a detriment to doing what was necessary for me to improve. I was the good kid, did my homework, went to school, took my vitamins... but where I ended up was a hideous place. I was a college dropout without a clue, drinking too much and wanting my own adventure. I decided to whisk away and try my luck. I ended up moving to a broken down trailer in a broken down trailer park, in rural Alabama. No money, no food, no job. I ended up hustling for most of that time every night in the bars of Decatur, Alabama. I was an alcoholic at this point and could just about get anyone in the bar to get me a drink. Me and my partner helped run a karaoke show part time, but really it was just an excuse to get drunk every night on cheap whiskey. When we started dealing it got a little more complicated. We started smoking meth, and we sold what we smoked. In other words, we started dealing solely to finance our own drug addictions. My partner was in trouble with the law and that high life came to a screeching halt when the bail bondsman showed up. Nothing good ever happens when the bail bondsman comes. It was the day he was taken to jail for an unrelated trouble, but suddenly it left me all alone. I quit meth for the first time that night, but continued to drink. I cut grass for the landlady and worked part time at Dollar General, when I could pass a drug test. I lived in that dirty white trailer parked next to a cornfield. And when I say trailer, it was a metal box. A FEMA trailer, from when the tornadoes had ripped through years before I got there. I was surviving. What really drove me into the city of Athens was the fact that one night I fell through my bathroom floor. My landlady turned off my utilities and that was that, I had to go. I ended up moving to the old dormitories of Athens State University, where I still live. In a stroke of luck I got a local full time job and started making real money. I had recently been diagnosed with delusional disorder, and my new psychiatry team asked if I wanted to stop drinking. I took a pill called naltrexone for about a month and ended up quitting after 9 years of alcoholism. Since we were adjusting my medications, we decided to give Wellbutrin a try for my antidepressant. This drug triggered my withdrawals. I relapsed back to methamphetamine, right after reaching sobriety. It took me a good year and a half but I ended up quitting cold turkey again. Now, you may be asking yourself why I chose this story as a demonstration of success. It's because so many of us have stories of failure that we try to hide from each other, when in reality it's the stories of struggle and hardship that make us better people in the end. Success, to me, is looking back on life and knowing you ended up going in the right direction. Life has led me on a ten year detour. But I'm back at it again. The old dormitory I moved into ended up being the reason I finally was able to go back to school. I now walk about five minutes to get to campus. I am entering my third semester at Athens State. I earned a 3.75 GPA my first semester, a 4.0 GPA my second semester, and this Spring semester I am taking five courses. I am studying forensic accounting, which I am in love with. To me, this is success. Picking up the pieces and always moving forward. The opportunity to fund my education with this scholarship has the potential to change my life even more. Earning my bachelor's degree is just the beginning. Thank you.
    Lost Dreams Awaken Scholarship
    Recovery is a constant struggle. But not in that tired, weary way of things. It's a struggle because substance use disorder (SUD) will always be with you. It never really occurred to me as a lifelong illness until one day my LPN had a student with her at the psychiatrist's office. She referred to me as having depression, delusional disorder, and get this, substance use disorder. Having it said out loud is a whole different experience. I had messed around with drugs for awhile, been an alcoholic for a good 9 years or so, but it just never clicked. I will always have an urge to get intoxicated. That's for life. But recovery is possible. Sometimes it really takes just talking to someone about what's going on, other times you need medicine to take. The most important thing is to be honest with your healthcare provider. And first and foremost, have one. There will be some missteps in your journey to recovery. A few years ago I had changed antidepressants. I started taking Wellbutrin. That started a whole year of relapse: in cocaine and methamphetamine users who haven't used in longer than a month, Wellbutrin triggers cravings. It's chemical structure is very similar to amphetamines. But you know how it ended? I opened up to both my provider and partner, and through being open and honest about my mental health, I was able to feel so much relief just from not having to hide anymore. I'm celebrating sobriety, again.
    PRIDE in Education Award
    I come from a modest, Christian home, and attended a predominantly Dutch church my whole childhood. Coming out was a mind-numbingly slow process. My culture doesn't discuss family in public. God forbid, talk about sex. So when I tell people I am a gay Christian, it raises a few eyebrows. When I'm visiting church back home in Washington State, or just mentioning it here in Northern Alabama where I now live, some people just don't understand how the two can be compatible. Well, it seems quite normal to me. I've had to figure it out since I was in grade school, though! My mom and dad divorced when I was 3. Which is probably a reason I ended up in Alabama. How? Well, my dad is a redneck and my mom is the daughter of a pastor. At my dad's farm, I learned to shoot, bale hay, and drive a tractor. In my mom's housing development, on the other hand, we learned social skills and how to sled down the hills of the golf course without being caught. Alabama just seemed a natural progression. I haven't always been on top of things. I just finished my second semester at Athens State University, in Athens, Alabama. At the age of 30, I returned to school to earn my degree. But for the last 10 years of my life, I've hustled to survive. I've worked part-time in retail, drank every night, and I can tell you I can live off of twenty dollars a week if I had to. I would prefer not to these days. I'd like to say I've been there and done that. Got the T-shirt, too. That period of my life changed me from being a lackadaisical youngster into a grizzled man. You see, I had moved to Alabama to be with my partner. I had struck out and wanted my own adventure. When he went to prison I spiraled down and drank more, did some drugs, was desperately in debt, and eventually ended up on the proverbial psychiatrist's couch. Diagnosed with delusional disorder. Now, it wasn't exactly in that order, but you get the idea. My life turned around when I read Suze Orman's book, "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke." I didn't know who Suze was, other than someone who gave financial advice. I didn't even know she was gay. But I have to say that book completely changed me. I embarked on a journey of discovering who I was meant to be. I got out of debt, got sober, and started saving my money. I became fascinated with financial well-being. I knew helping people in a financial sense had the power to change lives, including my own. As it happened, I had moved into the old college dorm rooms of Athens State along the way, so I applied for the accounting program there. It's nothing like I expected. I'm bad at math. But as for the ethics involved, I am excelling in that area. It takes me a little time to understand the concepts in each chapter. But when it clicks, I've got it. I intend to work with people who are in the situation that I used to be in. The people who get passed over and forgotten about. I owe it all to Miss Suze. I am now pursuing forensic accounting as a profession. I just finished this term with a 4.0. My cumulative GPA is nothing special, as I've attended college before, but my institutional GPA is 3.875. I intend to keep it that way, God willing.
    Windward Spirit Scholarship
    I believe most of your applicants will choose to agree with the Ode, as it may seem to be in their best interests. I also believe most applicants won't have looked up who R. Buckminster Fuller was! Your Ode has reminded me of the potential that this generation has. But, in the spirit of doing more with less, let's get started. It took me some time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I am 30 years old, and I am returning to school to pursue my Bachelor's degree. I am majoring in accounting and minoring in forensic accounting. I also have delusional disorder, a paranoia disorder. Like many young men in their twenties, I struck out a few times. I was briefly homeless, an alcoholic for many years, and meddled with drugs. During the last several years I made connections with drug addicts, the homeless, and people like myself who were just beaten down by life. When you travel on a bike at night, even in this little town in Alabama, you can meet a lot of characters. You learn that the system we're born into isn't fair, and not everyone can get out of a bad situation through sheer force of will. I know that I got out because I was lucky. I discovered the world of finance. The main reason I am going into forensic accounting is because finance saved me from a life on the streets. I read a book by Suze Orman, "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke," and it changed my life. I was on meth, working 50-hour weeks, and scraping by. But when Suze broke it down for me in that book, I learned what I needed to do to get out of my situation. I started paying down my debt, one of the most debilitating obstacles anyone can face. I managed to save for an electric bicycle to ride to and from work, even. Then I listened to Suze's podcasts, in which she says repeatedly, "If you don't like what you're doing, then why are you doing it?" I knew that I could quit the drugs then. It took me some time, but I got out of the game. When I did get sober, in January of this year, I decided to apply to my local university and got admitted. I knew that what I wanted to do was help people get out of their bad situations, too. I started taking accounting classes because I wanted a strong foundation in finance, something I could build off. And, as I've mentioned earlier, I've decided I'm going into forensic accounting. It's truly a passion of mine. So, although we probably won't meet sailing in Orange County aboard the Windward Spirit, and I may never meet your secretary Bruce, or your CPA, Charles, Jr. I'd like to wish you all the luck in the world, Mr. Meyer, because I believe in the concept of original goodness, too.
