New Winners Selected for Second-Career Scholarship from Selected Independent Funeral Homes’ Educational Trust

January 18, 2016
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Recipients demonstrate financial need and true passion for the industry

Veal & Fields HeadshotsDEERFIELD, ILL. — January 14, 2016 — Selected Independent Funeral Homes’ Educational Trust has announced two new recipients of the Second-Career Scholarship in the amount of $1,500 each. The winners are Vandra Michele Fields of New Orleans, LA and James (Kevin) Veal of Queen Creek, AZ. The scholarship was created to meet the educational needs of the increasing number of second-career professionals entering independent funeral service seeking positions as funeral directors and future leaders.

Fields is enrolled in the Funeral Services Education Program at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, LA and Veal attends Mesa Community College’s Mortuary Science Program in Mesa, AZ.  Both are scheduled to graduate in May 2016.

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Fields’ first job was working as an administrative assistant for Gertrude Geddes Willis Insurance Company and Funeral Home, working on the insurance side.  “Even back then, my interest was in the funeral aspect of the business and it was spurred by curiosity,” said Fields.

Later as a member of the Louisiana Army National Guard, she trained as a Mortuary Affairs Specialist (92M) and a Casualty Notification Officer and has now embarked on this journey to become a Funeral Director.  She completed her service practicum at Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion Funeral Home and continues to volunteer there to gain more hands-on experience.

“I assist with funeral services, received training on first calls, merchandising, arrangements and assisting with removals.  These are real experiences you can’t get from a classroom environment or just reading a textbook,” said Fields.

She is motivated by her 7-year-old son and believes she is setting a life example for him.

“No matter how old you are, no matter what setbacks you encounter in life, you should always put God first in everything, continue to move forward and make your dreams your reality,” said Fields.  “My dream is to establish my own funeral home or care center, wherever God leads me.”

James (Kevin) Veal wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.  He just knew he needed a change and was looking for something to suit his personality.  His interest in the funeral profession began in 2007 when he was hired as an apprentice funeral service practitioner and embalmer.

After two and a half years at Andreason’s Cremation and Burial Service, he found what he was looking for.

“I was convinced that this was the career path for me,” said Veal. “It was here that I gained an appreciation and love for learning, the gift of listening and attending to people while making funeral arrangements with them.  I knew this was the direction I wanted to go.”

He moved from Oregon to Arizona to attend Mesa Community College and as they say, the rest is history.

“I cannot emphasize enough my love for this profession,” said Veal.  “This work is not about me, but those whom I will serve.  Those are the words I want to live by.”

Both recipients have demonstrated financial need and outstanding personal references in applying for the scholarship. In order to be eligible, scholarship applicants must not be related to an owner of a funeral firm currently in operation and must be currently enrolled in a full-time Mortuary Science program at an accredited school.

Since the award was first launched in late 2010, the Board of Trustees has awarded 23 scholarships to deserving individuals seeking a career in funeral service.

More information on scholarship parameters, as well as the official application and complete list of previous winners is available at selectedtrust.org/second-career-scholarship.html. 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 at www.selectedtrust.org.

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