Union Front: Making Higher Education Affordable


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Tom Fricano Scholarships Help Members with College Costs

Joe Brusca, a member of UAW Local 644 in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, understands the escalating cost of higher education. His daughter, Karissa, graduated with honors last year from York College in Pennsylvania. She now works as a nurse and has set her sights on working in a critical care unit.

In four years at York College, she spent nearly $7,000 on books alone. However, her excellent grades, work ethic and her father’s UAW Region 9 membership helped her win a Tom Fricano Scholarship to help offset the costs of college.

“She worked hard throughout school, working both on campus and off,” said Brusca, an apprentice electrician at Dana, Inc.’s Light Vehicle Driveline Group. “The scholarship provided her with additional funds that she was able to use and put toward books that she will be able to use throughout her medical career. It’s wonderful that UAW Region 9 offers a scholarship. The cost of furthering your education is extremely costly and every little bit helps.”

The 19th Annual Tom Fricano Scholarship Golf Outing was held Sept. 1 to benefit the children and grandchildren of UAW members in Region 9. Former Region 9 Director Tom Fricano, a strong advocate for higher education who passed away last year, wanted to make sure the children and grandchildren of UAW members had a helping hand when it came to affording college.

Continued below…

2017 UAW Region 9/Tom Fricano Scholarship Winners

Nicolette Bushman
Granddaughter of
Ronald Blumetti, retiree of
UAW Local 595

Raquel DiFiglia
Granddaughter of
Joseph DiFiglia, retiree of
UAW Local 424

Matthew Malitsky
Son of Thomas Malitsky,
member of UAW Local 677

So he started the scholarship fund with the idea that scholarship candidates would write an essay on a pre-assigned labor topic and the best essays, coupled with grades, volunteer work, other honors, and references would guide judges in their selection.

The fund has grown from awarding one (1) $500 a year scholarship to awarding a $1,500 annual scholarship to three students, one each from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

“College expenses can be out of the reach of working people,” said Terry Dittes, the current director of Region 9, which includes those three states. “We want to help so that our members’ children and grandchildren have the ability to realize their dreams. We’re proud to continue Tom Fricano’s legacy.”

The scholarships are funded by an annual golf outing in Western New York, the headquarters of Region 9. Many area businesses contribute cash, goods and services to keep and grow the fund.

“We couldn’t do this without the many local businesses who generously support the scholarship fund,” Dittes said. “They realize what we do: We have to do our part to make sure that rising college costs do not exclude the sons, daughters and grandchildren of working families.”

Fricano would be proud today. Pat Peri, an executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and a close friend of Fricano’s, said the former regional director placed great emphasis on education for workers and their children as it improved work opportunities.

“First and foremost, Tom was extremely keen on education,” Peri said before teeing off. “It also widened a person’s view of what was going on in the world.”

Thanks to the scholarship, Jordan Swigert, the son of Darryl Swigert, a Local 644 member and machine operator at Dana, received a total of $2,000 in Fricano Scholarship funds to help pay for his education. He’s now an auditor for Price Waterhouse in Philadelphia.

“It just helps with the cost of it, Darryl Swigert said. “It dropped the price $2,000. I don’t know how people can afford it.”

The scholarships are selected by the Fricano family after initial screening by an independent three-member panel. Applications for the 2017 scholarship awards will be available in the spring.

Vince Piscopo

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