    Trudgers Fund
    I got good with money when I was an addict. You'd think it would be the opposite, but it wasn't. It's the main reason I'm majoring in accounting. It's also part of the reason I got sober. I had been an alcoholic for quite some time before I tried smoking methamphetamine after a night on the town with some friends. I was ignorant of drugs. I had the proper sit-down with my father in high school, warning me about addiction and getting involved with the wrong people. But I guess it never went further than that. Nothing could have prepared me for the endorphin rush when you flick the lighter and roll the bowl. It thankfully ended rather soon, the first time. My boyfriend lost his battle with the law and went to jail, and I got so paranoid I just couldn't do it anymore. We had just bought a gram, and I flushed it down the toilet. But still, that feeling will always stay with me. They say once an addict always an addict. I found out years later, it was true. I went back to drinking and was later diagnosed with delusional disorder. I was drinking two to three bottles of wine a night. One day at my appointment my psychiatrist asked if I wanted to try quitting drinking. At this point I wanted to, so I was prescribed naltrexone. Which helped me quit drinking within the month. We also changed my anti-depressant to Wellbutrin. Big mistake. In persons with former cocaine and/or methamphetamine use, Wellbutrin triggers withdrawal symptoms. I didn't know, of course, and neither did my nurse practitioner, that this anti-depressant had a very similar structure to amphetamines. I started talking about the times I used to have when I was using. I couldn't put my finger on why it had crept back into my thoughts, but there it was. I had a friend from work stop by later that week, and I had officially relapsed. During my time revisiting the drug, I became extremely paranoid. As you may expect, this compounded with my delusional disorder in a way that was frightening to me. I was obsessed with being quiet. My TV volume was so low I couldn't even hear it, I had to put on captions. I was afraid people were listening at my door. I bought candles so I could have a steady ignition source for my lighter. The flicking of the lighter was too loud, and I was afraid they would hear it. It was at that point I started running out of money, but not in that typical drug addict way. I would always have enough product, I would just run out of cigarettes or grocery money. So I decided to buy a book by Suze Orman, and let me tell you, that book changed my life. Not only did I learn how to spend my money on needs and not wants, I learned how to overcome my fears of money. I paid down my debt and started saving money. In about 6 months I had paid down $6,000 in debt and saved $5,000. While working at Burger King. While on meth. I quit meth in January of this year. It's the first time I've been fully sober in probably 9 years. The reason I'm going into accounting is to get a good grasp on finance. Personal finance changed my life. I hope to one day tell my story and help others get out of addiction, with the help of basic financial literacy.
    Trever David Clark Memorial Scholarship
    When I was diagnosed with delusional disorder, I had never even heard the term before. I was expecting the diagnosis to be schizophrenia. I guess that was part of my delusion. I knew I had something and the only thought I could come up with was that it was schizophrenia. That's pretty much the hallmark of delusional disorder, though. I had something unexplained going on and I had to come up with an explanation for it. It makes some people irritated. "Why do you always have an explanation?" That's my favorite. Well, you see, I just can't help it. It doesn't matter what it is, I just always come up with an answer. I think it's logical to come to conclusions. The only difference with my line of thinking is that there's no middle part to it. There's a beginning and an end. The details can just be made up. There's some jest in that. But, really, there's more than one way to skin a cat. When I was diagnosed, my partner had been in prison for some time already. It was hard to explain it when he asked what I had. All I knew was that I was paranoid. People seemed to be talking about me. If someone looked my way, it wasn't because they were just looking around, it was because they were thinking something about me. Coming to conclusions about me when they didn't even know me. Being in crowded areas is the worst part. Eye contact just confirmed my fears. I think the main reason I'm going back to school is not just to earn a decent wage, but to be able to work someplace I don't have to worry about everyone. Put me in a cubicle with no windows and I'm in heaven. It's not that I'm antisocial, I just don't like people. Okay, now, that really was a joke. But I'm great with numbers. I can see patterns quite easily. So I made up my mind to go back to school to earn my Bachelor's in accounting, with a minor in forensic accounting. Becoming a forensic accountant balances my love of numbers with my innate need to form conclusions. You'd think to yourself, "Okay, but if you're paranoid wouldn't that mean you'd just jump to the wrong conclusions all the time?" I'm not so certain I would. The one thing I love about numbers is that they never lie. If the numbers don't add up, you need to figure out why. That's what I find so fascinating about forensic accounting. My psychiatrist and I work well together, though, and I'm really glad I found a source of help when I did. I suppose it's evident that my disorder has given me a bit of anxiety. I suppose it's come out over the years. That's the thing about mental health: your needs will change. It's important for others who suffer from mental illness to know that treatment is taken one day at a time. Always be honest about your symptoms. Never be afraid to say when something isn't working right. And never stop working towards your future, because it's worth having.
    Elizabeth Schalk Memorial Scholarship
    Hello, my name is Michael Jacobson, and I suffer from delusional disorder. I am an accounting major at Athens State University, in Athens, Alabama. My hope is to one day go into forensic accounting. Delusions can be part of many other disorders, however delusional disorder itself is quite rare. My delusions are mostly persecutory in nature, meaning I often think people are working against me, or talking about me behind my back. I confuse reality with explanations I make up to justify a cause or action. I say "make up", but really I mean I try my hardest to understand the reasons behind someone's perceived slight. If I don't understand something I know there must be a reason behind it... well, see? Sometimes there isn't a reason behind things. But I always think there is. It's just my way of trying to understand things I can't explain, and that can be annoying or even problematic for some people. (Classic persecutory delusion. Sorry.) What makes me unique, I guess, is that I am aware of my delusions. It affects the way I walk, talk, and stand. For example, in line at the grocery store. You'll see me either staring at the floor waiting to check out in line, or glancing around while trying to avoid eye contact. My biggest problem is that when I hear people talking at a distance, I immediately think they're talking about me. They could be in the opposite aisle, they may not have even seen me, it doesn't matter. If I hear someone's voice and can't distinctly make the words out, my paranoia overtakes me. There's a line from one of my favorite TV shows, Covert Affairs, "We're taught to walk up to that line, but never to cross it." That "line" is paranoia. It's been a very accurate quote as to what I don't do. I am constantly crossing that line. It's treatable, but I've experienced many years of trying to find the right medications. The trick is to stick at it. Most people don't think about mental illness that way. They think if you go and get treatment the first time, the first thing you're prescribed is going to work. And that's simply not the case. Some things work well for a month, three months, maybe a year. But your needs change and it can get pretty frustrating. That's why I think people with mental illnesses sometimes refuse to get treatment. It's a constant reminder of not being normal. And when you fall off the wagon and stop taking your medication, it compounds the problem. You're aware you need treatment so you try your best to act like anybody else in the room, but when you know you're finally alone, you long to experience what reality is in your own conception. I think that's a big reason I've never gone off my medications since being diagnosed. The thought is intoxicating. My hope for this narrative is that someone finds it useful for understanding people who suffer from mental illness. It may even be that ah-ha moment for someone. In the least, it provides a primary source example of how somebody with delusional disorder perceives mental illness. And since less than 0.1% of the population has delusional disorder, I thought adding my voice to the conversation would be beneficial to someone trying to understand. References:
    Friends of Ohm Labs Scholarship
    Looking at me today, you probably couldn't tell I've experienced homelessness before. I've been thousands of dollars in debt. I had only a part-time job and was drinking two bottles of wine a night. Or more. I was making about $130 a week. My rent was $75 a week. I had never felt the pangs of hunger before. But I surely know of them now. I was living in a run-down trailer. And when I say trailer, it was a metal box. A FEMA trailer perched next to a cornfield, in the sweltering heat of an Alabama summer, I nearly roasted alive. It was ultimately my choices that led me there, but experiencing that kind of struggle was a powerful force in my life. I needed to get out. For the most part, I wasn't prepared for it. In a fluke set of circumstances, I ended up having to move. The floor of my trailer collapsed while I was stumbling through the dark one night. My landlady was mad at me: She couldn't afford to fix it. She turned off my utilities the next day. I met with someone the next day about renting an old dorm room, and I got it. For $250 a month, I would have my place to lay my head. That change of location prompted me to get a new job. I resisted it fiercely. A full-time job at a fast-food restaurant was what I got. And let me tell you. I had never known money like that in my life. I was making $1,300 every two weeks. I was making the big bucks. I was the slowest sandwich-maker there ever was but I was making money. I learned an important lesson that first year: If you can work, you'd better be working. I got sober. I paid off $6,000 in debt and saved money. Much of that $6,000 was student loans I had defaulted on. I'm so proud of myself for paying it off, if I'm allowed to say that. A major change was coming and I suppose you know what that change was. I applied for admission to Athens State University and got accepted. I started working towards my Bachelor's in Accounting. And the best part was, the dorm room I was renting used to be a part of the school I now attend. I'm applying for this scholarship because I have since quit that big-money job in fast food. I am a full-time student now and currently am a work-study for the Office of Veteran's Affairs and International Students at my university. I've lived off of much less before, but I'd rather not go back to that. My dream is to get my degree and become a forensic accountant. It's just a small dream, but it would open up so many possibilities. I would be able to earn a living wage, be able to support myself, and give back to my community. I want to work for law enforcement entities uncovering financial fraud and embezzlement. I admittedly have an understanding of the criminal world and can see patterns in numbers exceptionally well. I think my history as well as my devotion to the profession of forensic accounting could be a real benefit to society. I don't see the world in black and white. I question everything. And most importantly, I look for evidence to back up my claims. I love the idea that some of the most powerful men in modern history have been brought down by an accountant.
