It’s almost time to send the Washington Apple Education Foundation’s 2009 crop of scholarship winners off on their college adventures.

I am excited to report that this year, 100 students will enter college campuses with financial support from the tree fruit industry. They include our future horticulturalists, engineers, lawyers, teachers, nurses, and more. This is our highest number yet of scholarship recipients. Your support couldn’t have come at a better time, as reports of staggering tuition increases have been making the headlines lately.

Though many students stand out to me each year, I want to share with you about one student in particular.  To guard her identity, I’ve changed her name. Jane received her first scholarship from the Washington Apple Education Foundation three years out of high school. She used it, and the following year’s award, to attend Wenatchee Valley College where she diligently maintained a full-time class load and continued to work a 40-hour week at a local warehouse, the same warehouse that employs her mother as a sorter. Jane began her work in the warehouse also on the sorting line but now works in the administration office where she makes use of her education to increase her responsibilities.  Jane is a favorite of mine because she never misses a WAEF event and a chance to meet our donors and say thank you. Her social skills are exemplary.

Jane is a first-generation college student and a role model in her family. Her younger brother and sister are following Jane’s lead, both understanding the importance of a college education and its role in providing not just financial stability and upward mobility, but in obtaining challenging and enjoyable work. Jane applied to WAEF this year, her third year in a row, to continue her education in the business administration program at Central Washington University. Though a good student and highly praised by her employer, Jane was one of 160 students who requested help from WAEF but were denied this year.

More scholarships needed

As excited as I personally am about the exceptional kids receiving awards this year, it’s bittersweet. Students who were denied WAEF assistance this year are great kids; they were raised with the work ethics of the tree fruit industry and have incredible potential. At issue wasn’t their worth, it was simply our lack of resources. Unfortunately, I don’t know where they’ll turn now for assistance.

The cost of attendance at Washington’s two major public universities is predicted to top $20,000 a year beginning with this year’s college freshmen, with an expected tuition increase of 14 percent in 2010 and unknown increases thereafter. A student completing a bachelor’s degree in four years may incur expenses of close to $100,000. Just ten years ago, the cost was less than $10,000 a year. A summer job, plus some family and government assistance, will not settle this expense. Even with scholarships, students should expect to graduate with some college debt.

Each year, WAEF seeks to increase its assistance to college-bound industry students. Students are fortunate to be raised in such a concerned and caring industry. Over the last ten years, WAEF’s scholarship program has grown impressively. Yet current needs are accelerating rapidly and so must our response. While we’re aware that the present economy is not the strongest for raising charitable dollars, we continue to move ahead, thoughtfully and purposefully.

While we’re increasing our support for students, we’ll also be encouraging them to see their futures in the tree fruit industry. A short film highlighting career opportunities will be shown in high schools and made available on the Internet. The film profiles industry members completing their daily tasks in our dynamic, world-class industry and then taking advantage of the quality of life offered in our rural communities. We may be frustrated at times wondering why students raised in our tree fruit communities don’t immediately gravitate toward industry careers. But I speak from experience when I say for some of us raised in small towns, experiencing the alternative is necessary before one can truly appreciate the benefits of rural life.

How can you get involved?

WAEF is the industry’s charity. We’re governed by an industry board of directors; our work is furthered by committees consisting of industry members; and our funding is derived solely through voluntary donations from industry members that believe in the value of education.

• Donate to WAEF. Contributions may be sent to 2900 Euclid Avenue, Wenatchee, WA 98801 or made online at our Web site

• Volunteer to be a student steward or participate on our scholarship selection committee

• Start your own scholarship through WAEF honoring a family member or in your business or family name

Please make your first step a visit with me or a member of our board of directors. We want to know more about your priorities for the foundation and your own personal charitable giving concerns. I can be reached at (509) 663-7713. You can also learn more about WAEF, including our board of directors, 990 tax report and financial statements, events, scholarships and more, at

Students benefit when we combine resources to bolster their potential. Each day at WAEF, we diligently go about our tasks knowing that students are counting on us.