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AFSCME Members, Family Members Awarded Union Plus Scholarships

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By Jon Melegrito General Next Wave Good and Welfare

Union Plus logoTwelve students representing AFSCME are among the 129 recipients of the 2012 Union Plus Scholarship program. The students, representing 44 unions, were selected on the basis of their academic ability, social awareness, financial need and appreciation of labor.

Each year, Union Plus – which includes the AFSCME Advantage program – grants scholarships to members of AFL-CIO unions and their children. Awards are given to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school or a recognized technical or trade school. Since starting the program in 1991, Union Plus has awarded more than $3.3 million in educational funding to more than 2,200 union members, spouses and dependent children.

Meet the 2012 AFSCME Honorees

Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE)/AFSCME Local 4 —Thomas Sienkiewicz Jr.

Thomas Sienkiewicz Jr. of Garfield Heights, Ohio, whose mother Helen is a member of Local 4, has been awarded a $500 scholarship. With union steelworkers, teachers, police and firefighters in his family (and a father who belongs to the United Steelworkers), it’s no wonder Tom became part of the campaign to defeat an Ohio state bill that would have stripped public service workers of collective bargaining rights. “It is important to keep strong unions in America,” he says. Tom is majoring in public health with the goal of continuing in his family tradition of service in the field of public safety. “I can give back to the community, while doing a job that I really enjoy,” he says.

AFSCME Local 6 — Melissa Ertl

Melissa Ertl of Park Falls, Wis., whose mother Mary is a member of Local 6, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship. She is a two-time scholarship winner who followed in the footsteps of her brother, who was awarded a scholarship in 2009. Her family embodies the union emphasis on service and achievement that has helped make our nation great. “Both my parents and all four siblings are card-carrying union members,” she says. Her father is a member of the United Steelworkers. Melissa herself tried to help workers organize with UFCW at a grocery store when she was in high school. She is majoring in psychology.

Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA)/AFSCME Local 11 — Michael Peachock

Michael Peachock of LaGrange, Ohio, whose father Lawrence is a member of Local 11, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Michael describes himself as a “dedicated servant and leader in my community.” He is following the example set by his parents, who are union members and activists. His mother is a member of SEIU. “Labor unions carry out my passion of helping others in a unique and effective way,” he says, “by making sure that the workers of America are secure in their employment, and are best equipped to benefit society.” Michael looks forward to continuing to serve others during a career in biomedical engineering.

AFSCME Council 28 — Rowdy Edinger

Rowdy Edinger of Colbert, Wash., whose mother Rachel is a member of Council 28, has been awarded a $500 scholarship. As the child of two union members (including a father who is a longtime Teamsters member), Rowdy knows a thing or two about union protections for working families. “While the economy in the United States has suffered,” he says, “the union has been present providing protection of my parents’ wages and benefits.” Rowdy developed an early interest in providing protection of his own, serving the citizens of his community in the Spokane Police Explorer program since he was 14. Today he is pursuing a college degree with the goal of becoming a highway patrolman, and protecting natural resources for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Alaska State Employees Association/AFSCME Local 52 — Katie Sears

Katie Sears of Anchorage, Alaska, whose stepfather Paul Kuriscak is a member of Local 52, has been awarded a $500 scholarship. For many or us, personal stories shape who we become. For Katie, seeing the way AFSCME protected her stepfather when he was injured on the job showed her the value of a union. Her trip to Romania, during which she visited an orphanage, showed her the need for dental care among children who are disadvantaged. Her goal is to become a dental hygienist to help underprivileged people at home and abroad “by giving of my time and skills to provide dental care for them or find ways that they can afford to receive dental care.”

AFSCME Local 375 — Nader Daoud

Nader Daoud of Ridgewood, N.Y., whose father Anwar Daoud and mother Rosa Jacome-Daoud are both members of Local 375, has been awarded a $3,000 scholarship. Nader rarely got to go home after school. He would do his homework on the train until he reached the hospital, where he would keep his Spanish-speaking grandparents company and act as their translator as they received the medical care they needed. But Nader wasn’t just helping – he also was learning. He asked all the questions he could, and as his mind whirled with new information, he decided to become a doctor. The high-achieving son of two proud AFSCME members and an excellent student, Nader will study neurobiology at Harvard University.

