On December 23, 2011, my middle child, Jenson, took his own life. In the time since that tragedy, my family and I have been on a more difficult journey than I ever could have imagined. In the words of Rene Descartes (1596-1650), “There is nothing as dark as the depth of one’s own child’s grave.” Most people I know want to make a mark on this world… hopefully for the better. If we have children, we want to make a better world for them, and we hope, in part, that they will make a better world for themselves and those who follow behind them as well. My wife and I are no different in this regard, and we have tried to make a better world for those about us, especially our children. So to reconcile a suicide is a difficult and daunting task. At the very least, we want our children’s lives to count for something tangible… a tall order, if not a cliché, considering how needy is this world in which we live.
In memory of Jenson and the many good things that our son accomplished in his all-too-brief 18 years on this globe, I am pleased to announce that a new scholarship has been set up in his name at our local community college where he attended for the last few years of his life. It is known as the Jenson E. Merriam Memorial Scholarship and is intended to aid under-resourced students in earning a college degree. It is available to full-time and part-time students, and there is no minimum grade point requirement to qualify. The Merriam Agency set up and initially funded the scholarship, but it is my hope that others will contribute to it as well so that the principal may be preserved and the interest alone may go toward the scholarship awards. If you would like to contribute toward this goal, in memory of someone who loved those in need, please make your check payable to the Schenectady County Community College, 78 Washington Ave., Schenectady, NY 12305, with the memo section specifying “Jenson Merriam Memorial Scholarship”. You will receive a tax-deductible receipt, but more importantly, you will be helping someone reach their academic dreams and thereby improve their life. Equally important to my family is that your donation will help make my son’s life a greater benefit to the world, something that without you he is no longer able to do for himself.
With all of this in mind…
We are proud to announce the first recipient of the Jenson E. Merriam Memorial Scholarship at Schenectady County Community College (SCCC). The purpose of this scholarship is to provide financial assistance to a student who has demonstrated persistence and the ability to overcome significant obstacles in order to improve their education and themselves. Anastasia Schneider is a single mother with a compelling story of tenacity and determination. She is a lovely, focused and well-spoken young woman who has worked very hard to overcome situations that would have rendered others unable to continue to move forward. One semester away from graduating with her degree as a CNA, she found she was no longer eligible for financial aid as she had reached her “lifetime” limit. An instructor encouraged her to apply for a scholarship, something she had never done. Reluctant to ask for further help, but hopeful that she would be able to afford to complete her course work and finish her last semester, she submitted the paperwork. When told she was the first recipient of this scholarship, she was moved to tears, which further proves the right decision was made in this inaugural selection.