This story represents a portion of the recent work produced by The Apple Leaf staff. The Apple Leaf is published by the Advanced Journalism class at Wenatchee High School, under the tutelage of adviser Dave Riggs. The award-winning publication is a forum for expression by the students of Wenatchee High School, affording them a chance to air facts and opinions relative to all issues of concern to them.
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Wenatchee doesn’t have any decent malls, or Panda Expresses, or Ferris wheels, or any other big city draws. And, according to your average Wenatchee High-schooler, there is absolutely nothing to do.
But the “Distinguished WHS Alumni” who spoke at graduation, Ben Paine, begs to differ. “I was really sad to graduate, because I loved high school,” said Paine. “I wasn’t one of those kids that was dying to get away from Wenatchee. To me, Wenatchee was such an idyllic place to grow up.”
A 1995 WHS grad, Paine was heavily involved with ASB in high school. He held various positions such as treasurer, social activities coordinator and external activities coordinator during his four years. Paine was also captain of the golf team.
He graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in finance, which has nothing to do with his job now, but according to Paine, it’s not so much the major that matters, but the diploma.
“I think it’s just important that you get as much education as you can — become as well-rounded as you can,” said Paine. “I mean you go to college, and you get that piece of paper; it’s just like people know that you have the endurance to get through, you know. People just look at you differently when you have a college degree.”
This is partially what motivated Paine to open a funnel cake stand at the Apple Blossom food fair this year as a fundraiser for college scholarships.
“I didn’t want to wait until I was older to start helping people. You know, I’m not a rich person. I don’t have a ton of money. My wife and I took out a lot of our savings to start that thing this year,” he said. “We wanted to help kids from Wenatchee go to college. We really believe in college. I wanted to encourage kids and help kids that didn’t have that opportunity.”
At a class reunion almost a decade ago, Paine was shocked to learn that the funnel cake vendor makes $70,000 at the Apple Blossom food fair every year. And what was even crazier, the vendor was a guy from Arizona. “A light bulb just went on, and I said, ‘Well, why don’t we just buy one of those funnel cake machines; how hard can it be?’ ” said Paine. “Well, it was a lot harder than I thought it was; it’s not an easy thing to do. It took us six or seven years to get the money together to do it and figure out how to do it.”
This year, in just a week, the stand made enough profit for 15 scholarships of $1,500 each to be awarded to 2014 graduates attending Wenatchee Valley College. Potential applicants (students who just completed their junior year) can visit keepitinthevalley.com to learn about the scholarships and how to apply.
According to Paine, it’s all about investing the money spent at Apple Blossom back into the local economy. “I did it ‘cause I love Wenatchee,” said Paine. “I love my town, and I still have a lot of friends there, my mom and dad are still there, and my heart’s still there. I love that place.”
Paine is the youngest distinguished alumnus to ever speak at graduation, according to senior class adviser Brandon Harle. Kory Kalahar, former WHS vice principal, nominated Paine for the honor. Members of the senior senate evaluated the nominations, and Paine came out as the top candidate.
Paine shared his advice for the class of 2013 on June 7, but he also has a few words for the underclassmen sticking around Wenatchee for a couple more years. “While you’re in high school, enjoy being in high school,” said Paine. “Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Appreciate high school; appreciate where you are in your life, and enjoy that time in your life to have friends and be in a place like Wenatchee.”