Council 4's 2024 Scholarship Winners say union "opened door for brighter future"

Since 2021, Council 4 has provided educational scholarships to eight students whose parents are Council 4 members. Brady Scuito and Sean O'Leary are the winners of Council 4’s 2024 Education Scholarships and will each receive $2,000 — renewable for up to four years. 

Brady Scuito: “The union opened doors for a brighter future”

Scuito is the son of Jill Scuito, a member of AFSCME Local 714, representing Department of Social Services employees. He is a recent graduate of Foran High School in Milford and will attend UConn, with plans to major in mechanical engineering and minor in business.

Scuito's mother, Jill, has been a member of Local 714 for 30 years. She works as an Eligibility Services Supervisor for the Department of Social Services.

Before he was even born, Scuito's parents were both impacted by the wave of state employee layoffs in 2003, but the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (SEBAC) "led them both to become whole again," per Scuito's essay.

"Union membership helped strengthen my family economically. The wages and benefits allowed my parents to afford a higher quality of life," explained Scuito. "With the support of the union, they could invest in our education and extracurricular activities, which also opened the doors for a brighter future for my brother and I."

Scuito also credits the union with teaching him union values. "My parents have participated in union meetings and events and have taught me the importance of social justice. I have no doubt that being a member of their union has contributed to them instilling this in me," he explained. "Witnessing their dedication to the union's collective action has inspired me to become more engaged in issues of fairness and equality within my own community."

Jill Scuito and Brady Scuito

L-R: Jill Scuito, a member of AFSCME Local 714, representing Department of Social Services, and her son Brady Scuito, co-recipient of Council 4's 2024 Education Scholarship.

Sean O'Leary: “The union makes sure everyone has access to health care”

O'Leary is the son of Debra O'Leary, a member of AFSCME Local 1303-280, representing Cromwell Board of Education Employees; and John O'Leary, member of AFSCME Local 2193, representing State Marshals. He is a recent graduate of Wethersfield High School and will attend Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University, with plans to major in aeronautical sciences and study to become an airline pilot.

O'Leary's mother, Debra, has been a member of Local 1303-280 for eight years as a paraeducator for Cromwell Board of Education; O'Leary's father, John, has been a State Marshal and Local 2193 member for nine years.

O'Leary credits job security and health care as two critical areas that his family benefitted from, especially with a big surgery he underwent last year, as a result of both his parents being union members.

"Right now, the union is pushing for better access to health benefits, which is really important as health care costs keep going up," explained O'Leary. "It's not just about us; it's about setting a good example for future workers and making sure everyone has access to the health care they need."

"I know that as a paraeducator in Cromwell, they gave everyone money to cover the cost of health insurance this year, and that was very helpful," echoed Debra, O'Leary's mother.

"We've had a lot of backing at the state legislature trying to get some statutes passed to protect us specifically as state marshals," added John, O'Leary's father. "Some of these efforts have resulted in a pay raise for us too."

L-R: Debra O'Leary, a paraeducator member of AFSCME Local 1303-280 (Cromwell Board of Education); her son Sean O'Leary, co-recipient of Council 4's 2024 Education Scholarship; John O'Leary, a member of AFSCME Local 2193, representing State Marshals.

These awardees mark the fourth year of Council 4’s Education Scholarship. The following past scholarship awardees, along with Scuito and O'Leary, attended Council 4's June Executive Board Meeting: Zachary Jahn (2021), Berne Webb (2022), Vanden Haviland (2022), and Emma Devito (2023). They gave updates to the Executive Board about their college journeys and the extracurricular activities they have been involved with.

Council 4 scholarship awardees from 2021 to 2024 at the June meeting of the Council 4 Executive Board.