A love of dogs has earned Ben Swanson, a 2013 graduate of Maple Grove High School, the American Kennel Club's 2013 Junior Scholarship.
Swanson, who is also Maple Grove's 2013 valedictorian, is one of 19 outstanding students from 14 states who have been awarded the scholarship. The scholarships, which ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, are offered annually to high school, college and graduate school students.
"This year's scholarship recipients have distinguished themselves through their commitment to academics, their dogs and participation in AKC events and clubs," said Mari-Beth O'Neill, area vice president of sport services. "It's wonderful to be able to reward the accomplishments and the enthusiasm of the young people in our sport through the AKC Junior Scholarship program. We wish them well as they complete their education and move onward to even greater success in their careers and the dog world."
Ben Swanson is pictured at the Genesee County Kennel Club competition held in May, which he placed a group second.
Applicants were evaluated based on academic history and involvement in the sport of purebred dogs with special consideration for those who were active in AKC clubs and events. In addition, applicants were required to submit an essay describing their future involvement with purebred dogs, with the AKC and how one wishes to promote responsible dog ownership.
"I was very excited about it," said Swanson. "I know it's very competitive and there are a lot of talented young people from across the country who I've been able to compete against and become friends with. So, I knew there was a pretty strong application pool for the scholarship. To be chosen was a big honor."
According to Swanson, the award came as a result of his participation in junior showmanship, conformation, obedience and rally with Australian shepherds.
"We travel to AKC dog shows across the eastern part of the country," said Swanson. "Junior Showmanship is a separate division during the day, in addition to the regular show, to help teenagers to enhance their skills of handling the dogs. You can have a great dog, and not know how to present them in a way that makes them look their best. Confirmation is based on how the dog is structurally built compared to a written standard. Obedience and AKC Rally are performance events about training the dogs in performance of structured exercises."
Swanson plans on utilizing the scholarship while he studies biology in the honors program at Canisius College. He's also in a combined degree program with the University at Buffalo Dental School.
"It's a seven-year program where I'll do the first three years at Canisius and the last four years at U.B. Dental," said Swanson. "As much as I love working with animals I decided to keep it a hobby instead of something that I make my living off of. My goal is to establish myself as a breeder of purebred Australian shepherds, and to continue with showing my own dogs. Australian shepherds are very intelligent breeds, sometimes too smart for their own good, but are great dogs to work with, are great family members and are well-adjusted to an active lifestyle."
Swanson's parents have always been very supportive of his aspirations, he said. Swanson and his family became captivated by dogs after they searched for a pet with no intention of showing them, only to later connect with breeders who encouraged them to try showing, which eventually they got hooked on doing. Now they show just about every weekend, and Swanson works as an assistant to a professional handler, Tim Terella, of Edinboro, Pa.
"They didn't grow up in the dog shows, so that was something we were able to do as a family," said Swanson. "It's been a great activity for us to be able to travel around the country together. We've been to Westminster in New York City at Madison Square Garden, to the Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, Fla., and we've met a lot of really neat people that otherwise we wouldn't have had the opportunity to connect with.
"For me, I've learned a lot about responsibility and self discipline," said Swanson. "If you want to improve yourself you have to constantly be learning and open minded to learn from other people. It's also about being able to critique yourself and to grow from your experiences. I'd recommend that anyone who is interested in purebred dogs at all that the best thing you can do is attend a dog show to meet breeders and check out the AKC for information purebred dogs and responsible dog ownership."
Swanson was also involved with the student council and National Honor Society at Maple Grove High School. And, he is member of the Bemus Point United Methodist church.
AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB
The American Kennel Club, founded in 1884, is a nonprofit organization which maintains the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world. It also oversees the sport of purebred dogs in the United States. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Along with its more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. More than 20,000 competitions for AKC-registered purebred dogs are held under AKC rules and regulations each year including conformation, agility, obedience, rally, tracking, herding, lure coursing, coonhound events, hunt tests, field and earthdog tests. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Humane Fund, AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Companion Animal Recovery and the AKC Museum of the Dog.
For more information, visit akc.org or facebook.com/americankennelclub.