Union for Deaf & Blind School Gives Back

It was a powerful and emotional day in St. Augustine this week as family and friends gathered to witness the graduation of the senior class at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, the oldest school of it's kind in the state. Founded in 1885, the tuition-free state K-12 public school is the largest of it's kind in the nation. The graduation celebrates students who have overcome overwhelming obstacles to excel in academics without the use of sight or hearing. 

Each year for the past five years, the dedicated members of AFSCME Local 3025 that represent the school's instructional and non-instructional staff has given out scholarship awards to two graduating seniors who have chosen to attend a technical or vocational school.

"We do this because we feel it's important to assist these students in achieving their goals" said Local 3025 President Eyvolle Pamphile, a veteran AMFSCME member of nearly three decades. "Not every student has the opportunity to attend a University, but trade schools teach important skills and put good jobs within reach at an affordable price." 

This year's AFSCME Local 3025 scholarships were awarded to Hannah Anderson and Benjamin Daniel. Anderson, who is deaf has work experience in daycare and intends to attend First Coast Technical College to earn her certification in Early Childhood Education. Daniel will be heading to Osceola Technical School where he plans to study culinary arts and restaurant management. The generous Local 3025 scholarships will assist these students with the cost of text books and school supplies. 

"I'm incredibly grateful," said Daniel after a long hug on stage with Pamphile. "I can really use the help."

Local 3025, the staff union at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind (FSDB), has made great strides over the last year under the leadership of President Pamphile and Vice President Evan Birnholz. The Local has more than tripled their membership and built power and solidarity among school employees-all of whom are certified to communicate with students via sign language. Several of the union's stewards are deaf as well. 

"As a longtime employee of FSDB and AFSCME member, I understand the value of union membership," said Birnholz. "Because of our union we have the benefits of the Family and Medical Leave Act, we have lunch hours, benefits, pay raises, and a voice here at our job."  Birnholz along with Pamphile focused considerbale effort over the past year to organizing new employees and expanding what can be acomplished as union members. "As a result, we've fostered an atmosphere of mutual respect in this unique and challenging environment," explained Birnholz.

"We have dignity in the work that that we do and that is why we give back to our students each year," added President Pamphile. "We strive to have the life skills we teach them here serve them well when they leave." 

AFSCME Florida salutes the inspiring leadership of Local 3025 at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind!