Photo provided under a Flickr/Creative Commons agreement by Jirka Matousek.
       Among the many benefits offered by Union Plus, the non-profit program operated by the AFL-CIO’s Union Privilege organization, are educational funding grants for selected union members, their spouses and their children attending a college
       or a recognized technical or trade school.

Union Plus Scholarships Awarded to 11 IBEW Family Members

August 20, 2019

A commitment to the values of the IBEW and organized labor, as well as academic achievement, personal character and financial need each were all factors in determining this year’s IBEW recipients of the Union Plus scholarships for the 2019-2020 school year.

“We’re pleased to announce that 11 talented sons and daughters of union electrical workers will be getting some much-needed financial help this school year to pursue their educational dreams, thanks to the undeniable power of union membership,” said International President Lonnie Stephenson. “Helping these young men and women offset some of the skyrocketing costs of a college education is also a terrific way to acknowledge their hard work inside and outside the classroom.”

Union Plus is the non-profit benefits program operated by the AFL-CIO’s Union Privilege organization, which was founded by the federation in 1986 to provide a wide variety of benefit programs exclusively to active and retired union members and their families.

The recently announced one-time cash awards, which do not have to be paid back, range from $500 to $4,000. These 11 scholarships in particular are part of the nearly $170,000 in grant money given to students representing the IBEW and 33 other unions. It’s an exclusive group: more than 7,100 applications were submitted to Union Plus, but only 108 recipients were selected.

The children of IBEW members who won scholarships are:

Beth McIlquham
Daughter of Eau Clair, Wis., Local 14 member Brent McIlquham  

Beth is pursuing a degree in communications from Chippewa Valley Technical College, and she plans to eventually attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She hopes to one day coordinate youth programs such as 4-H, and she recognizes the effect her father’s IBEW membership has had on his own life and his family’s. “Not only does the IBEW make jobs safe, but it also gives all workers a powerful voice,” Beth said. “The IBEW is proof that when people work together, great things can happen. There is so much to be appreciated from the IBEW and how it has not only helped my family but families everywhere.”

Lydia Luginbuhl
Daughter of Peoria, Ill., Local 34 member Scott Luginbuhl

Lydia received an associate degree in science from Illinois Central College in 2018 and is now an education major at Illinois State University who expects to graduate in 2021. “Lydia is motivated to learn and strives for perfection,” said Dr. Wendy O’Hanlon, a mathematics professor at ICC. “She treats people with dignity and never overlooks an opportunity to assist others, offer words of encouragement, or uplift someone with her smile.” 

Leigh Anne Tiffany
Daughter of Philadelphia Local 98 member Scott Tiffany

Leigh Anne graduated from Saint Joseph’s University with an undergraduate degree in pre-veterinary biology, and she holds a Master of Science degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She recently began her doctoral work in science communication while working as a communications specialist for the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife. “Leigh Anne has an ability to take scientific findings and convey them in ways that maintain accuracy and tell a story,” said Jared Saylor, vice president of communications at Defenders of Wildlife. “These two components — accuracy and storytelling — form the backbone of good advocacy, and Leigh Anne excels in both.”

Victoria Carson
Daughter of Paterson, N.J., Local 102 member William Carson

Victoria is an aspiring certified public accountant who expects to graduate in May from Syracuse University with a degree in accounting. Her father is a third-generation union member, so Victoria appreciates the security his IBEW membership has provided her family. “The medical benefits available to IBEW members are both critical and reassuring to my family as my mother is disabled,” she said. 

Aileen Coen
Daughter of Boston Local 103 member Christopher Coen

Aileen expects to graduate from the University of New Hampshire in 2021 and eventually become an occupational therapist. Her father has been unable to work since 2016, when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. “He taught us what it meant to work hard, how much a hard-earned dollar is worth, and why protecting the rights of workers was important,” she said. “To my father, these characteristics were the backbone of the IBEW and the labor movement.” 

Reiley Drake
Daughter of Decatur, Ill., Local 146 member Jason Drake 

Reiley, who graduated high school in May and started college full-time this fall, is weighing majoring either in project management or business administration. She aspires to be part of the team that puts Americans on Mars. “Unions have made comfortable living possible and have instilled important values into my family members and myself,” Reiley said. “My father and grandfather [a United Automobile Workers member] have learned the importance of those who came before them and how they spoke up or went on strike to protest unjust treatment.” 

Riley Blankenship
Son of Folsom, N.J., Local 351 member Christopher Blankenship 

Riley is an Eagle Scout and rock climber who expects to graduate in May from Stockton University with a degree in sustainable studies. “The IBEW has helped my father earn better wages through collective bargaining and training,” he said. “Also, his working conditions are better compared to non-union workers. I never had to worry about my dad being put in an unnecessarily dangerous position while at work.” 

Darren Klaas
Son of Alton, Ill., Local 649 member Timothy Klaas   

Darren wants to follow in the footsteps of the many electrical workers in his family, including his father, grandfather and uncle, all IBEW members. To that end, he recently started studying electrical automation at Ranken Technical College and is considering working toward a management degree. “My dad’s IBEW membership has benefited my family tremendously by allowing our family to survive on his income while my mom stayed home with my sisters and me when we were young,” Darren said. “My dad has the benefit of working reasonable hours and the ability to take time off so that he may attend our athletic events and take family vacations each summer.” 

Sean Doyle 
Son of Lisle, Ill., Local 701 member Joseph Doyle 

Sean is a political science major who expects to graduate from the University of Notre Dame in 2021. The U.S. Army ROTC cadet plans to serve in active duty after graduation and then continue his education afterward, with an ultimate goal of working either for the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the U.S. State Department. “Sean is of high moral character and makes sound decisions in a sea where opportunities to falter abound,” said Ronald Smith, a teacher at Benet Academy in Lisle, where Sean was a 2017 graduate. 

Claire Harmon 
Daughter of Paducah, Ky., Local 816 member Brandon Harmon

Claire recently started attending the University of Louisville and plans to major in political science. She hopes to work one day for the National Archives or the Library of Congress. “Claire quickly became a central figure in the [Young Adult Advisory Panel] and was always willing to work hard toward the goals of the group,” said Tammy Blackwell, branch manager of the Marshall County [Ky.] Public Library. “She’s brave enough to be no one but herself, confident enough to eschew the norm, and passionate enough to follow her heart toward what she knows is right.” 

Payton Leintz
Son of Hazen, N.D., Local 1593 member Scott Leintz 

Payton is pursuing a degree in electrical instrumentation and control technology at Bismarck State College, and he hopes to work eventually in a power plant, a process facility or an industrial location that uses automation. “Our area of North Dakota has many power plants, coal mines and a gas plant,” Payton said. “The IBEW is like a family; the brothers and sisters all come together to make things better for their family. My father was able to provide a good life for our family by having great benefits and pay, as well as good, safe working conditions.”

Since 1991, Union Plus has awarded more than $4.5 million in educational funding to over 3,000 union members, spouses and dependent children attending a college or a recognized technical or trade school. Visit to learn more.