Local 4041 Scholarship Winner: “What AFSCME Has Meant to our Family”

Lenon Russie, son of AFSCME Local 4041 member Lanyne Russie, has been named a winner of the 2019 AFSCME Family Scholarship. Lenon graduated with a 21st Century College and Career Ready diploma from Cimarron-Memorial High School, where he also participated in DECA and Future Business Leaders of America. He plans to start at College of Southern Nevada this fall. 

Below is Lenon’s essay:  

“What AFSCME Has Meant to our Family” by Lenon Russie

For a long time, I did not understand how valuable union membership was. I now realize that it affects me daily. Historically, my great-great grandfather worked in the mines in the Midwest. Back then, there was no union for miners. Therefore, the men were forced to work long exhausting hours and were put in the path of harm all the time. Many men died from mine related injuries and diseases simply because there were no unions to provide protection for them. My great-great grandfather’s job in the mine was to light the dynamite fuses as the sticks were placed through the tunnels. One day he lit a short fuse and was killed instantly, leaving a widow and 2 young boys. If a union had been in place, my existence may have been very different.  

I am very proud to be a union legacy. My mother was activated as a member with AFSCME Local 4041 in 2013 and my father has been an active member of IATSE Local 720 for 26 years. Without their joint union memberships and activism, my family would not have the financial success and security that we have had. My mother has recruited several people to not only join AFSCME, but to enhance their memberships by becoming ongoing contributors to AFSCME People. I observed her while she served on the Legislative Committee, interviewing up and coming candidates as well as actively joining her on knock and talks with brothers and sisters affiliated with the AFL-CIO to ensure union votes were counted. My mother, as a state worker, helps to recruit new members by showing them the importance and responsibility of union membership. Through taking part in some of her election activities and watching her activism, I have learned the importance of perseverance.  

My parents have shown me that if you stick together as a unit, then you can run as strong as you ever will. Unions have taught me many values. The main one is to stay together with the people you trust. I understand the real meaning of solidarity. My dad has worked with some of his fellow union members for even longer than I have been alive, and while he frequently gets frustrated with his local, he continues to fight side by side with his union brothers against unfair practices by their employers and payrollers. 

I am very grateful for what union values have taught me, as well as the many opportunities that I have available to me as a second-generation legacy of IATSE and AFSCME. By receiving this scholarship, I believe I can help unions in the future by using my vice and money to help spread awareness as to why union membership is so important.  

The benefits of AFSCME membership extend into our families through AFSCME’s scholarship programs. Each year the AFSCME Family Scholarship Program provides ten $2,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors that will be renewed for $2,000 each year for a maximum of four years, provided the student remains enrolled in a full-time course of study. The scholarship may be used for any field of study.  

Applications for the 2020 AFSCME Family Scholarship application is now available and must be postmarked no later than December 31, 2019. You can find the application HERE.