Helping a Local College Student

Every day there are cases of a mother or father that passes before their time — and before they stopped to plan. Often their children are left picking up the pieces, making moving along with their dreams and aspiration a burdensome task.

Since 2007, New York Life has used Life Insurance Awareness Month (LIAM) as a platform to help college students who find themselves in dire straits following the loss of a parent or guardian.

Brittney LaCombe, 21, of St. Petersberg, Fla., visited the New York Life Tampa General Office on July 19, to share her personal story. LaCombe’s story was so moving, Managing Partner Steven J. Kramer and the General Office presented her with a $2,000 scholarship check and chipped in to send LaCombe on a weekend vacation.

Brittney LaCombe Brittney LaCombe
“Brittney is an incredible example of tenacity, humanity, and personal responsibility,” Kramer says. “She has risen above the terrible situation she inherited and is a shining role model for her sisters and others who fall on hard times.”

Growing up, Brittney LaCombe never imagined she’d be parentless at the age of 21. Her mother passed away unexpectedly on May 9, 2011 from a pulmonary embolism leaving LaCombe to care for and raise her two teenage sisters on her own. Although her biological father is still alive, he chose to exclude himself from their lives and future.

“Here I am, exactly that, all on my own,” LaCombe says. “When my mom passed away, I didn't know where to go or what to do."

LaCombe’s mom was unemployed, behind on bills, had no life insurance or savings of any kind. The $300.00 in her bank account was all she left her three children. Within a week of her passing, shut-off notices from the electric and water companies arrived in the mail and the bank called every day looking for a payment on the mortgage. Since LaCombe, a student at the University of South Florida, was only working part time, paying these debts was out of the question.

“Even though I explained my situation, I was told I had only weeks before the house would be foreclosed on and our electricity and water would be cut off, which would leave my sisters and I in unlivable conditions,” she says.

Thanks to the assistance of Catholic Charities and the HUD program, LaCombe and her sisters were able to move into a small two bedroom apartment. This meant packing up and leaving behind the place they called home.

LaCombe now works 40-plus hours a week, attends school full time and keeps up with daily chores. She receives no help towards rent or food assistance, and must borrow from friends and extended family if she falls short on providing for her sisters. “If I have to do without in order for my sisters to have, this is what I am committed to doing,” LaCombe says.

The struggles of the past year have opened LaCombe’s eyes to the important role life insurance plays in the lives of those that are depended on most. “Death is something we tend not to think about and not to prepare for. If my mom had life insurance and made preparations for her death, my life would be completely different,” LaCombe says. “We would still be living in our family home with our pets, and in our same neighborhood we grew up in. I would not have to struggle to provide the basic daily needs others do not think twice about.”

LaCombe’s resolve is an inspiration to us all. It’s something a hero can be proud of — especially her hero: her mom. “I am determined to make my mom proud and be the first in our family to graduate college,” she says. “It is now my responsibility to see that my sisters have as close to a normal life as possible. I am their role model, and our mom is our hero. We are the survivors of the unthinkable and we are going to make it."