December 2011

2011 Founders' Scholarship Winners Take Training, Advocacy to Next Level
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Two IBEW members exemplifying the high standards of trade unionism are recipients of this year's Founders' Scholarship awards. Brothers Jonathon Dehmel and Richard Cesta say they are excited and grateful for the chance to boost their education to benefit their locals and the movement.

The scholarship fund was established in 1966 by International President Gordon Freeman to help IBEW members obtain higher education degrees.

Dehmel serves as the assistant business manager for Tampa, Fla., Local 915. He is pursuing a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Florida—a goal that he says will help in his role coordinating membership development for the local.

"In the trade, you've got a given set of tools to get the job done. In a leadership sense, I want to expand my toolkit," he said. The third-generation IBEW journeyman wireman said his program is like a nonprofit equivalent of an MBA degree, allowing him to study budgeting, strategic planning, performance measures, law and various management techniques.

"Everybody has good ideas about how to grow the union," he said, "but being able to effectively implement those ideas is where the rubber meets the road. Getting the chance to put this schooling to use is what will, I hope, help turn good ideas into reality."

Advancing the movement is priority No. 1, he says, after a tumultuous year that has seen increasing right-wing hostility to the middle class. Dehmel has worked on the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee and has been active in "Awake the State" political events in Florida, partnering with pro-working family organizations to stop Gov. Rick Scott's opposition to workers' rights.

"'Awake the State' is a good way to be out there for the union movement to support the middle class," he said. "It's reminded people of the benefits of labor and what we can accomplish by working together."

Dehmel and his wife, Jamey—both students and full-time employees—are expecting their first child later this month.

Cesta, a journeyman wireman out of Steubenville, Ohio, Local 246, teaches two nights a week at his area JATC and works full-time for Brown Electric. In addition to heavy workloads and demanding schedules, the father of three is pursuing an online master's degree in work force development and education from the University of Arkansas.

"I want to keep improving what I do, becoming as effective as I can be for myself and for my students," Cesta said. He holds a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership and development from Wheeling Jesuit University and has an instructor diploma from the National Training Institute.

After five years as an apprentice instructor, Cesta continues to complete train-the-trainer courses and has earned numerous industry-related certifications. A project he completed while earning his bachelor's gave Cesta the skills to create a new instrumentation program at the JATC.

"The most rewarding aspect of being an instructor is making a difference in apprentices' lives and in my organization," he said. "I encourage students to stay positive and to be persistent with regards to gaining the knowledge and skills necessary for individual and organizational success. I also urge them to treat setbacks as opportunities by learning something of value in every situation.

"I was thrilled to get this scholarship and appreciate what it will mean for my professional development, my students and my family," he said.

Cesta is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. His father was a member of the United Steelworkers.

As Founders' Scholarship recipients, Cesta and Dehmel have each earned $200 per semester hour toward their degrees with a maximum amount of $24,000, not to exceed an eight-year period.

Richard Cesta

Jonathon Dehmel and wife, Jamey