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For Scholarship Winner, AFSCME Has Always Been Part of the Family

Mark McCullough
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For as long as Manuel Rojas-Romero can remember, AFSCME and higher education have always been central parts of his life. But now, these two elements have joined forces for him.

As the son of two Florida International University employees, Luis Rojas and Maria Belen Romero, he was always hearing about the amazing opportunities a college education presents. And his parent’s union, AFSCME Local 3346, was there to help his father when he had an accident at work and what made sure his parents could afford the medical treatments he needed as a kid.

“Both of my parents are huge advocates for AFSCME,” wrote Rojas-Romero in an essay as part of his AFSCME Family Scholarship application. “They continuously try to teach others that the union is there to fight for equal rights for everyone. To make sure that they all have the same opportunities and a safe working environment.”

Now Rojas-Romero has been accepted into Georgia Tech, where he plans to study computer science and engineering – and he will be paying for it with the help of a renewable $2,000 scholarship from AFSCME.

“Looking back, I can see how AFSCME has been there to support our family, protect my parents’ careers and how union members support each other,” said Rojas-Romero. Like many second-generation immigrants, he has found inspiration in his family’s American journey. 

Romero wrote in his essay that his maternal grandmother “had to escape persecution in her home country and fled for the safety of her family.” His father “was raised in the U.S. in a modest Puerto Rican family and became an unskilled laborer with a high school diploma. They both found jobs at a public university in the city we live in. My mother worked as a secretary for more than 14 years and my father is going on his 17th year as a plumber. They have been fortunate to have had AFSCME backing them up when needed.”

Learning about his family’s ties to labor has helped Rojas-Romero understand how important unions are for America overall, especially in our modern economy.

“Unions impact so many issues and aspects of life but underlying them all is the basic belief that the wellbeing of people matter just as much as the profits they produce, and that is something I hope to keep with me for the rest of my life.”