IAFF Member Puts Union Plus Scholarship Toward Mental Health Degree

Tony Lein, a member of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 95 in Chicago, is among the 2020 Union Plus Scholarship award winners. He is a firefighter/paramedic and peer fitness trainer with the Oak Park [Illinois] Fire Department, where he has worked since 2015. He also teaches American Heart Association CPR classes with Save-A-Life. Lein was awarded a $4,000 scholarship as he pursues a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

“First responders are continuously experiencing mental and emotional stress,” Lein said. “My desire is to help those responders who struggle with anxiety, depression and [post-traumatic stress disorder], and to strengthen and encourage them to a life of hope and healing. This is a niche field within counseling that does not currently have enough attention or dedicated resources, but could have a significant impact on individuals that society views as some of our bravest individuals.”

In addition to his dedication to mental health support for first responders, Lein and many of his colleagues are passionate IAFF members. Lein said his union involvement has helped him understand how unions successfully aid their members. “Local fire unions and the broader IAFF constantly invest time and money to ensure that our pensions are adequately funded for retirement or for a family’s benefit in the case of a line-of-duty death,” Lein said. “I can rest assured that my family’s current and future needs are taken care of because of the security I receive, fought for by IAFF.”

The Union Plus Scholarship Program awards scholarships based on outstanding academic achievement, personal character, financial need and commitment to the values of organized labor. Union Plus Scholarship awards are granted to students attending a two-year college, four-year college, graduate school, or recognized technical or trade school.

Visit UnionPlus.org/Scholarship for applications and benefit eligibility. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2021.