2020 AFSCME Family Scholarship Winner: Maali DeLeon

Maali DeLeon, daughter of AFSCME Local 4041 members Daphne and Andre DeLeon, was named a winner of the 2020 AFSCME Family Scholarship. Maali graduated from Bishop Manogue High School in Reno, where she was an AP Scholar, on the Honor Roll, and varsity Track and FieldShe is now a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno, majoring in Biochemistry. 

Below is Maali’s essay:  

“What AFSCME Has Meant to our Family” 

Both of my parents work for, or have worked for the state government. They are strong in their faith, and in their convictions. Doing the right thing because it is the right is a value they have instilled in my brother and I. When they see the government not providing enough support or listening to issues being brought up by their employees, they want to help. Having the ability to build compromise and fix issues in an efficient way is why both of my parents are involved in AFSCME.  

My mother was recently eligible to become an AFSCME member. She joined because the union is a place where she sees space for employees to come together, receive support, and improve the workplace. Being a part of this organization is important to her because it is working towards “equal footing,” with the state government and its workers. In her experience, she noticed how representation seemed one-sided. When issues arose, HR would often side with the state government, because it is a government-run program. This union allows for both sides to have a conversation about problems and make compromises that respects the dignity of both sides.  

My parents lived in New Mexico for 11 years, which is where my father was an AFSCME member. If an issue arose between administration and the union member teachers, he would advocate on the teacher’s behalf. On top of being on the union negotiating team, he was also a union witness and school shop steward. He was very involved in AFSCME because it was giving people a leg up to help improve relations between them and their employers. When I asked my father what AFSCME means to him, he said, “representation and an organization that looks out for your best interest concerning work contract.” This belief moved him to start being active in AFSCME in Nevada. He went to a meeting and is planning to sign up. 

I am not a member of AFSCME, but their drive for justice and government accountability is very inspiring. One thing I am extremely passionate about is social justice. I work to educate myself on issues that people around the world, and in my community face so I can face it with facts. I went to an AFSCME meeting with my father in early December, and it was a really cool experience. I heard about how different policies can affect different people, and heard how one organizer combats problematic policy. Hearing how she organizes meetings with legislators and follows up with them made me want to work to do the same. Seeing the change she has made and continues to make motivates me to stand up for what I think is right.  

To my family, AFSCME is a place where employees can come together to gain support, negotiate contracts, and improve the workplace. It means a place where government employees receive the help and support to improve their situations. Working with AFSCME is a way to implement our family values in real life.  

The AFSCME Family Scholarship is open to graduating high school seniors whose parent, legal guardian or financially responsible grandparent is a full dues-paying AFSCME member. 

Applications for the 2021 scholarships are due December 31, 2020. Click here to apply!