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November 2013

2013 Founders' Scholarship Winners
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Two Veterans Heading to Law School Win Awards

Two first generation union members are the 2013 recipients of the IBEW Founders' Scholarship.

Jay Adams has been an inside wireman for six years as a member of Anchorage, Alaska, Local 1547. He has served for 10 years in the 168th Air Refueling Wing of the Alaska Air National Guard and was deployed to Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. Since June 2012, he is both the youngest member and the foreman of the maintenance electricians at the North Pole Power Plant in Fairbanks.

Kevin Burton has been an instructor at the Washington, D.C., Local 26 Joint Apprenticeship Center since she topped out as a journeyman inside wireman in 2006 and has been the assistant director there since June 2012. When President Obama visited the center, Burton was given the honor of leading the class he visited, teaching the president how members use computer aided design programs. Burton is a veteran of the Army National Guard and is founder of the District of Columbia Young Trade Unionists.

International President Gordon Freeman started the Founders' Scholarship in 1966 to put higher education within reach of promising members, improving themselves and their union. Today, the scholarship provides $200 per class-hour each semester, to a maximum of $24,000 over eight years.

Different Paths but Much in Common

Burton and Adams come from different worlds, but membership in the IBEW has brought them to a common goal: to advocate for the interests of the IBEW as members of the legal bar.

Adams grew up less than 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle in Fairbanks, the largest town in the Alaskan interior, but still small at only 32,000 people. His father died when he was young, and his mother has worked most of his life as administrative assistant.

Burton grew up in Dayton, Ohio, in a family that struggled under the combined weight of poverty and addiction.

Each found the IBEW almost by accident. While looking for work after a deployment as a radar repair technician in the Army National Guard, Burton responded to a classified ad in The Washington Post without ever having heard of unions or the labor movement. Adams had a job in a work-wear clothing store and applied for the apprenticeship only after one of his co-workers said he was going down to apply.

Both Adams and Burton excelled at their apprenticeships. Burton became an instructor as soon as she topped out. Adams finished at the top of his class and never received a score below 90 percent in any class.

Both finished bachelor's degrees at night while working during the day, and both now intend to use the Founder's Scholarship to go to law school.

"There is a war on the union way of life right now," Adams said. "So much legislation is anti-union, the IBEW needs more lawmakers on their side. That is my ambition."

Burton shares that goal.

"The longer I am in the labor movement, the more I see that everything is political and everything is legal. It would be an asset if someone internal had legal skills," she said. Burton started at the George Washington University Law School this fall and will maintain her position at the NJATC through school.

Adams and Burton are also held in high regard by the people who work with them and supervise them.

"Kevin is an incredible asset," said Local 26 Business Manager Charles Graham. "She leads by example, and has been a mentor to hundreds through her public speaking and the DC Young Trade Unionists. I have no doubt that she will greatly contribute to the legacy of the IBEW."

Michael Hodsdon, business manager of Local 1547, said Adams is a shining example of the IBEW's best.

"The IBEW is always in need of strong leaders and Jay has proven his dedication to his family and his union on the job, in the military and in school," Hodsdon said. "I have no doubt he will continue to be as valuable a resource for the IBEW as a lawyer as he has been as an electrician."


2013 Founders' Scholarship winner Kevin Burton with President Obama and former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu during their visit to Washington, D.C., Local 26's training center.


Scholarship winner Jay Adams, Anchorage, Alaska, Local 1547, with daughter Olivia


Burton is attending George Washington University Law School.