    Chadwick D. McNab Memorial Scholarship
    A project I'm currently working on discusses applications of AI in the accounting field. In addition, it encourages auditing AI for ethics violations and bias. AI has the advantage of sorting through data at break-neck speeds, making fewer errors, marketing can be targeted toward individuals, and it can even assist law enforcement. However, in all its well-intentioned ways of assisting people to make decisions easier, we can forget that AI is developed by the race of men. Even more worrying, this technology has been developed by only a handful of people. Predominantly affluent white men. The strange thing is, as sociologists watch, the developers of AI have 'discovered' that social inequality is real (Artificial Intelligence, 2022). Source datasets can be severely lacking in diversity. For example, some facial recognition models produce false positives, the likelihood of which is "over 100 times higher for Black and Asian faces as for White faces" (McLaughlin & Castro, 2020, as cited in Landers & Behrend, 2023). In my project, I argue for firms to seize the opportunity to audit AI. Indeed, many companies have arisen to try and do just that. Yet, we need a cross-disciplinary approach to doing this. Sociologists, accountants, linguists, and psychologists all can help in auditing AI in an ethical and unbiased way. The more diverse our datasets and auditors, the better off we are. Developing an imperfect AI is riskier than we know. Now, that being said, I don't want to bash AI too much. In the accounting field, a vast majority of operations can be automated with artificial intelligence. And I will be so grateful to have that technology when I begin my career. While it may destroy some entry-level job opportunities, I see that the more intermediate-level jobs have the most benefits. That, and I'm banking on the emerging field of auditing AI. We may even see a new government agency come from it! Working with technology is very challenging for me. It's like doing a research paper, every new source leads you down a rabbit hole into new possibilities. It makes my head hurt, and yet, I am extremely satisfied with it. Information technology is more than a single subject. It encompasses as many possibilities as there are people in the world, and anyone can make their mark. When I first decided to pursue accounting, I wasn't fully aware of how rooted it was in technology. I thought I was just going into finance. It couldn't have been further from the truth. I'm loving every opportunity I'm given. References: Artificial intelligence, algorithms, and social inequality: Sociological contributions to contemporary debates. (2022). Sociology Compass, 16(3), 1–16. Landers, R. N., & Behrend, T. S. (2023). Auditing the AI auditors: A framework for evaluating fairness and bias in high stakes AI predictive models. American Psychologist, 78(1), 36–49.
    Michael Valdivia Scholarship
    At my lowest point, I was found unconscious on the kitchen floor. My mother thought I was dead. I was cooking a hamburger, sampling the liquors in the kitchen. A swig of brandy here, a shot of vodka there, a pina colada, too. I had just finished my two bottles of wine and wasn’t satisfied. And I was also hungry. I turned the stove off and decided I’d take a nap on the kitchen floor. I woke up to my mom screaming. I’ll never forget that day. Until that point, I had hid my alcoholism rather well. I would keep my bottles in my dresser drawers, my desk, and in my car trunk. When I went out for more alcohol, I would find a public trashcan so my parents wouldn’t find the evidence. I couldn’t get rid of them quickly enough, though. When I moved to Alabama, I left my car in Washington State. My mom later found 93 empty bottles of wine in my car. You’d think to yourself, how could someone hide something like that? I was always a good, quiet child. I was the child of an alcoholic, and he had alcoholic parents, so I should have known better. And I suppose that’s how I got away with it. After that day, I tried so hard to get away from home. I don’t know if I just wanted to drink in peace or I couldn’t live with the shame. I met another alcoholic who knew what I was going through, and I moved to Alabama to live with him. We moved into a FEMA trailer. An “efficiency” trailer. It was in an old trailer park, run down and crawling with rats. We couldn’t afford anything else. We would work lawn care during daylight and run to the ABC store every evening. We’d drink beer while working and whiskey when we arrived home. We’d also wake up to shots of whiskey. Good morning to you, too. Up to this point I wouldn’t say I had much anxiety, but I certainly had depression. I had struck out at school, twice. I had become an alcoholic. I moved away from friends and family for an adventure that didn’t seem to be in my best interest. I lived in a dump and had no real job. I never knew if I was going to have money left over to buy food after most of it was spent on whiskey. My turning point was when my partner lost his battle with the law, and had to turn himself in. He was in jail for a few months, then moved on to prison. He’ll be there for a total of 16 years. I became so distrustful of friends and paranoid of their motives. I was alone and started to question if reality even existed. I started peeking out the windows, covering them with blankets. I would rock back and forth in a ball in the middle of the night, crying. When I went to the psychiatrist, they diagnosed me with delusional disorder. Like schizophrenia, it’s a paranoia disorder. I will walk down the sidewalk to the store, and every car driving by is watching me. Staring at how I walk. Judging me by the clothes I wear. The police station is between my apartment and the gas station. Every time I walk by, they’re outside watching me to make sure I’m sober. Which I am, now. I’m sober since January. And I’m a senior attending Athens State University. I’m on my way now, sharing my story with all who will listen.
