Assessing risk to balance continuing education with caring for family

Being born in Mount Pleasant, Texas, my life did not start off so pleasant. At the age of three, I was labeled mentally challenged. My parents were shocked by this news and tried to figure out what was going on. Instead of accepting my fate, my parents began to work with me non-stop, helping me pronounce certain words, memorizing my multiplication charts, and developing a strong work ethic. Throughout my elementary years, I won multiple awards for academic excellence and attendance.

During high school, I was highly involved in various clubs and activities ranging from Distributive Education Clubs of America and the National Society of High School Scholars to being on the local University Interscholastic League math team, where I received 50 competition medals.

Isaac Burris

Isaac Burris

Even though my academic life was excellent at that time, my life outside of school took a turn for the worse. During my junior year, I was hired as a cashier at a local grocery store. My parents told me that the money that I make would be mine to keep and I would not have to worry about any bills. As I began to make money, I noticed that my parents were not taking their medicine and were extremely stressed out. I asked them what was wrong and they told me that we were in the middle of going through Chapter 13 bankruptcy, a plan for debtors to repay their debt over the course of 3 to 5 years. I was devastated hearing this news but my parents reassured me that I didn’t have to worry about it. I knew that if I didn’t help my parents, the situation would have escalated quickly. I was left with a choice: worry about myself and risk my parents losing their health and our home or help my parents out while neglecting my wants and needs. I decided to give my parents about 80% of my income that I made that year to help them in this dire situation.

This chapter in my life has inspired me to major in Actuarial Science, the study of assessing risks through applied mathematics and statistical methods. I chose this field because I think that regardless of how big or small the choices an individual faces, all of the risks must be known. After I successfully complete my college’s honors program, Honors Northeast, and graduate with my associate’s in Mathematics, I plan to obtain my master’s degree in Actuarial Science. I also plan to create an organization to coach underachieving and overachieving students through school and go on to complete their degree. Even though underachieving students would need the most help, I want to make sure that at the end of the day, everyone understands all of the risks that may be present, regardless of their current position.

The Pearson Scholarship has allowed me to continue to accomplish my dreams debt-free. Having this scholarship has allowed me take on a great leadership role that I had not dreamed of having. I have been able to help other students reach their potential and never give up no matter how large the odds are. When I applied for this scholarship, I thought my chances of winning were very small; however, it has helped me become a fearless leader while also encouraging the people I know.

The value of the Pearson mentorship has been enormous. My mentor, Craig Campanella, has been great in every way that I can imagine. Since day one, he has been an amazing mentor and helped me realize that despite having a very busy life and many successes; I am human and will always be able to improve myself everyday. The value of his mentorship has been incredible and I can honestly say that when I look at myself five to 10 years from now, his guidance and wisdom will have made a huge impact on my life.

Isaac is one of ten recipients of the 2015 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education. Each Pearson Scholar is paired with a Pearson professional mentor who provides support as Scholars progress toward degree completion. Learn more about the Pearson Scholarship here. We are incredibly proud of all the Pearson Scholars. Please check back as we continue to highlight each scholar’s story!