Texas AFL-CIO Awards 24 Scholarships, Inaugurating ‘Career Builder’ Grant Into Program
The Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Program awarded 24 grants of $1,500 to students from affiliated union families, including a brand-new scholarship that will go to a union member who is returning to college.
This year’s program continued its traditional components, awarding scholarships to 18 high school seniors and five previous high school recipients who are receiving continuing scholarships.
The new wrinkle in the program is known for now as the “Career Builder” scholarship. The grant is intended for a union member who plans to improve his or her livelihood by pursuing a degree, a new specialty or further career training. As with other arms of the scholarship program, the $1,500 scholarship is a one-time award.
“The Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Program remains one of our favorite things to do because it helps working people take the future into their own hands,” Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said.
“The scholarship program has unique moving parts: buy-in from Central Labor Councils and Labor Assemblies across the state that set up committees to consider high school applications from their jurisdictions; a Scholarship Fund that draws generous support from union members, retirees and friends of labor, often in honor of Union Brothers and Sisters; and a statewide Scholarship Committee that conscientiously makes the tough final decisions on awards of scholarships.”
Levy noted another important component of the program: strengthening the connection between students from union families and the labor movement. That happens through a unique Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Test on the basics of labor unions, along with interviews conducted by local scholarship committees that often introduce students to key labor activists in their regions.
Leonard Aguilar, Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer, who suggested creation of the “Career Builder” scholarship based on conversations in the field with union members looking to continue their educations, said the addition expands the program’s horizons.
“The ‘Career Builder’ Scholarship acknowledges that education does not end with a college degree or completion of a trade school program,” Aguilar said. “Many union members look to further their learning, and the new scholarship will help people who have a strong plan and need a modest boost to help them toward their goals.”
Criteria for selection of high school seniors include academic performance, extracurricular activities, performance on the test, results of the interviews, and financial need.
The Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Committee considers continuing scholarships. Criteria for that program emphasize volunteer work and activism by students as they continue their education. The state panel also considered applications for the Career Builder scholarship.
The Committee is chaired by Jeff Darby (AFGE), and this year included Richard Salazar (AFSCME Correctional Officers), Clara Caldwell (CWA and APRI), Ray McMurrey (Texas AFT), and Angi DeFelippo (Tarrant County CLC/IUOE).
The Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Fund — a 501(c)(3) organization that accepts donations that are tax-deductible to the full extent of federal law — funds the program. Donations to the Scholarship Fund may honor a living person or memorialize a loved one. To contribute, send a check payable to “Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Fund” to Texas AFL-CIO, P.O. Box 12727, Capitol Station, Austin, TX 78711 or contact Texas AFL-CIO Accountant Emily Speight at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donors of at least one $1,500 scholarship in the 2023 cycle include: Joe & Dorothy Gunn (legacy), Insulators & Allied Workers Local 22, Plumbers Local 68, Sabine Area Central Labor Council and the Speight family.
In addition to the Texas AFL-CIO program, Central Labor Councils and Labor Assemblies often award scholarships through their own programs. For example, this year the Galveston Labor Assembly provided additional scholarships to Carter Hall and Logan Clingan in addition to its designee for a Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship. Similar programs take place at the Texas Gulf Coast ALF, Tarrant County CLC, Austin Area CLC and several others. We salute those programs, which magnify labor’s role in helping students from union families toward college degrees.
The Texas AFL-CIO will post applications for the 2024 Scholarship Program in late October. Postmark deadline for high school applications will be Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024.
Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Recipients 2023
(Includes CLC or Labor Assembly for high school seniors, plus sponsor or memorial)
Miah Ames of Pearland. Ranked in the top third of her class at Shadow Creek High School, Ames plans to attend the University of Houston. She participated in HOSA (Future Health Professionals) and scored a perfect 100 on the Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Test. Ames is the daughter of Cedric and Yolanda Ames. Brother Ames is a member of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 564 (Tideland CLC; Texas AFL-CIO).