    Mental Health Importance Scholarship
    I didn't grow up until I was well out of childhood. It was when I was in my mid-twenties. And it didn't come easily. Before this point in my life, I thought everything was supposed to be easy. If it wasn't easy, it wasn't worth having. I thought that if I was interested in a subject, and it was my passion, I wouldn't have to study or fight through opposition. Out of high school, I worked as a custodian and went on to study linguistics at Western Washington University. It was my passion: languages. Oh, but it was difficult, and as I've expressed previously, that was no good for me. I quickly withdrew from university and attended trade school instead. That would be easier. I finished the program but never did anything after that. In fact, I decided I'd run away a little. I up and left the Pacific Northwest, and I found myself in rural Alabama. I had met someone, and we moved into a FEMA trailer, next to a cornfield, in a dilapidated trailer park. "So what does this all have to do with mental health? Why aren't you answering the prompt?" you may find yourself asking. Easy now, I told you I moved to Alabama. I've acclimated. At this point, I found out life was not supposed to be easy. Not easy at all. And it's when that all hit the proverbial fan, I found myself in a make-it-or-break-it situation. I finally had to grow up. And it was God's plan that I had to do it by myself. I ended up alone in that trailer. That's an essay by itself, but I had no job, no family to turn to, and no education. I was stuck all by my lonesome, save the rats and fleas. That's when my delusional disorder kicked in. The thing is, I always had it. But now, in this predicament, I had started hallucinating. Hearing voices. I was peeking out my broken window at all hours of the day. And it struck me then what my parents had always told me: If something doesn't feel right, it isn't. Get help. That was the blessing of growing up with parents in healthcare. I soon called my mom to talk about my symptoms. And I visited a psychiatrist for my intake. Without much pain or inconvenience, we went through a few scenarios, where I was somewhat quickly diagnosed with the disease. Once we knew what was wrong, we could treat it. And I'm so thankful I went and found help. For me, maintaining mental wellness is a long process. It has taken me many years to find the right combination of prescription drugs that worked for me. I think the problem with not prioritizing your mental health and not seeking treatment soon enough is that you lose that window where you know something is wrong. If you aren't aware that the way you are feeling is not right, how can you know to go get help? And how do you know it's okay to go get that help? After going through this process of treatment, I realized I could take care of myself. I realized that no one said it was ever going to be easy. I soon found myself working full-time. I started to save my money and made some very crucial changes to the way I was living my life. And now I find myself enrolled at Athens State University, working towards my Bachelor's degree. I'm a senior in college. And it's a great thing, that it isn't easy. x Forever 21 Scholarship + Giveaway
    Neal Hartl Memorial Sales/Marketing Scholarship
    As I sit on my twin bed, in my old converted dorm room, in the sweltering Alabama heat of August, I can't begin to describe how lucky I feel. I'm thirty years old, my husband is serving time in prison, and at my peak, I've made 30k a year. Yes, I am lucky. With no trace of irony. It's because all of my mistakes and failed attempts have culminated in me finally going back to college. In two years, I will finally have my Bachelor's degree in accounting. What a milestone that will be. I'm going into the field of business because I can see there are some much-needed services in my community. Having a spouse in the Alabama Department of Corrections gives me a unique perspective on our understaffed, overcrowded, and violent prisons. I had started my education interested in teaching financial literacy to inmates, but since then my interests have shifted a bit. I'm motivated to create a service that pairs accounting professionals with entrepreneurial-minded inmates upon their release from prison. I see business as a win-win situation. Reformed convicts who want to start their own businesses need the skills that an accountant can provide. Not only would high ethical standards ensure accountability to the people of Alabama, but it would help break the cycle of incarceration. A successful business is achieved by having good accounting records. And a successful transition from prison, back into the community, can help change Alabama society. Down the line, I hope to get into the field of forensic accounting. I feel that starting a business that first encourages rehabilitation is necessary for my career path. I want to have some credibility in my vision of reform so that when I find myself in the courtroom giving evidence of fraud, I'm not seen as some kind of person who wants the prison population to grow. Quite the opposite, I want to see Alabama's prison system reformed. As an accounting student, I see only the possibilities. But the first step is obtaining my Bachelor's. I find myself excited for the future. What happens next after graduation? I may go on to get my Master's. I may go straight to auditing. I will have the strength to continue my education amid challenging circumstances. As I have seen in the past, setbacks are just a part of life. In a way, this mindset I have puts me in a perfect position to help inmates transition back into our community.
    Solomon Vann Memorial Scholarship
    I was diagnosed with delusional disorder just a couple of years after my partner was sent to prison. My main focus has been to try and address the prison crisis in the state of Alabama, not only because of the overcrowding, understaffing, and violent conditions of the system, but because of the effect our broken system has on families, friends, and spouses of inmates. The stress of losing someone so close to me, for so long, had taken its toll. Delusional disorder is a paranoia disorder. Many times I walk along the street fearful that people are staring at me. When I stand in the grocery store line, I'm uncomfortable and fidgety. I hear conversations in the distance and think they must be talking about me. In rare cases, I hallucinate people saying the words I'm thinking about. I thankfully have had the determination to stay on my medicine, and it has taken many years to find a combination of prescriptions that work for me. I think that's the first problem with mental health. People think that if you go to a psychiatrist and the first medicine prescribed doesn't work, it means you're a lost cause. You're crazy and can't be fixed. That needs to change. We need to not only say, "It's okay to go get help," but also, "It's going to take you a good while to get to feeling better, so don't give up." As I mentioned before, I believe passionately that the prison system in Alabama needs to be resolved. When there is such overcrowding and understaffing that the federal government has to sue the state, you know it's bad in there. That causes a lot of stress for family members and friends. It was enough to bring my mental illness to a head, where I couldn't ignore it anymore. It changed my life for the better and the worse. I recently heard something called post-traumatic growth. I believe that's what I've gone through. I have ideas about how to solve the prison issue, mostly ideas about releasing inmates who are reformed and ready to start businesses. I would like to see the state sponsor a program where inmates are matched with professional accountants to grow their businesses when they are released and provide some comfort to the residents of Alabama so that they know the business is legal and legitimate. I believe good accountancy makes businesses successful. It would be an ethical way to monitor released inmates while also giving that former inmate a competitive advantage in the business world. I believe a big reason why Alabama's mental health is going unchecked is that rather than finding people meaningful help, we are instead subjecting people to unfair sentences just to get rid of the "problem". This has a profound effect on the mental health of Alabamians. It is in part why I am pursuing my Bachelor's in accounting.
    Accounting for Change Scholarship
    What do inmates of the Alabama Department of Corrections need upon their release from prison? Accountability. How can this be achieved? Accounting. Alabama is given the hard task of not only managing its overcrowded prison system, but also managing how these rehabilitated inmates return to society. The ALDOC limps from crisis to crisis, always promising to reform but never managing to appease anyone. From concerned citizens of Alabama, to the federal government suing Alabama state, it's a ticking time bomb. But I believe the solution lies in partnering entrepreneurial-minded prisoners with certified professional accountants. Inmates are extremely good salesmen. To survive inside, you need to hustle and you need to understand barter systems. The problem with an inmate's return to the outside lies in the fact that the barter system just won't cut it anymore. From complex tax laws to maintaining inventory, accountancy has the potential to bridge the gap. Every businessman needs an accountant to back him up. I believe that reformed inmates looking to start their businesses should be partnered with accountants in a state-sponsored program. This would alleviate citizen concerns that inmates were going into business to commit fraud or other crimes. It would also help the state of Alabama to get out of its lawsuit with the federal government. I'm concerned about this issue not just because of the mass incarceration happening in my state, but because my partner is also an inmate of the ALDOC. I would love to formulate a plan that would not only get him out sooner as an inmate but also because I believe many in the prison system are unfairly sentenced to longer than usual punishments. My concern is for the friends and family of inmates affected by this systemic trauma in Alabama, not just for myself. I hope that earning my Bachelor's in accounting opens many doors for me to pursue this goal. I am fairly inexperienced, as this is only my second semester in the accounting program. But I am passionate about finding a solution. I know more research needs to be done and I won't mind doing it. Accountancy means being ethical. It means you can track and report with confidence. Not only do many inmates need to be released, but there is also going to be a shortage of accountants. This plan may enhance the need for accountants in the state of Alabama as well. If the state won't have a plan, it would be up to me to start an accounting firm that would meet the specific needs of newly released inmates. And to do that, I must first earn my Bachelor's in accounting.
    I Can Do Anything Scholarship
    Doing Everything To Earn Recognition, Maybe I Need an Educational Degree.
