AFSCME Family Scholarship Winner Spotlight: McKenna Connell and Robert Oates

AFSCME Family Scholarship Winner Spotlight

McKenna Connell, Daughter of Daniel Connell

(Local 3317 Wayne County Sheriff’s Department)

Every year, AFSCME International 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. This year, two of those scholarships went to children of Michigan AFSCME Council 25 members!


One went to McKenna Connell, daughter of Local 3317 (Wayne County Sheriff’s Department) member and local union board member Daniel Connell.


McKenna will be graduating from Lakeview High School with nearly a 4.0 GPA. She has served as Vice President of the National Honor Society, been on Student Council, and involved with the Woman to Woman Coalition, Social Justice Club, and Huskies with Heart, while also playing Varsity Tennis and in Symphony Orchestra.  


In McKenna’s essay, she highlighted her family’s long history of involvement in the labor movement, including her father Daniel’s side who came to Detroit from Tennessee in search of union auto jobs. Her family’s experience through the Detroit bankruptcy and Wayne County consent agreement profoundly shaped her views on the labor movement. “My father’s union could not come to an agreement (with Wayne County) and as a result had working terms imposed on them, taking away many benefits and working conditions that had taken years to put into place.”


However, McKenna recognized how important the union was to overcome this. “AFSCME was there to support my father’s union every step of the way in obtaining a new contract with fair wages. Watching my father go through this stressful process has made me realize how vital the support of AFSCME is to maintaining the ability to speak up and fight for a fair and equitable work environment for all.”


“Being an AFSCME family, we are grateful for the positive impact it has had on our lives,” she continued. “It has given us a sense of stability and reassurance that they are by our side to help protect my father’s job and our livelihood. In a time of society where politics and government have worked to weaken union, AFSCME hasn’t backed down from the uphill battle to keep unions active and strong in America. When I look back on the history of unionization in America, I see all the good it has done to provide equality and justice for the working class.”



AFSCME Family Scholarship Winner Spotlight

Robert Oates, Son of Alexandra Foulis

(Local 2733 Washtenaw County- Friend of the Court)

The other scholarship went to Robert Oates, son of Local 2733 (Washtenaw County- Friend of the Court) member Alexandra Foulis.


Robert will be graduating from Washtenaw International High School with a 4.0. He has run both varsity cross country and track while also playing club soccer, participating in French Club, and serving as the Principal Cellist in Orchestra.


Robert’s essay also discussed his family’s public sector union involvement both here and in Europe. His grandfather was a teacher in Ireland and also helped striking mine workers in Great Britain in the 1980s. Even in present day, he has an aunt who is a union paramedic in England and another who is a union nurse in Ireland. “The conversation I had with my aunt made me recognize that ideally, labor unions will not need to be called upon for support, but if an event arises where support is needed, labor unions are quick to act and do so effectively with almost no exception. This safety net for employees particularly public servants, who interact with so many members of society, is invaluable.”


He sees a lot of overlap with the experiences of his aunts and with his mother. “My mom has the backing of AFSCME as she works in the county courthouse. She interacts with individuals with heightened emotions, some of whom take an accusatory approach when my mom sits them down in an effort to mediate disagreements on family cases, or after she submits parenting time recommendations for the judge in written reports.”


Robert expressed his gratitude to unions for their relentless protection of members and for providing economic stability. “Capitalism would not function properly without the representation and relentless work provided by labor unions. For my family and for me as an individual, AFSCME is essential in making sure my mom is safe in her workplace, treated equitably, gets fair wages and working conditions, and that her rights are never encroached upon. If I were to work in the public sector in the future, which is quite likely, I would hope to have a union like AFSCME.”


Congratulations to both McKenna and Robert! Thank you for making AFSCME members across the state proud and for showing us what it means to be AFSCME STRONG!


Are Your Children Eligible for 2021 Scholarships? Visit or call 1-800-588-0374 for more information/