Shama Bukhari of Houston. The first recipient of the Texas AFL-CIO Career Builder Scholarship, Bukhari is a member of United Steelworkers Local 13-1. Holder of an Associate’s Degree in Process Technology, Bukhari has spent years in physically demanding shift work as a Process Operator. She decided to return to school at University of Houston-Downtown to study — while continuing to work — toward a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in the hope of becoming a Supply Chain Manager. (Texas AFL-CIO)
David Clements of Mansfield. Recipient of a Continuing Scholarship, Clements attends Texas Tech University. Clements runs the Car Club at Texas Tech, an offshoot of his employment at U-Haul, where he maintains and repairs the company’s trucks and trailers. He has also helped run “Feed the Homeless” community outreach events. Clements is the son of William and Jennifer Clements. Brother Clements is a member of Transport Workers Union Local 591. (Insulators & Allied Workers Local 22)
Kenneth Collins II of Houston. Ranked in the top 10 percent of his class at J. Frank Dobie High School, Collins plans to attend Texas Southern University. He participated in Basketball and Youth Department and scored a 98 on the Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Test. Collins is the son of Kenneth and Erica Collins. Brother Collins is a member of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 24 and Sister Collins is a member of the Houston Federation of Teachers. (Houston Labor Assembly; In Memory of Ceole Speight)
Ramon Contreras of Dallas. A graduate of Judge Barefoot Sanders Law Magnet School with a curriculum heavy on Advanced Placement courses, Contreras plans to attend University of Texas-Dallas. He participated in the Chess Club. Contreras is the son of Sixto Contreras and Veronica Torres. Brother Contreras is a member of Iron Workers Local 263 and Sister Torres is a member of Alliance/AFT Local 2260. (Dallas CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Xavier Contreras of Dallas. Recipient of a Texas AFL-CIO Continuing Scholarship, Contreras attends Texas A&M University. He held a summer internship with Sen. Royce West, working with West’s staff to bring together Latino professionals and brainstorm on laws that would help minority groups. He also coached a boys soccer team, conducting twice-a-week practices that led to Saturday matches. Contreras is the son of Sixto Contreras and Veronica Torres. Brother Contreras is a member of Iron Workers Local 263 and Sister Torres is a member of Alliance/AFT Local 2260. (Joe & Dorothy Gunn legacy)
Amber Cooper of Austin. A graduate of Regents High School who held a restaurant job while in high school, Cooper plans to attend Texas A&M University. She participated in Young Life, synchronized swimming and oil painting. Cooper is the daughter of Joseph Cooper and Montana Macias. Brother Cooper is a member of United Association of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 286 (Austin CLC; Texas AFL-CIO )
Catherine De Santos of Kingsville. Ranked in the top 15 percent of her class at H.M. King Early College High School, De Santos was undecided on which college to attend at the time of this posting. She participated in National Honor Society, Drill Team, Speech and Debate, Cross Country, Track, Drama Club and Choir. De Santos is the daughter of Jose and Roxanne Rhodes. Brother Rhodes is a member of the International Association of Machinists Local 2340. (Coastal Bend CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Briselda Diaz of Houston. Ranked in the top 15 percent of her class at Pasadena High School, Diaz plans to attend San Jacinto College. She participated in Varsity Swimming (team captain), Sculpture and Art. Diaz is the daughter of Luis Diaz and Silvia Ruiz. Brother Diaz and Sister Ruiz are each members of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 24. (Houston Labor Assembly; In Memory of Calvin Speight)
Cassandra Fernandez of Rio Grande City. An A student at Preparatory for College High School in Rio Grande City, Fernandez plans to attend Texas A&M University. She participated in Yearbook and National Honor Society. Fernandez is the daughter of Roberto Fernandez and Claudia Gonzalez. Brother Fernandez is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 479. (Sabine Area CLC; Sabine Area Central Labor Council)
Grant Fisher of Plano. A straight-A student at Greenhill School, Fisher plans to attend Stanford University. He participated in Varsity Baseball, Chess Club, Math Lab volunteer, Children’s International Summer Villages, and Spanish Club, and he scored a perfect 100 on the Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Test. Fisher is the son of Earle Fisher and Reyna Farris-Fisher. Sister Fisher is a member of Transport Workers Union Local 513. (Tarrant County CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Maya Forbes of Austin. Ranked in the top quarter of her class at Manor New Tech High School, Forbes plans to attend University of Texas-Austin. She participated in Yearbook, National Honor Society, Student Council, Drama Club, Gear Up Club, and Dance, and volunteered at a variety of labor events. Forbes is the daughter of Donovan and Lee Forbes. Sister Forbes is a member of Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 277. (Austin CLC; In Memory of Rosa Walker)
