Washington, DC- Cody Wheeland, son of IATSE member Kenneth Wheeland, Local 728, has been selected to receive a 2003 Union Plus Scholarship award. Cody, a graduating high school senior who maintained a 3.6 grade point average (GPA) and received a perfect 1600 score on the SAT’s (Scholastic Aptitude Test), will receive $3,000.
Cody is among 105 students from 42 AFL-CIO unions that have been awarded $150,000 in scholarships from the Union Plus Scholarship program. The program’s top $4,000 awards went to eight students. Eighty of the award recipients received awards ranging from $500 to $3,000. Seventeen students, attending community colleges and trade schools, received scholarships ranging from $500 to $1,000.
Since 1992, Union Privilege, through the Union Plus Scholarship program, has helped fulfill the educational dreams of students representing more than 13 million members affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The Union Plus scholarship awards are presented annually to union members (or members of their families) who want to begin or continue their secondary education. The program is administered by the Union Plus Education Foundation and funded by Household Credit Services, the provider of the union-endorsed Union Plus Credit Card.
Due to skyrocketing college tuition costs, cuts in federally funded college grants and scholarships, and increasing loan burdens, higher education is becoming more difficult for working families. Therefore, the Union Privilege scholarships and grants are even more vital today.
“Our members and their families are faced with expanding financial challenges and the rising costs of higher education,” says Leslie Tolf, president of Union Privilege. “Our support, which also recognizes the realities of balancing career and family, provides individuals from working families with assistance in realizing their aspirations for a higher education. Such support of working families, of course, is part of the labor movement’s long tradition.”
With a perfect SAT score, recognition as an honor student profiled in Who’s Who Among American High School Students, selection to the National Honor Society, and numerous other academic achievements, it is not unusual that Cody Wheeland may have the enviable problem of choosing from one of three prestigious universities – MIT, Amherst and Princeton. The mathematics major, who is also an award-winning filmmaker, has worked as an inventor’s assistant on electronic toy prototypes. He is also a highly recognized Eagle Scout and Boy Scout troop patrol leader; and he has won attention by reaching the city finals as a member of his high school’s championship swim team.
And those aren’t his only accomplishments. From middle school to high school, Cody took summer classes at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. His courses included computers, astronomy, cryptology, and engineering. He earned college credit for that course work. Similarly, he was enrolled in special college-level academic programs at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, CA., and ‘at Pierce College in Los Angeles, CA. He also is a naturalist and environmentalist and involved in a number of conservation activities.
But with such diverse skills and interests what is his true passion? He explains: “As I have begun searching for a place in today’s working world, I have found that film provides the perfect balance between academics and art for me — a balance that entices and intrigues me.”
But how do mathematics fit-into the equation? Hear Cody’s Media Academy and World History Honors class instructor, Jeanne Saize’s perspective: “Cody does not learn in ways that are rewarded by a large comprehensive high school. In his junior year, while in my U.S. History Honors class. his grade began to slip. He was not turning in assignments that I knew he was more than capable of doing. We met with his counselor and decided to try an alternative curriculum that was more challenging and imaginative. Cody agreed to analyze statistics about the reported casualties from World War II and furnished a comprehensive report of his findings. His work represented true historical inquiry, Later he wrote, directed, edited, and produced an extraordinary film regarding some of the issues that divided our country during the Vietnam War. His exemplary film won the best original screenplay and best cinematography at [our school’s] Media Academy Awards,” And still there’s more, she adds: “Teachers across the campus called on Cody to explain how to run and fix their computers, [and] he monitors and repairs thousands of dollars worth of technical equipment.”
Film and service, he says, ties to his father and his union. Cody explains: “I have taken my cues from my father. I joined the Media Academy at my high school to learn about video and film production, and excelled in my photography class. His insistence on high quality and hard work has imbued in me the standards unions represent. …I have benefitted from having a father who is in a safe working environment, and earns enough money to take time off to fully participate in my life. I know that as I mature, the unions will grow with me.”
A Challenging Process
The students selected for awards represent a wide sampling of demographics, union affiliations, goals and accomplishments. Representatives from the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the United Negro College Fund judged the applications.
According to the judges, the caliber of students this year made the selection process very challenging. The students are from diverse backgrounds, and as a whole, they received top SAT scores, were well-rounded in their studies and extracurricular activities, and they understood the value of working families and union membership.
How the Scholarship Program Works
In addition to demonstrated academic ability, applicants submitted essays of no more than 500 words describing their career goals, detailing their relationship with the labor movement, and explaining why they are deserving of a union scholarship.
The program is open to members, their spouses and dependent children of unions that are participating in any Union Plus program. Individuals must be accepted into an accredited college or university, community college or recognized technical or trade school at the time the award is issued. Members do not have to purchase any Union Plus program product or participate in any Union Plus program to apply.
Applications for the 2004 awards will be available in September 2003. To download the application from the Union Privilege web site, go to www.unionplus.org. Or, send a postcard with your name, return address, telephone number and international union affiliation to: Union Plus Education Foundation, c/o Union Privilege, P.O. Box 34800, Washington. DC 20043-4800.
The application deadline is January 31, 2004. Recipient’s names for the 2004 program will be announced May 31, 2004. However, due to the high volume of applications only winners will receive notification.