By Pat Maurer
Ben Barnhart is an incredible 2012 Farwell graduate.
He graduated just two years ago at age 19 as the Valedictorian of his senior class, and on May 10 he will be graduating from Northwood University with his Bachelor’s degree: with a major in Finance and a minor in Economics. Six days after that he will celebrate his 21st birthday.
Ben doesn’t think it is that big of a deal. “It doesn’t seem all that impressive to me. It all comes back to the opportunities I have been given and the support and encouragement of my parents,” he said. “Farwell put me in a great position. I graduated from there with 24 college credits.”
He also graduated from Farwell with a 3.98 GPA. “I got one A-,” he said. “That upset me a little.”
Ben’s parents are Scott and Sabine Barnhart. His father is a teacher and coach and his mother is a pharmacist. Formerly of Farwell, they moved from Farwell to Lake St. Clair after he graduated. His sister is now a senior at Algonac High School and plans to attend Michigan State next year.
Ben started taking college classes at Mid Michigan Community College through Farwell’s dual enrollment program when he was just a sophomore in high school. “My first college class was speech,” he said. In my junior and senior years I took pre-calculus, calculus, accounting, English – all I could of the basic classes for college.
In spite of all his studies in high school, Ben still managed to participate in sports and other activities.
In sports, He played football for all four years, was Farwell’s quarterback, was nominated as Team Captain and voted Most Valuable Player in his senior year. He played basketball as a point-guard for three high school years, was a pitcher in baseball for two years and ran hurdles in track for one year.
He was a member of the National Honor Society and has been a member of the Phi Kappa Theta Honor Society since 2011. He was a tutor/assistant in S.P.A.R.K.S., supervising playground activities and engaging “at-risk” third grade students in math related games. He volunteered in Relay for Life and as part of his own business “Barnhart Enterprises,” did media editing, web site design, created sports posters, did creation of video football highlights and athletic recruiting tapes and movies on Blue Ray.
It doesn’t seem possible to add more, but with all of this he also worked part-time at Jared’s Express Mart in Farwell as a gas station attendant beginning in June 2009 through August of 2010.
He earned several scholarships to help him with college including the $20,000 four-year Dick and Betsy DeVos Scholarship for Free-Enterprise and Entrepreneurship; academic merit based scholarships; the Jane Eisenhower Scholarship; the Wendy’s Heisman Scholarship; the Isabella Bank Scholarship and one from the Farwell Area Scholarship Fund based on his first place class rank.
“I am very grateful for all of the scholarships,” Ben said, “especially the DeVos Scholarship. It is $5,000 a year for four years. I’ve only used two of those years, but may be able to use the other two for a Master’s Degree.
He said he has no plans right now to work on his Masters, but may do it later.
Dee Yarger, principal of Farwell high School, Farwell Area Early College and Timberland Alternative High School, said, “I am extremely proud of Ben and his degree accomplishments. Additionally, I am delighted that Farwell had a small part to help him find success with his first 24 college credits because it was truly a delight to watch him excel and collaborate with the high school and college staff.”
She continued, “Ben is a student that took advantage of the opportunities Farwell provides with self-motivation, determination, and dedication. I believe the program not only allows students to get a jump start on their college degree at no cost, but I hope Ben also found that he was better prepared and more confident as he entered college. The sky is the limit for Ben and I am very proud of him and the program that Farwell offers all of its students.”
The summer after he graduated from Farwell, Ben added nine more credits from Macomb Community College before enrolling in his first fall classes at Northwood University.
“I chose Northwood University because they took most of the college credits I’ve earned,” he said. “Of all of the area colleges they accept the most community college credits. They will accept up to 90. That was a huge factor in my decision to go there.”
He took 18 credit hours for each of the four semesters at Northwood University and added an accelerated three-credit course over the first Christmas break and 18 more credits the following summer, 15 from Macomb and three in an on-line course from MMCC.
At Northwood, Ben is president of the Finance Association and with a special presentation outlining his high school entrepreneurial accomplishments, was chosen for the Accelerated BBA/MBA Program at Northwood. He still continues his media editing of primarily music production for other students. “It earns me spending money,” he said.
Now he is in his final semester. “It has been a tough semester so far,” Ben said. “All of my classes are at the 4,000 level (senior classes), but now I am in the home stretch.”
“People always ask me why I’ve rushed through, doing four years of college in two. They say I am missing the college experience. I think I have had a good experience for two years now and I’m ready to move on. Now I’m ready to go out and start making money.”
He continued, “I’ve been able to accomplish this because I treat it like a job. My parents have bent over backwards to make this all possible for me and I am really grateful to them.”
After he graduates in a little over one month, Ben already has a job waiting for him. He has accepted a position as a Financial Consultant and Personal Planner and Advisor at QOLity in Utica.
Farwell Superintendent Carl Seiter said, “Ben Barnhart is a great example of hard work and a student who took advantage of a great opportunity. We are very proud of Ben and all he has accomplished. It is wonderful to know that Farwell Area Schools provided Ben with a path to success. Ben worked hard and did the rest. Congratulations Ben!
When told that his parents must be very, very proud of him, this laid-back young man replied, “I guess so.”