    Dr. Alexanderia K. Lane Memorial Scholarship
    Life can throw us a few curveballs, can't it? Some of the most successful people in life have overcome amazing challenges. But they have never come out of it by relying on themselves. In my own life, I have overcome adversity as well. It was through the thoughtful charity of others that I was able to make it through the worst period of my life. I am now on my way to better things. I moved to a small town in Alabama with nothing to my name. No completed education, no meaningful job prospects. I tried the hustle game for many years, never really succeeding. I survived, I just didn't quite thrive. I realize now that there have been many characters along the way who have helped me become a better person, and who have encouraged me. The first character (and she is quite a character) was Patricia Scarbrough. By allowing me to work at her florist shop, cut her grass and trim her bushes, she gave me flexibility in paying my rent. It was $75 a week in the park. I lived in an old FEMA trailer next to a cornfield, infested with rats and fleas. But I am thankful I had a place to lay my head in Tanner, Alabama. Without her charity, of renting to me when she could not afford to, I would be homeless and destitute. The second character I will introduce, Terry Wallace, gave me my first good-paying job. I say that with some irony. I was hired at Burger King in Athens, Alabama. No experience, no interview. When the other managers asked if I had experience in fast food, and I said no, they muttered under their breath, "This'll be fun." But I did well. Eventually. I was drunk most days. But I got sober in time, moved up to management myself, and started working 50-hour weeks. (The money I was referring to was in overtime.) Besides gaining useful management experience, and working long hours with no breaks, I also gained some other skills. I've gained interview skills when the police would arrive, used a fire extinguisher to put out electrical fires, and run a kitchen by myself for many months at the busiest store in the district. Without Terry's faith in me, I would not have been able to earn enough money to support myself. The final character, Miss Billie May, rented me a room in Athens when I moved from Tanner. She sensed I needed a place urgently at the time, and I moved in the next day. Her flexibility and trust in me as a tenant, and as a human being, also changed my life. I have lived here for almost 5 years now. You may ask yourself about this last character, how has that been significant? You see, the rooms that Miss May rents are mostly for people who are low income, or going through hard times like separation and divorce, or for people on social security. But most importantly, when I moved here I did not realize that I would be moving into the old dorm rooms of Athens State University. I live a football field away from the university that I now attend. So why is it important to help others? It's important because you never know what path that person is going to go down. Even though some people may not think I was deserving of charity, or help, whatever we call it, I was given chances by others. If it weren't for the charity of others, I wouldn't be where I am today.
    Bright Lights Scholarship
    Looks can be deceiving. When I moved to Alabama from Western Washington, I ran into some culture shock. For one thing, in Washington, we don't talk about race. When we describe someone, it is the last resort to say someone's color. In Alabama? It is practically the first thing that comes up: "White or Black?" or "Who are your people?" So I'm not going to tread lightly here: I am a white male. And I know that besides that, I can explain to you why I am applying for this scholarship. When I moved to Alabama, it was because I met a wonderful man going through an unfortunate time in his life. We lost our legal battle, and he is now serving 16 years in prison. Shortly after he went to prison, I was diagnosed with a paranoia disorder. Delusional disorder. I had never even heard of it. It's taken me a few years to get my medication worked out, but now that I'm at the right place, I can finally tackle going back to university. So there you have it. The delusional gay spouse of an Alabama inmate is applying for your scholarship. So it remains to be said, what do I plan to do with the scholarship if I were to earn it? First off, no, I would not be sending it to the prison and putting it on Brent's books. I'm going to school for accounting, and I am an ethical person. I work a regular job that covers most of my bills, and any extra money I make I apportion to him. I am applying for scholarships in general because I intend to use as few federal loans as possible to get me through college. I've paid off my first student loans. I intend to borrow as little as possible this time around. And even after completing my Bachelor's degree in 2025, I may go on to do my Master's. That's still on the table. I intend to use this time away from my partner for the better. I'm not going to sit by and dawdle my life away wishing for an easier life. That's just not me anymore. I hope to eventually become a forensic accountant. And if I'm going to be the best forensic accountant out there, I need an education. I hope to get my CFF and CFE after my Bachelor's, and if I need more of an edge to get to where I want to go, I'm going to go after it. I had hoped that along my journey I could help other spouses of inmates achieve financial literacy, as finding it myself has cleared a weight off my partner's mind. Or once I graduate, open up a firm that helps released inmates start businesses with the help of certified professional accountants. I do believe strong accounting skills are the key to success in business and many inmates have not been afforded financial education. It may not be practical to just teach financial literacy, but rather give them a head start as they come back to the outside world after serving time. I truly believe that many inmates deserve that chance. I believe in the power of rehabilitation. And with Alabama's prison population far surpassing the national average, it's an issue that needs to be addressed. With this scholarship, I may just be getting a chance to improve the lives of others. I may be able to focus more on my studies and ambitions rather than be bogged down by student debt.
    Sola Family Scholarship
    My parents divorced when I was three years old. I grew up going to both parents' houses, but my most vivid memories are with my mother. Even before the age of three, I remember being rocked to sleep in the rocking chair beside my parents' bed after having a nightmare. I don't remember the divorce specifically. But it's made me who I am today. I spent my childhood growing up in a cul-de-sac in the "rich kids" neighborhood of Arlington, Washington. I didn't understand this when my friends would mention it. Me and my three siblings just lived with Mom in a two-story house. One income. That was it. The neighborhood saw many families come and go, and it's funny to me now, writing this essay, how the other kids' parents both worked, yet we were able to keep pace with them. But it wasn't that we made a lot of money. Mom knew when to tell us no. She would tell us we couldn't afford this or that. We bought clothes at the beginning of the school year and new shoes. When the oldest brother got too big for his clothes, they went to the middle brother, then they went to me. I grew up thinking we were poor, and perhaps we were, yet every other kid thought we must be rich. I think that defines my mother pretty well: economical. Born to Dutch parents in Iowa, she was the youngest of seven children. Her mother was a school teacher, and her father was a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. I was also the youngest of four, so I got to have that special connection with her, too. Though I was a mild-mannered kid, I think I got away with a lot. In a way, it circles around that I became a very big saver. And possibly why my interest in accounting is now present. That she was able to support four children -- and not to discount my father, he helped in his own ways -- with her sole income, in the "expensive" neighborhood, is a testament to her financial willpower. She led by example, teaching us thrift and common financial sense. For example, we didn't even have air conditioning until I graduated high school. Of course it was a luxury to have such a thing in Western Washington, but that was the kind of household we grew up in. As I start my second semester at Athens State University, in Alabama, I'm so thankful for my second chances. I've been to school before, but perhaps I was too fresh out of high school the first time. I didn't really appreciate the opportunity I had. When I moved to Alabama I had to start from scratch, just like mom did after the divorce. I struggled as she did at first, I'm sure. But now I'm moving my way up. I'm realizing while writing this essay that she taught me all that I know about finance, even though we almost never talked about money. Maybe not the specifics. But I know from the experience of growing up with a single mother that you must be responsible with your money. Sometimes we need to sacrifice our wants for the sake of our needs. It's that lesson I've come to realize as I've started rebuilding my life in Alabama. Ultimately, she is the reason I'm coming back to school after 10 years. She is the reason I found a passion in finance, and why I am pursuing my Bachelor's in Accounting.
    Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
    In a troubled brain, successes are less than and weaknesses are more than. Delusional Disorder causes the sufferer to believe that seeking help is something that will repel people away from you. It feeds off of the unknown. What if people know I have this disease, then would I be targeted or called out in front of a crowd? Nothing prevents treatment like a paranoia disorder. And paranoid people often refuse to see that their thoughts may be wrong or unfounded. One of the most dangerous ideas these days is that if you admit you're wrong, you're weak. In order to save face we must stand by our decisions and choices, even if we look back and see that we're wrong. Mistakes are sources of anxiety when they really shouldn't be. Everybody has them. We praise people who never admit they're wrong. We consider great political figures as bulwarks if they stand by their principles, even if it's unpopular. Sometimes this may be true. But for the most part, it's not. False confidence repels power. I've found the key to success in my delusions: talk about them to others. In doing so, you open up a conversation filled with shared experiences and memories. I can encourage others to see a psychiatrist, as I did, and to get medication to prevent those feelings of inadequacy. When you realize something is wrong, you shouldn't ignore it. Address it. The more I open up about my symptoms to others, the less alienated I feel. With treatment, I have found a life worth living. I am going back to school against all odds, and refuse to be a statistic. I know I can make a life worth living now. It's hard to get to that point in treatment. I know this. If you start your journey today, don't tell others you've made it to your destination already. It's going to be a long road. Whether it's made of dirt or paved with stone doesn't matter. If you're on the dirt road, so what if it rains and gets muddy? Pull your boots on. Even the road made of stone gets slippery when wet. Whichever path you take, you're going to weather the elements. But do me one favor, please. Don't ever think you're weak if you know something isn't going right in your mind. Open up and talk to someone about it. It's the first step in a happy life.
