Six children of IBEW members were awarded scholarships totaling $8,500 as part of this year’s Union Plus scholarship program, led by a $3,500 scholarship awarded to Mikaela Smith, whose father, John Smith, is a member of Burnsville, Minn., Local 949.

Mikaela Smith

Mikaela Smith

Mikaela Smith was a National Honor Society member and a three-time all-conference volleyball selection for her school. She also played flute in the school band and is active in 4-H and the Luther League, a youth service organization in the Lutheran Church. Smith plans to attend the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and major in pre-medicine.

Jodi Smith, her mother, is a member of the American Federation of Teachers. John Smith has been an IBEW member for 25 years and Mikaela Smith said she saw the value of union membership when the company her father worked for was sold last year.

“My Dad transferred his job while maintaining his pension, benefits and current wages,” she said. “Without union support, this probably would not have happened.”

Other recipients with IBEW ties include: 

Victoria Carson

Victoria Carson

Victoria Carson, whose father, William Carson, is a member of Paterson, N.J., Local 102. Victoria Carson is member of the National Honor Society and was the captain of her varsity cheerleading squad. She also received the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest individual honor, and founded a group that focuses on volunteerism for high school junior and senior girls. Carson received a $500 scholarship and plans to major in electrical engineering at Syracuse University.

“The skill level, professionalism and code of excellence displayed by the Brotherhood is inspiring,” she said. “As a member for the past 25 years, my father believes joining Local 102 was one of the best decisions he ever made.”

Kasey Gamble

Kasey Gamble

Kasey Gamble, whose father, Donald Gamble, is a member of Charlotte, N.C., Local 962. She is a member of the National Honor Society and National Technical Honor Society and was president of her high school Quiz Bowl team. She was the national president of the Health Occupation Students of America during her senior year of high school and has volunteered for groups that serve adults with mental disabilities. She received a $1,000 scholarship and will attend the University of North Carolina, majoring in nursing with a minor in genetics.

Gamble said she learned the value of IBEW membership after her father was wrongly terminated. Local 962 investigated and filed an appeal and Donald Gamble was reinstated to his job.

“My relationship with the union will forever be a positive one based on this interaction,” Kasey said. “There needs to be a voice for blue-collar employees and unions are the perfect way to get these voices heard.” 

Lucas Huddleston

Lucas Huddleston

Lucas Huddleston, who father, Edward Huddleston, is a member of Cincinnati Local 212. Lucas Huddleston was a Kentucky Governor’s Scholar, a list of the state’s top 1,000 rising school seniors. He participated in several community organizations in his hometown of Florence, Ky., and qualified for the state track and cross country meets. He also was the cartoonist for his school newspaper.

Huddleston will attend the University of Louisville’s Speed School of Engineering, where he plans to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree and hopes to work in biomedical engineering. He received a $1,000 scholarship. He credits his father’s IBEW membership for giving him a stable upbringing and allowing him to do well in school and other situations.

“Not only do all the members have a voice, but they’re strengthened as a whole because of it,” he said. “They also vigorously protect their own, for which I owe a great deal of gratitude.” 

Joshua Pfennigern

Joshua Pfenniger

Joshua Pfenniger, whose father, Shane Pfenniger, is a member of Seattle Local 77. Joshua Pfenniger is a National Honor Society member who spent a summer working on a commercial fishing vessel in Alaska. Pfenniger also has worked in a print shop and as a ranch hand and served as a volunteer firefighter.

He played football, basketball and baseball during his freshman and sophomore years in high school. A back injury ended his playing career, but he continued to serve as a basketball coach for YMCA youth team and a girls’ middle school team. He will attend the Perry Technical Institute in Yakima, Wash., and study information and automation tech. He received a $500 scholarship.

Pfenniger’s brother, Colton, was a Union Plus scholarship recipient in 2015 and his grandfather was a Teamsters member.

“I understand and value what it means to belong to a union,” he said. “Unions have enriched the lives of my family in many ways and I want to continue with that way of life.”

Samuel Ramos

Samuel Ramos

Samuel Ramos, whose father, Ted Ramos, is a member of Denver Local 111. Samuel Ramos was one of 15 high school students to receive the Mayor of Denver Youth Award in 2015, honoring individuals who had overcome adversity to achieve success. He served three years on the city’s Commission on Youth and also worked for three summers as a counselor at Rocky Mountain Village, an Easter Seals of Colorado camp.

Ramos will attend the Community College of Denver as a pre-engineering major and eventually plans to transfer to the University of Colorado to work on an engineering degree. He received a $2,000 scholarship. He plans to become a biomechanical engineer and help people with physical and cognitive disabilities. Ramos suffered a serious stroke at birth and medical bills have topped $1 million since – a challenge for any family but a potentially devastating one for those without good health insurance.

“At critical times, not having a union means not reaching your potential,” Ramos said. “Because of the IBEW, I’m not trapped, but still realizing my personal limits.”

Union Plus awarded $150,000 in scholarships to 104 students representing 32 unions from across the United States this year. The program has awarded more than $4 million in scholarship money to approximately 2,700 union members, spouses and dependent children since its inception in 1991. Character, financial need, academics and a commitment to labor’s values are among the characteristics considered.

This year, more than 5,700 applications were received from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. Applications are being accepted for the 2017 scholarship program.

Union Plus is a brand of Union Privilege, which has worked since 1986 to aid union members and their families in finding quality services and products. It is backed by the AFL-CIO. Union Plus has programs that offer union members savings on everyday products from wireless phones to credit cards. It also has a program that provides assistance to union members going through financial hardship.