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AFSCME Family Scholars inspire us all

Photo credit: Getty
By Elissa McBride ·

AFSCME families never fail to inspire me with their pride, passion and persistence. Moms who stay up late at night studying for the civil service exam in order to land a union job and give their kids a better life. Dads who hoist their toddlers on their shoulders at union marches and rallies and protests at the state capitol. Grandparents who take along their teenage grandkids when they knock on doors to remind voters to get out to vote.

How do I know about these awesome AFSCME moms, dads and grandparents? I read about them in hundreds of essays submitted to the union by their grateful children. Each year, I make sure to read the essays of the winners of the AFSCME Family Scholarship. The essays are written by the children and grandchildren of AFSCME members, and they are always powerful and passionate. The essay writers honor the AFSCME dads and moms and grandparents who work so hard to serve their communities and support their families. And they testify to the union difference through the stories they tell about what AFSCME means to their families.

Normally, there are only 10 winners selected for this scholarship. And it is always a difficult task to select only 10 from such a talented and deserving pool of students. This year, due to additional hardships on students and families as a result of the pandemic, we awarded 12 scholarships.

Congratulations to the 2021 winners of the AFSCME Family Scholarship:

For our kids, the union difference means quality health care – sometimes for the first time ever if a parent has transitioned from a nonunion to an AFSCME job. Some essay writers are grateful for their own glasses, regular checkups and dentist visits. Others notice how the whole family is lifted up by having insurance that covers everyone. And one wrote about her mother’s pride in having good health insurance, because it was won through struggle. In her mother’s words, “I worked hard and proudly walked the picket line in the rain for it.”

The union difference means peace of mind for our kids. They celebrate with their parents when a new, union job brings better pay and benefits. They appreciate the additional time their parents and grandparents have for family activities when they no longer have to work long hours for low pay. And they hear about the ways that the union prevents unfairness and discrimination in the workplace. 

During this pandemic year, our kids saw the union make a difference in protecting the health and safety of their parents. The essayists wrote about how their parents worked through their unions to win paid sick leave for quarantine and for workers with high-risk health conditions to telework during the pandemic. As one essayist put it: “This was done by collective bargaining.”

Like many of you, I started bringing my kids to union events from a young age – even before they were walking and talking. We can help our children understand, through our actions and words, just what the union means to our families and our communities. That's one great way to instill union values, about fairness on the job and equity in society, that will last a lifetime.

For AFSCME kids, the union is a family, too, “an extended family which has gotten my family through times of need.” Here’s to all the moms, dads, grandparents, and other AFSCME family members who work hard every day, for their loved ones and for their communities.

One final quote from a Family Scholarship essay says it best: “Like my Dad, I’m AFSCME strong.”

Do you have an inspiring young person in your life? The AFSCME Family Scholarship is just one way to ease the burden of college tuition for working families.

Learn more about the AFSCME Family Scholarship program. Applications for next year will be available by September and must be postmarked no later than Dec. 31, 2021. For information about other AFSCME scholarships, click here.

AFSCME members and eligible family members can also receive a college education for free. Learn about how you can earn your associate degree for free with the AFSCME Free College benefit. Ready to get your bachelor’s degree? Check out AFSCME’s Bachelor’s Completion Program.

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