    Elizabeth Schalk Memorial Scholarship
    I attempted college twice before. I never really understood why I kept leaving until I started writing about it. I was diagnosed with delusional disorder at about age 25. I'm 30 years old now, and with those previous attempts, I never could explain why I ended up leaving. Now that my medication is consistent, I have a newfound energy and sense of determination to keep going. Delusional disorder is a paranoia disorder, similar to schizophrenia but with no other psychosis other than delusions. For example, I often misinterpret how people speak. I will be thinking of something while at the grocery store and I hear words in passing conversations related to what I'm looking for. Most people would think, "Oh, they must need bread too." But not me. I would think that they are talking about bread because I must have said it out loud -- and not noticed I did -- and that they were talking about why I needed to get bread or talking about why did I just say bread to them. It's a silly thing really, but my level of nervousness varies. If I think about expletives or gruesome things, and someone turns to look at me, I'm filled with panic because they must know I just thought about this horrible thing and they're going to judge me for it. Another example is that if I hear yelling outside my window, I immediately think that they must be arguing about me. Or, if I hear voices in the hallway outside my apartment, they are whispering about how strange they think I am. Which could be very true. But the point is that my delusions are mostly non-bizarre. Now, the first time I went to university was the Fall after I graduated high school in 2011. I mostly didn't know what I wanted to do. But a lot of it was because I was so afraid and paranoid that none of my new friends liked me. I kept switching groups of friends. One quarter I had these friends, the next quarter I thought they didn't like me, then I found new people, etc. I was terribly lonely and didn't have a support system I could trust. The second time, I went to trade school which I really enjoyed. The same group of people were in the same class all the way through. I didn't have to juggle groups of friends because the people stayed the same. The very last week of class I didn't have the gas money to get there. I was too nervous to ask my mom. I just didn't show up to class. I never emailed, I never called, and I never went back. I just ghosted. I was terrified I was going to get reprimanded or embarrassed. But now I know, years later, that it was because of my delusional disorder that I couldn't finish. I'm not a procrastinator anymore, and ever since I sought treatment for this disease I had never even heard about, I'm feeling so much more confident in myself. I have tackled the world of personal finance in the last couple of years, and I truly have found another passion of mine. It's why I am now going back to school to pursue my BS in Accounting at Athens State University. I want a solid foundation, and a degree to make myself credible. Finance is the field I want to go into. One of Athens State University's slogans is: "It's not how you start, but how you finish." I can't agree with this more.
    Students Impacted by Incarceration Scholarship
    I still remember when the bail bondsman came. They say nothing good happens when he shows up. Time had run out and it was time for Brent to turn himself in. I remember Brent tried to run. He hopped from foot to foot, almost like dancing. Like a pole vaulter, he took off. I had to scream at him to stop. That day used to make me feel so guilty. Why didn't we just run? Why did I stop us? But over the years, I have had time to think. It was the right decision. You can't spend your life on the run. Even if it's hard, even if you don't want to do it, even if it doesn't make you feel good... sometimes you just have to face the fact that it's happening. The first couple of years were the hardest. I went through every stage of grief. I had suffered a significant loss after all, and it had to take time to accept it. The stress of it all brought out my delusional disorder, which I was diagnosed with a couple of years after it all happened. It got to the point where I just couldn't trust anyone; paranoia gripped me fiercely. I am determined now to not let this opportunity pass me by. I'm not going to play the victim. I have several years to set up a life that both Brent and I can love to live. I have paid down the debt which plagued us. I have started saving for our future when before we could only live paycheck to paycheck. I have decided that while I have time to do it, I will return to school and earn a degree. I don't want to spend the rest of these years patiently waiting for change to happen. Time waits for no one. Brent has already been taking classes at the prison. He graduated Phi Theta Kappa himself. Now it's my turn to get back into it. I am pursuing my accounting degree at Athens State University now, starting in the summer of 2023. I hope to use this degree to give me credibility as I begin my work with other families who have experienced incarceration. I want to help people who have faced similar situations gain financial peace, as I did. When you have a loved one in prison, the last thing you should have to worry about is money.
    NE1 NE-Dream Scholarship
    When I moved from Washington state to Alabama, it goes without saying there was a culture shock. I met a guy and fell in love. What more could I say? I was ready for an adventure and here was my chance. I've been with him for 7 years, but it hasn't always been easy. We both knew the legal trouble he was in, perhaps he knew it better. After 2 or 3 years, Brent went to prison. It left me alone in our efficiency trailer, parked out by a cornfield in a rundown trailer park. I went through every stage of grief and then some. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with delusional disorder. The paranoia was getting too hard to bear. Now I have a decent job and made it out of that trailer park, my finances are finally in order and I'm returning to school. I no longer want to just be patiently waiting, I want to use my time effectively to build our future now. I am saving and investing, raising my FICO score, you name it. Anything I can to get a leg up. I will start working towards my BS in Accounting this Summer 2023. My dream is to help people who had to go through what I did. When your loved one goes to prison, there is enough to worry about. Money shouldn't be something that adds to the burden. I want to work with other spouses of inmates so they can be financially sound during this hard time as well. When I finally got everything in order financially, it completely changed the dynamic of our phone calls, letters, and visits. There is enough for Brent to worry about besides asking me if I have enough food to last until the next paycheck. Or if I would be able to pay rent. Or any number of things related to money. With my BS in Accounting, I can enter the world of finance and become credible enough to offer my ideas and strategies on how to become financially stable. With my experience, I can relate to this group of people in a way that is compassionate and understanding as well. Furthermore, this is a group of people that often get passed over. I truly want to make a difference in the mental health of families and inmates by finding financial security. I don't want to see these families just survive, I want to see them thrive. I believe I have the experience. I just need the education to get there.
    Elevate Mental Health Awareness Scholarship
    I was diagnosed with delusional disorder in my twenties. Most people have never heard of it. And I can say I honestly hadn't heard of it either until I knew I had to get help and sought the care of a psychiatrist. I was so sure I must have been schizophrenic, but the difference between the two is that there are no other psychotic symptoms besides delusions. It's a condition that largely goes undiagnosed, or even misdiagnosed as anxiety and/or depression. Usually, it gets diagnosed when people are in their 40s. My common symptoms are feeling like people are disingenuous. They are my friend for a purpose, and I don't know what that purpose is. When I think of certain thoughts in public, I am worried other people know what I'm thinking. Even worse, when I hear a stranger's conversation mentioning a word I have just thought of, I get very nervous. Coworkers laughing at a private joke and then glancing at me, I am mortified because what if I'm the butt of their joke? It can be an embarrassing thing to talk about because we with delusional disorder usually know that our thoughts are incorrect. But at the moment they seem perfectly rational. When we reflect on them, it seems like we would come off as stupid or easily angered. And those are feelings that we can't explain anymore. But even with this disorder, there are treatments. I take antipsychotics that also treat schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. It has taken me a few years to get the right medicine, as my condition changes over time. I am settling into my next combination of medicines. I am quite positive when I go back to my psych office next month, we will stick with this. It has particularly been hard on my spouse, who is currently in prison. He feels he should be here providing some normalcy in my life during my treatment. He was always a protector. Oddly, I'm thankful for these circumstances. Not saying he deserves his sentence, but that's another essay to write. What I mean by that is that with him gone I have had to face the challenges of a diagnosis, I have had to become financially independent, and I have had to overcome my addictions. I don't believe I would have become a strong person or a responsible one if he hadn't been taken away from me. I went through all stages of grief. But I have overcome these obstacles. Now I find myself with plenty of time, and I don't want to waste it. Going back to school is my plan because I have the time to do it now. I have paid off all previous student debt, so I can borrow once more from the federal government. I am so thankful for getting treatment for delusional disorder because it was a significant reason why I could not finish school the first few tries. Now looking back, I should have sensed something earlier, but I can't beat myself up about it. With my newfound determination and confidence in myself, I hope to earn my BS in Accounting. From there, I want to coach people with their finances. Whether they are homeless and struggling with mental illness or a spouse of someone in the prison system. I know I can be there for these two groups of people because I have experienced it myself. I just need to get the education to do it. That's why I am applying for your scholarship.
