A Modest Commitment With Exponential Results
How a Survivorship Policy Helped One Family Give Back
"We couldn't believe all the opportunities our daughter, Alitzel Villanueva '17, received at Harvard-Westlake," Gabriela Chavira P'17 says. "She was a student ambassador and a leader in HW's feminist group, La Femme. She swam on the swim team. She went to Spain with her Spanish teacher, and thanks to a Harvard-Westlake fellowship, had the opportunity to visit Mexico for the summer to research the experiences of indigenous Mexican girls' identities. We were just so happy with her whole experience, we knew we wanted to give back someday.
"Before she applied, I had no idea what Harvard-Westlake was like other than that I didn't think we could afford it!" Gabriela continues. "I'd heard there was great financial assistance available but thought, 'That's not us; we're middle class.' We were blown away—not only that she was awarded financial assistance, but by the amount she received."
Once Alitzel enrolled, her father, Marvin Villanueva P'17, remembers, "We always participated in fundraising drives for Harvard-Westlake. But as Alitzel headed into her last year there, we wanted to make a really meaningful contribution as a gesture of gratitude from our family."
However, Gabriela says, "We didn't know how. After all, as soon as she finished high school, we had to pay for college."
That's when Marvin came across a life insurance policy called survivorship.
"We already had life insurance for the two of us," he explains, "but this is an additional policy that names Harvard-Westlake as the beneficiary, so when we pass away, the school will receive the insurance money. With our survivorship policy, we are not only giving back, we're investing in the school for future generations to come. We decided to put the money toward increasing diversity in the faculty and curriculum at Harvard-Westlake."
For a couple in their mid-40s, a contribution of just $2,500 a year could ultimately pay out as much as $500,000 via a survivorship policy.
"I think there are other families like us who say, 'We can make a small annual contribution,' and that's great, but we wondered how we could do something more meaningful with our donation," Marvin says. "For what you put in, the beneficiary gets fivefold back. And you can put it toward something you believe in. Once Alitzel started at Harvard-Westlake, we already had a portion of our budget set aside to send her to school, so it was really a matter of just thinking about what contribution we could make that would be comfortable for us in the long term."
As Marvin puts it, "Unfortunately, at this time, we are unable to make a large lump sum donation to Harvard-Westlake. But the survivorship policy provides a great option for people like us to do something to show our gratitude and make a real difference at the school."