Industry News

Students Awarded Second Career Scholarships

Selected Independent Funeral Homes Educational Trust recently awarded the first of its Second-Career Scholarships to three deserving individuals with diverse backgrounds, according to a news release.

The students are all continuing their education to pursue a second career in mortuary science. Each of the winners has transitioned from a career in sales and customer service to the funeral profession based on their passion and personal experience with other caring providers. The award, which is in its fourth year, is designed to provide financial assistance to those wishing to reinvent themselves in pursuit of a career as a funeral director.

James Barnhart of Okeechobee, Fla., is expected to graduate in December from Miami Dade College’s Funeral Service Education Program in Miami. Formerly a licensed insurance agent who began working in preneed sales in 2005 at Buxton and Bass Okeechobee Funeral Home and Crematory in Okeechobee, Barnhart’s role was expanded as his passion for funeral service grew. When it became clear he would serve the firm best as a funeral director, he made the decision to fully pursue the profession and return to school.

“It is a blessing that the Selected Trust offers this scholarship for adults making a midlife career change, as we struggle with the same financial issues as the younger generation who have just graduated high school,” said Barnhart. “To know that I had both a professor and a licensed Funeral Director write letters of recommendation on my behalf and then to be chosen one of three recipients from all submissions is a great honor,” he added. “It will help tremendously toward achieving my goal of becoming a licensed Funeral Director and continuing to work for Buxton and Bass in my hometown.”

Paul Buxton, who submitted a letter in support of his application, referred to Barnhart as a “worthy candidate” for the scholarship and “one of the most inspired individuals I have ever met.”

Kelsey Byers of Indianapolis will complete her studies in August at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis. Byers’ profound firsthand experience – first with a close friend who died tragically in an auto accident as a high school freshman and, more recently, her father’s death – drew her to leave a full-time job as a successful banker and pursue a career as a funeral director. She credits the Selected scholarship as making this dream possible.

“I am honored to be recognized by Selected Independent Funeral Homes and receive its Second Career Scholarship, as I believe funeral directors have a unique opportunity to impact people during the darkest times in their lives,” said Byers. “Receiving this award will allow me to concentrate on my education, and I am grateful to Selected for its help in launching me on the path to a long, successful career in funeral service.”

Since returning to school full-time, Byers has worked part-time at Selected member firm Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Centers in Indianapolis.

Timothy Roberts, a new father from Southgate, Mich., is expected to graduate this year from Wayne State University’s Mortuary Science Program in Detroit. Roberts previously worked in merchandising and sales for two of the major brands in the beverage industry before a personal experience drew him to the funeral profession. When a close family member died in 2011, the services were held at Selected member Uht Funeral Home of Westland, Mich., and performed by a family friend. The care and comfort that was shown convinced Roberts that he wanted to do the same for others and he says that the scholarship will help him to do so.

“I feel very honored to be chosen by Selected for this scholarship,” said Roberts. Making such a drastic career change, combined with all the expenses associated with this decision is very challenging. Through the scholarship Selected gives people a fighting chance and a hope that they are not alone in the pursuit.” He added, “The exposure I will receive by being chosen can provide opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In short, Selected gives people that spark they need to jump start their second career and it makes me eternally grateful.”

Roberts plans to do his practicum over the winter semester at Uht, the same firm that had such an impact on him during his time of loss.

Since late 2010, the Board of Trustees has bestowed 15 Second Career Scholarships (including these three), and increased the number of scholarships to be awarded to up to four $1,500 scholarships each year; normally two in July and two in December. However, based on the numerous applicants in December of 2013, three were chosen. All applications must include at least two letters of recommendation; one from a faculty member of the mortuary science program and the other from an owner of an independent funeral home or current or previous employer.

The official application for upcoming scholarships, as well as the complete list of previous winners and eligibility requirements, is available online here. The Second Career Scholarship is one of several programs of the Selected Educational Trust which was founded by Selected Independent Funeral Homes, a worldwide professional association of independent, locally-owned funeral homes founded in 1917. By creating the program, the Trust hopes to attract and assist future practitioners interested in entering the profession. More information on the Selected Educational Trust and its activities can be found on its website.

Posted Jan. 22, 2014


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