    Robert F. Lawson Fund for Careers that Care
    While going into finance is not generally thought of as a particularly giving field, the area I want to enter is. Becoming a financial advisor or financial coach is where I want to end up. I would ultimately love to be able to help the homeless in my community, and the spouses of inmates in Alabama's correctional facilities with financial matters. Whether this means I will be starting a nonprofit or a business depends on my exact path in the world of finance. I intend to get started by earning my BS in Accounting at Athens State University. The obvious catch is that first I have to be connected in those communities already. Well, you see, I have connected already. Having a spouse in the prison system who oversees the affairs in the Honor Dorm is a major plus. In addition to that, I am well acquainted with many in the homeless community of Athens. We often give out meals in exchange for sweeping our parking lot. I have helped beyond that even if it only meant buying drinks during the summer months of Alabama or offering a cigarette. I would like to begin volunteering with the homeless in my community as a starting point. From there I can gain real-world experiences that directly correlate to their needs. My role model is Suze Orman. Without her, I would still be young, fabulous, and broke. But her no-nonsense approach to finance and generous spirit influence me to follow in her footsteps. I followed her step by step and found financial independence. From living paycheck to paycheck to being able to save for retirement at the age of 30, I owe her a great deal. I am reading my third book of hers, and I listen to her podcast twice a week (as well as working my way through previous years' podcasts). She makes the point that you can meet your financial goals if you get a reality check. Stop buying wants and focus on needs. Sure, it makes sense when you have a job and a place to call home. But how could this translate to the homeless population? Naturally, I couldn't just start giving out financial advice. There would have to be a program that not only provides a safe place to sleep, eat, and bathe but also teaches financial literacy at the same time. So that while there is a place to stay, there is also a place to learn a new relationship with money. It's a lofty goal. But I believe the two cannot be provided separately. There has to be a seamless integration between handling money and also have resources available for basic human needs. This concept of helping people make their financial future is one of my driving ambitions. I hope to learn as much as I can about finance and find solutions to problems we haven't yet considered.
    JADED Recovery Scholarship
    I was an alcoholic for seven years, and a drug addict for about two years. To say my life has turned around is an understatement. There were good times among the bad, but for the most part, the bad seemed to be stronger rooted. Throughout this time I learned that there is a great deal of fear in changing who you are. The unknowns in life were simply too overwhelming to contemplate. If I hadn't found a psychiatrist when I did, I would be a completely different man. I found out in my mid-twenties that I suffer from delusional disorder. What this means is that I often have unshakeable beliefs that I believe to be rational at the moment, but later I realize they are not. It affects how I walk, talk, eat, sleep, you name it. There's this feeling that there's always an underlying reason why someone says something a certain way. What did you mean by that? Or, What are you really trying to say? It all gets a little jumbled. It isn't a quirky character trait, it's a disease. This being said, I think my life in sobriety now would not have been possible without me having this disorder. Among the doubts and paranoia is the innate ability to change my reality. It's a silly catch-22. My belief that this is a disease of the mind becomes my belief that it saved me from addiction. And it's quite possible that I had to go through this experience to gain an understanding, hands-on, of what addiction really is. To give me empathy and compassion towards a group of people who are so many times passed over. It was my own experiences which helped me learn that there are two sides to every coin. Just because someone is addicted doesn't mean they can't get out. I would like to pursue my BS in Accounting to get into the world of personal finance. It's there that I want to become credible and use my experiences of addiction to help my local community. From the homeless to the other spouses of inmates in Alabama, there are a few niches where I can be of service. I want to advise these groups in financial matters because I have been in their shoes and I have worked hard to establish my own financial peace of mind. It may not seem like a lucrative business, but I am open to even starting a nonprofit for this cause. There are many factors to consider, but it all starts with my education. They say that your twenties are mostly practice. This is something I believe wholeheartedly. As I begin my thirties, I am looking forward to the changes I can make in my community. I now have a life of experiences that make it possible for me to relate to the people that I want to help for the remainder of my life. Let's get to work.
    Paige's Promise Scholarship
    It's hard to see Substance Use Disorder in a new way sometimes. We see people and we call them addicts. We see substances and call them drugs. But what is so difficult to understand is that behind these keywords, there is a person who wants to quit, Opening up about the secret they keep, even if the secret has already been out, is one of the most difficult things to do for an addict. I know from experience. I had been an alcoholic for roughly 7 years, and I was a meth user for about 2 years after that. I was diagnosed with delusional disorder while in my drinking years. A paranoia disorder, this disease causes me to think irrationally and make false connections, and it also affects how I perceive and judge other peoples' actions and words. I may assume there is an underlying meaning to a certain phrase, for instance. (Maybe they said X because they really mean Y?) Or, if I am at the grocery store and hear words that I am self-conscious about, I assume the conversations of strangers are about me. My psychiatrist suggested that I try naltrexone if I was ready to start to quit drinking. I was so tired of feeling sick and being controlled by this addiction, I was ready to start. After about 2 months of taking naltrexone, I quit drinking. Which was quite something for me, I had been drinking an average of two bottles of wine a night for several years. Now with medication, I was able to gradually reduce consumption and I completely lost the joy of drinking. This success came with a slight curveball. It was about this time that we switched my antidepressant to bupropion. I had been honest with my psych office that I had a brief history with methamphetamine for just a few short months before seeing them. But I found out later why I suddenly got the craving for it again after I quit drinking. Bupropion is generic for Wellbutrin. And its chemical structure is very akin to amphetamines. What we didn't know was that by prescribing me bupropion as my new antidepressant, we triggered my relapse. I started to crave meth again and had no idea why. I hid it quite well until I finally decided after a year or so to open up about my new problem. My spouse is in prison, so it was easy to hide it from him. My psychiatrist thought my new medications were working well for me, I was talking more and opening up about my delusions. The major hurdle for me was to talk about it. But I did. I was so ashamed and worried that I would make people not like me. That people would worry about me if I let them know. I made the decision again to quit. So I told the one person who could tell me what to do: my husband. He called one day and I sheepishly told him. He told me, "Put it down. Get rid of it right now. Don't say you're going to do it later, do it now." So I did. How would I educate others about SUD? By telling my story. By not being ashamed to admit I was addicted. By proving to myself and others that I can rise above, go back to school and make a good life for myself. I want to help others recover as well. But first I would like to have this education so that I can become credible. Only then can I begin to work.