AFSCME Local 1006 — Emma O’Connor-Brooks

Emma O’Connor-Brooks of Lake Forest, Ill., whose mother Donna O’Connor is a member of Local 1006, has been awarded a $4,000 scholarship. “My mom and my church taught me we have a responsibility to our fellow humanity,” Emma says. Volunteering, social service work and political activism have been priorities of Emma’s since she was in elementary school. And when she becomes an architect, Emma promises to bring those same priorities – including her mother’s strong union values – to her trade: designing environmentally friendly and affordable homes for families with low incomes.

AFSCME Local 1184 — Elizabeth Hanna

Elizabeth Hanna of Doylestown, Ohio, whose mother Susan is a member of Local 1184, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Elizabeth found inspiration while caring for rabbits in 4-H Club. “I decided to become a vet,” she says. During high school she excelled in such courses as biology and chemistry, and this fall she’ll study animal science at Ohio State University. She is thankful to her mother, without whose hard work and AFSCME membership, Elizabeth says, she wouldn’t have had the home and the field with the rabbit hutch where her dream (and a lot of baby rabbits) was born.

AFSCME Local 2600 — Michael Karl Medina

Michael Karl Medina of Chatham, Ill., whose mother Wendie is a member of Local 2600, has been awarded a $4,000 scholarship. Michael Karl, an intensive physics major, is receiving the highest available Union Plus scholarship. The award is a reflection of his remarkable academic accomplishments, including a No. 1 ranking in his high school class and a prestigious NASA internship. But academics alone do not begin to define Michael Karl – he gives his time generously to community service and extracurricular activities, and has participated in social and political actions both in Illinois, where he grew up as the son of an AFSCME member, and on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., where he now attends school.

AFSCME Local 2733 — Randell Krol

Randell Krol of Milan, Mich., whose mother Nancy is a member of Local 2733, has been awarded a $500 scholarship. In high school Randell didn’t always feel his abilities were respected. But when he switched to a technical school his talents shone. Randell loves working with his hands and is pursuing certification in welding and fabrication. Talented hands (and union values) seem to run in Randell’s family, as in addition to having a mother in AFSCME, his grandfather was a UAW member and his grandmother was secretary-treasurer of the typographers’ union.

AFSCME Local 3055 — Abbey Muzatko

Abbey Muzatko of Green Bay, Wis., whose mother Cheryl is a member of Local 3055, has been awarded a $4,000 scholarship. This is the second time Abbey has been honored with a Union Plus Scholarship. For Abbey, when Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker attempted to strip unionized workers of their collective bargaining rights, opposition it was a matter of principle – and deeply personal. Her mother, an AFSCME member, now worries about her job security. Abbey has become an activist on this critical workers’ rights issue, organizing students and even staging a “Teacher Appreciation Day” to let union teachers and other school workers know how much they are valued. Abbey will pursue a degree in painting and fine arts.

AFSCME Local 3829 — Adia Coleman

Adia Coleman of Silver Spring, Md., who is a member of Local 3829, has been awarded a $1,000 scholarship. Coleman is the spouse of an IUEC member. Her mother is an AFGE member. And since, as Coleman puts it, “a labor union is only as strong as its members,” she is a union member as well, and proudly fights with other AFSCME members for dignity and respect for all fellow workers. Coleman will use her Union Plus scholarship award to help pay for her master’s degree in information science. “Information is power,” she says. So is a unionized workforce.

In addition to the Union Plus Scholarships, the following benefits help union families afford higher education:

Other Union Plus programs include mortgage and finance benefits, safety net and insurance benefits and even money-saving offers on Goodyear tires, car rentals and AT&T wireless service.

Visit the AFSCME Advantage section of to find out more about AFSCME Advantage benefits.