Meet the 2019 Winner of the Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship

This year’s winner of the Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship is someone who defends workers' rights, supports her community and is deeply involved in her union. 

Photo of Katrise Sawyer

Katrice Sawyer, AFSCME Local 1028

Meet Katrice Sawyer, who has worked as a legal secretary for the past 12 years at the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office in Joliet, Illinois.

Despite working full time, earning a dual master’s degree in public administration and political and justice studies at Governors State University, and volunteering at Guardian Angel Community Services as a case worker for domestic violence survivors, Sawyer somehow manages to stay heavily involved in her union.

“I don't have time for all of it,” acknowledged Sawyer, “but somehow everything comes together.”

In 2013, when Will County proposed a new insurance structure for its county employees, Sawyer, along with her union sisters and brothers at AFSCME Local 1028, hit the pavement to strike, which led to a compromise with Will County and a fairer agreement.

In her scholarship essay, Sawyer described the spirit of union activism that gripped her: “I enjoyed challenging our employers for our rights and gaining a better perspective of what it means to come together for a cause more important than just myself.”

On a day-to-day basis, Sawyer can also be found talking to her co-workers about the importance of becoming an AFSCME member.

Through her volunteer work at the Guardian Angel Community Services, Sawyer advocates for abused women and children, guiding them to empower themselves and establish better lives.

Despite the time commitment involved in all these endeavors, Sawyer hopes to set an example for her daughter, who is enrolled at the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Using the knowledge she’s gaining at Governors State – where she maintains a 3.89 GPA – Sawyer would one day like to work in New Orleans, where she has lived, or in the Illinois state capital of Springfield. In the meantime, she’s focused on earning her degree in December 2020.

The Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship was created to help members pursue their goals while being committed to strengthening our union through organizing, building political power, defending workers’ rights, and supporting public services, in the tradition of AFSCME’s third president.

Learn how to apply for the Gerald W. McEntee Scholarship here. Learn about other AFSCME scholarship programs here.