    Financial Literacy Importance Scholarship
    As I go back to college at the age of 30, I have a new understanding of how to handle my finances. Would I be able to do this essay if I were 20 years old? Most likely not. I had to admit I had a problem managing my finances and sought the help of Suze Orman. "The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke" changed my life profoundly at the age of 29. I was finally starting to make enough money that I couldn't use salary as an excuse. My money was draining away and I still lived paycheck to paycheck. She says "You can't solve a financial problem with money." Well, isn't that the truth? In my mid-twenties I ended up defaulting on my student loans. I defaulted on two credit cards. In my first year of working in Alabama, I made $13,000. Not where I saw myself just a few years before. But as I considered Suze's words on those pages, gently outlining everything I had to do. I saw sense again. I had never been one to just spend and spend; I grew up as a saver. Yet here I was. Struggling. It was last July that I started getting my act together. I had about 7,000 in debt. Which was not a lot, but I had to get started and pay it all off. I'm happy to say that in January 2023, I was completely debt free. I've got 4,000 in my contributory Roth IRA so far. I am saving for an emergency fund now as well. To save for school this time around, I am applying for scholarships such as this one, I ride an e-bike instead of driving a car, I live in the old dorm rooms of Athens State University (I got accepted into ASU this year), and I live below my means but within my needs. I buy my groceries and use coupons. I feel like I am finally in control of my finances! To me, it's important to find ways to offset the cost of education early on. Too many people leave it all to the loans to cover their costs, but I've already done that once, and I know better now. To be financially responsible you have to plan. You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best. So this is part of my plan now. As a student, it should be equally important to plan your class schedule as well as the cost of that education. And I am doing just that.
    Will Johnson Scholarship
    When we think of a disability, we often assume it can be seen. That isn't the case for me. When I was diagnosed with delusional disorder, I had never even heard of it. It's thought that only about 0.05% to 0.1% of Americans have it. There are many types of delusions, but mine are mostly persecutory. When I go to the grocery store, I may think that security is watching me, making sure I don't steal. When I walk past the police station, I think they must think I'm a drug addict or homeless, just because I'm walking and not driving. At work, if someone laughs and then looks at me, they must be laughing at me because of something I've done. Most people with delusional disorder are either too embarrassed to admit they have a problem, or they believe their delusions are rational. When I went to a psychiatrist I knew there was a problem, though. I called and asked if there was any way I could just get a diagnosis. I thought I was schizophrenic. But delusional disorder is different because there aren't any other psychotic symptoms besides delusions. I often get paranoid with thoughts that are not bizarre, I believe my psychiatrist described it like this, "You don't think that, say, President Trump is coming to get you so you go into the cornfield to meet his helicopter which is coming down from Washington DC to pick you up and take you to meet Donald Trump?" That's not how I think when paranoid. It has caused my previous attempts at college to fail. Before I found treatment, I would get so isolated and fearful that people didn't like me or thought they were working against me. OR they were being my friends just to make fun of me. I was at WWU and ended up withdrawing because I didn't think I belonged there. I didn't think I knew what I was even doing there. Then I attended a trade school, and I ended up not having the gas money for the last week of classes in my last quarter, so I never told anyone. I just never went back to class and thought they must all hate me for doing that. I never reached out to anyone. As I look back now, it seems clear as day. This is my first time describing what happened. I guess I never thought that it was a problem. Everyone had to have thought like this. I've been diagnosed for about 4 years now. And I'm ready to try school again. Ten years later I'm ready to pursue my BS in Accounting. I want to enter the world of finance, which I have become very passionate about. Suze Orman is my idol. I have become debt free and begun saving in many ways, and I would like to be able to help others in my situation as well. I haven't said this yet, but my spouse is in prison. The worry of finances, while you are trying to support someone in the system, is just the worst possible feeling. I hope to open a practice that teaches financial literacy to those who are supporting loved ones in prison. I think the greatest gift to someone on the inside is to eliminate the worry that your loved ones are not able to make it financially. I know from experience that eliminating this stressor does wonders for the inmate. It's why I am dedicated to helping those who are supporting their loved ones in prison.
    Colby R. Eggleston and Kyla Lee Entrepreneurship Award
    When people think of business, the first thing that comes to mind is profit. That's not how I see it. In my mind, it makes far better sense to plan out a business with a different perspective. What problem is facing my community right now? What solution is going to merit a returning client base? Will this work transform the lives of those who do business with me? When established, can the business expand to meet the needs of a greater community? Since discovering Suze Orman last July, my life changed dramatically. The ability to finally manage my money without fearing it brought me to a whole new level of success. I was a financial wreck, struggling to set aside money for important matters like providing financial security for my husband, who is currently in the Alabama prison system. The amount of stress and worry on me about how to provide, and how to save money for our future when he is eventually released, was foremost on my mind. But now I am stable, setting aside the money I never realized I had, and am completely debt free. This change in my life has made me adamant that I need to help other spouses of other inmates pay off debt and save for their future as well. The questions in our phone calls are no longer "Do you have enough food?" or "I am so sorry I put this all on you." They are about what we really need to talk about, without the worry. I would love to be able to start a consulting practice that specifically helps those with loved ones in prison. It would be such a relief for them, as it was for me, to not have to worry about finances in that way. When you're already down, worrying about money is crippling. Couple this with the fact that Alabama prison systems are so strained already with overcrowding and understaffing, this idea could help the prison system swing upward. The fact is most people on the inside worry about money just as much, if not more, than we on the outside. But it gets harder to ask for what you need when you know your loved ones are struggling too. I believe my idea would have a lasting impact on families in Alabama, and improve living conditions in the prisons as well. With more money going to inmates, things can be bought that aren't available through the traditional barter system. Entertainment and phone time are essential for inmates. With more money going to commissary and service providers, the whole system could afford to upgrade. When I personally went through my finances and spending habits, it directly led to an increase in my partner's income. This is what can happen to any spouse of an inmate. And it's why I want to work with this group of people when I start my own business. My first step is to become educated in Accounting, and become credible. Another step is that I will network with those in my circle, or inmates who have loved ones who could benefit from such an idea. But to make it all work, I need this scholarship to help me reduce my cost of education, so I can begin working with the people who need this service the most. Thank you for your consideration.
    Maverick Grill and Saloon Scholarship
    Being the spouse of someone in the prison system is a unique opportunity. For the better part of 16 years, this is my fate. But, it makes us better in the end: the discipline it takes just to survive. Both on the outside and inside. When my partner began his sentence, I went through all stages of grief. I had at first continued to live on as a patiently waiting alcoholic, making minimum wage at a part-time job, and struggling to pay 300 a month in rent. I did odd jobs for my landlady and helped with her florist business. I still lived in the same place even after Brent was taken to jail, then transferred to prison. I lived in an efficiency trailer in a run-down trailer park; most of the trailers were used as storage holding old furniture and appliances. Dirty white exteriors and rusty brown trim dotted this park. There were probably 30 trailers and about 5 of them were useable. When I first arrived there, the rats would race across my feet as I walked around the trailer. Before he left, we could only wash our clothes in the bathtub and hang them outside to dry. When our water heater broke down, we had no money (and neither did the landlady), so we boiled water for our baths. It was the poorest time in my life. Ironically, I ended up moving to the old dorm rooms of Athens State University, in Athens, Alabama. During this time I ended up starting naltrexone, a tablet that I broke in half every night, and almost magically got sober. It took me 7 years but I stopped drinking. Then, I picked up a book by Suze Orman. This was another moment in my life where everything changed. Part of my hopelessness was being several thousand dollars in debt. In July 2022, I started paying off my debt. I had defaulted on two credit cards and my student loans. My FICO score was 530. However, by January 2023, I had made my final payment. I became debt free just a couple of months before now. Experiencing rock bottom, and being in my unique circumstances, I know my heart is telling me to help those who have experienced what I have. Personal finance is my passion, yes, a passion I have finally discovered most strangely. I see how it can change lives, personally. I will soon begin my first summer quarter at Athens State University, pursuing my BS in Accounting. I know with this education I will be able to help other spouses of inmates. My focus is to get the families of inmates out of debt and be able to better provide for their loved ones in the system. I have seen personally that one of the ways to reduce the stress of a loved one who is incarcerated is to become financially stable. Brent would spend so much time worrying about if I had enough money for food, could I afford to put money on his books, or the phone. Now, he doesn't have to worry about me. And I hope to one day reduce this stressor for many other inmates and their families. A degree in Accounting will provide me with the tools and the credibility to do this. That is why I am going back to school, and it is why I am applying for this scholarship. There is nothing more important to me than providing peace of mind to other spouses of inmates, and the inmates themselves.