Union Scholarship Winners by Patti Sehulster

In this issue, we are pleased to feature another timely and informative article by frequent contributor Patti Sehulster. This article highlights the strong pro-union views of the three student winners in the 2020-2021 WCCFT scholarship competition. Although financial constraints forced removal of funding for scholarships from the 2021-2022 WCCFT budget, the scholarship committee hopes to continue the program through membership contributions.

FT Connect strives to keep you informed about significant events affecting you as a WCC faculty member, to advocate for your rights, and to provide a forum for your views. Please send your own feedback, ideas for articles, or letters to editor Richard A. Courage at richardcwccft@gmail.com.

Scholarship Winners View Unions As Defenders of Social Justice and Democracy by Patty Sehulster

2020-2021 Scholarship Winners: Danasia Smith, Minuk Lee, Paola Beber Sanches (left to right)

Even amid the pandemic, Westchester Community College students strove to look to the future, to plan for additional education, and to believe in achieving their dreams. Yet, amid the pandemic, their financial needs increased. To help bridge this deficit, the WCCFT offered three, $500 scholarships for 2021: two for continuing WCC students and one for a graduating student.  Distinguishing themselves among a field of twenty-four competitors, Danasia Smith, Paola Beber Sanches, and Minuk Lee earned these awards. 

In attempting to gain the awards, these students researched and wrote about unions and their importance to attaining social justice and equality in the United States. For Danasia Smith, the first-hand experience of losing her first job simply because of the color of her skin and her manager’s embracing of negative — and erroneous — stereotypes and fears led her to contemplate unions. Danasia believes that if that workplace had been unionized, her

“unemployment would [not have been] able to happen the way it did [. . .  because the union could have] protected her rights so that she wouldn’t have experienced discrimination.” She hopes her next job offers union membership, so that the union can “collectively defend and advocate” for all employees, and in doing so, advance democracy “by giving workers a voice [. . . and] due process.”

Dana Smith

Before Danasia ever gets to that stage, however, she plans to finish her degree here at WCC and then advance to a four-year college.

Paola Beber Sanches also plans to finish at WCC and then transfer to a four-year college to attain her BA in Marketing. With that degree, she hopes to assist her sister in Brazil by becoming the Marketing Director and Creative Director of her architectural business and to “give back” to her mom, too, by investing in and building her art studio. For Paola, this scholarship

“will help tremendously [. . . to buy] the required textbooks [. . . and help her to] invest in a basic graphic design course.” Paola views unions as “a fundamental actor in orchestrating change and guaranteeing justice for laborers” as well as key in engendering “economic justice, thus fighting against racial injustice.”

Paola Beber Sanches

That fight matters to Paola because she believes that winning that battle can only improve society.

Minuk Lee, too, defines unions as entities that “fill the deficiencies of social justice in capitalism.” For him, the most important aspect of unions comes from their ability to “bring bigger changes into our communities, where individual voices could not.” He views unions as particularly essential today because they

“offer us stable ground on which to stand and assert our opinions without fear.”

Minuk Lee

An international student, Minuk appreciates the scholarship for its ability to “lessen his burden and allow him to concentrate on studying” at a four-year university, to which he will be transferring to major in mathematics. Ultimately, he hopes to earn his doctoral degree and become a researcher.

No doubt exists that these three students will become union supporters in the future, no matter where their careers bring them. Believing that unions help to enable social and economic justice for all workers commits them to that loyalty.