CSEA Mid-Hudson Judiciary Local member Dawn Mulder, bottom, supports
her son, Joseph Ponesse, top, during his sporting events. Ponesse received
an AFSCME Family Scholarship, which will help offset college costs. (Photo
submitted by Dawn Mulder.)

NEW WINDSOR — When CSEA member Dawn Mulder accepted a position years ago as an attorney for the state’s Mental Hygiene Legal Service (MHLS), she knew she was trading a potentially more lucrative law career for the stability of a union job.

Excellent health insurance, reasonable hours and flexible schedules are all things Mulder valued when she took a job providing legal representation for individuals with mental health disabilities.

Now, Mulder can add another benefit. Her son, Joseph Ponesse, is a 2023 recipient of the AFSCME Family Scholarship. The scholarship, awarded by our international union, is renewable for up to four years.

“I am extremely thankful for AFSCME’s generosity in awarding me such a significant scholarship,” said Ponesse, who is headed to SUNY Cortland to study physical education or athletic training following his graduation from Newburgh Free Academy. “This scholarship will definitely ease the financial burden of four years of college and graduate school. I will be able to focus more on my academics, on becoming a physical education teacher or athletic trainer and, fingers crossed, play varsity baseball.”

Ponesse was one of 10 students across the country chosen for the highly coveted scholarship.

In his scholarship essay, he detailed how the health insurance negotiated through our union helped his family when both his brother and mother were diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy that requires medical visits to various specialists.

Having our union behind her has helped Mulder navigate the scheduling challenges that arose from the various doctor appointments, providing reassurance of job security in the face of personal challenges. It’s the same flexibility and stability that she’s valued throughout her career with the state.

“I was able to make it to my boys’ sporting events,” said Mulder, acknowledging that many parents are unable to due to challenging work schedules. “My older son’s teammates would comment that I was the soccer mom, because I was able to make their events and cheer them all on.”

That family support helped both boys succeed, said Mulder. Not only did Ponesse play three varsity sports (baseball, wrestling, and football), he also achieved the coveted rank of Eagle Scout achieved by only a small percentage of Boy Scouts of America members. For his Eagle project, Ponesse helped restore a trail behind one of the school district’s junior high schools, even adding a footbridge in one area.

As a mom proud of her son’s achievements, Mulder said she looks forward to seeing what his future holds. Having some financial assistance with college costs reaffirms her gratitude for our union.

“It just really helps minimize college costs,” said Mulder, a member of the Mid-Hudson Judiciary Local. “We really appreciate the scholarship. CSEA has always ensured I had my job and security. Our local president, Kevin Mahler, always has my back. I can’t say enough good things about our union.”

— Jessica Ladlee


About Author

Jessica Ladlee is the communications specialist for CSEA's Southern Region. A graduate of Boston University, Ladlee is an award-winning journalist who worked as a newspaper editor before joining the CSEA communications team in 2004. She is passionate about the opportunities unions provide for people to join the middle class, something her grandmother did as a Rockland County CSEA member over 50 years ago.

Comments are closed.