Mikayla Kingston Kester of McAllen. An A student at Science Academy of South Texas, Kester plans to attend the University of South Carolina. She participated in National Honor Society, Student Ambassadors, Varsity Basketball (captain), Varsity Volleyball (captain), and Business Professionals of America (state finalist in parliamentary procedures). Kester is the daughter of Michael and Heather Kester. Sister Kester is a member of McAllen American Federation of Teachers Local 6329. (Rio Grande Valley CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Gabriel Krzywicki of Keller. Ranked in the top quarter of his class at Keller High School, Krzywicki plans to attend the University of North Texas. He scored a 98 on the Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Test. Krzywicki is the son of Michael Krzywicki and Cheryl Rybka. Brother Krzywicki is a member of Transport Workers Union Local 513 (Tarrant County CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Elizabeth M. Lewis of Royse City. Ranked in the top 10 percent of her class at Sachse High School, Lewis plans to attend the University of North Texas. She participated in Beta Club, National Honor Society, and, as an officer, American Sign Language Club. Lewis is the daughter of Jay and Brandi Lewis. Brother Lewis is a member of Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 100. (Smith County CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Adam McConnell of Mansfield. Ranked in the top third of his class at Mansfield High School, McConnell plans to attend Texas State Technical College in Waco. He participated in the Marching Band. McConnell is the son of Robert and Elizabeth McConnell. Brother McConnell is a member of the American Federation of Musicians Local 72-147. (Tarrant County CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Sarah McNulty of El Paso. Ranked 15th (top 3 percent) in her class at Eastwood High School, McNulty plans to attend University of Texas at Austin. She participated in Student Council, Straight Alliance Club and, as founder, the School Garden Club. McNulty is the daughter of Marc and Maria McNulty. Brother McNulty is a member of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 51. (El Paso CLU; Texas AFL-CIO)
Celia Carolina Negrete of Humble. Recipient of a Texas AFL-CIO Continuing Scholarship, Negrete attends Texas A&M University. Negrete participates in the Society of Women Engineers, organizing professional development programs and programs aimed at engaging students in grades K through 12 in considering engineering careers. Negrete is the daughter of Pedro and Hilda Negrete. Brother Negrete is a member of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association and Sister Negrete is a member of the Houston Federation of Teachers. (Plumbers Local 68)
Katherine Ochoa of Houston. Ranked #1 in her class at George I. Sanchez North High School, Ochoa plans to attend Texas State University. She participated in Taekwondo (black belt 3rd degree and instructor), National Honor Society President, Soccer (captain), Senior Class President, Folklorico dancing and community service teaching. Ochoa is the daughter of Edgar Ochoa and Bertha Rosiles Ochoa. Brother Ochoa is a member of International Longshoremen’s Association Local 24. (Houston Labor Assembly; Texas AFL-CIO)
Harper Parson of Devine. Ranked 4th in his class at Devine High School, Parson plans to attend Texas A&M University. He participated in Band, 4H, Future Farmers, Literary UIL, Speech and Debate, Students Council, Youth Alive and National Honor Society, and he scored a 98 on the Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Test. Parson is the son of Chad and Carly Parson. Brother Parson is a member of the International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 81. (San Antonio CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Andrea M. Rodriguez of San Antonio. Ranked 6th in her class at Legacy of Educational Excellence High School, Rodriguez plans to attend Trinity University. She participated in National Honor Society, STEM, Ambassadors, Tutoring, and as a volunteer for Stone Oak Therapy. Rodriguez is the daughter of Leo and Eleanor Rodriguez. Brother Rodriguez is a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 694. (San Antonio CLC; Texas AFL-CIO)
Reece G. Sandoval of Santa Fe. Ranked in the top 10 percent of his class at Santa Fe High School, Sandoval plans to attend College of the Mainland. He participated in National Honor Society and scored a 98 on the Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Test. Sandoval is the son of Ronnie Sandoval and Rachael Spinks. Brother Sandoval is a member of United Steelworkers Local 13-1. (Galveston Labor Assembly; Texas AFL-CIO)
Eleanor Ann Schoenbrun of El Paso. Recipient of a Texas AFL-CIO Continuing Scholarship, Schoenbrun attends Yale University. She serves on the Points of Light National Advisory Council, founding two national service projects, one to help homeless pets and one to help food-insecure children. She is also heavily involved in assisting Yale with alumni outreach and is a featured baton twirler in the Yale Precision Marching Band. Schoenbrun is the daughter of Lisa Schoenbrun. Sister Schoenbrun is a member of the El Paso American Federation of Teachers. (Texas AFL-CIO)
Sylvia L. Tanguma of Edinburg. Recipient of a Texas AFL-CIO Continuing Scholarship, Tanguma attends the University of Texas at Austin. She is a Lab Mentor, teaching freshmen laboratory skills in the FRI Lab, which pursues virtual cures to find protein inhibitors for novel diseases. She has also presented research in the Undergraduate Research Forum, volunteered with the Smile Organization and St. Baldrick’s Foundation (helping children with cancer and other diseases), and participated in “The Mobilize the Right to Health Movement,” marching from the university to the Capitol. Tanguma is the daughter of Victor and Sylvia Tanguma. Sister Tanguma is a member of the McAllen American Federation of Teachers. (Texas AFL-CIO)
Donors to Texas AFL-CIO Scholarship Fund
(July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023)
AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust
American Federation of Government Employees Local 2139
John J. Baker
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
George & Linda Crawford
CWA 6132 RMC
Patrick M. Flynn PC
Garcia Hamilton & Associates
Heat & Frost Insulators Local 21
Insulators & Allied Workers Local 22
Jackson Family Trust
Jackson National Life Insurance
Jared & Jennifer Leger
Hertha & Paul McKee
Eric H. Nelson Law Office
David & Donna Patrick
Plumbers Local 68
Rio Grande Valley Central Labor Council
Sabine Area Central Labor Council
San Antonio AFL-CIO Council
Shell Oil Foundation Matching Gifts
South Atlantic & Gulf Coast International Longshoremen’s Association
Southeast Texas Building & Construction Trades Council
The Union Labor Life Insurance Co.
United Steelworkers 13-228
Linda K. White
Memorials and Honorees
(Donations memorialized the following persons)
Jerry L. Burkowsky Sr.
Maria Angela Cavazos-Ramirez
Frances M. Garza
Henry M. Osobase
Margarita V. Quesada
David Van Os