By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Paige Fischer thought a labor auction would go over at Hays High School when she and fellow FFA member Chelsey Smith talked their adviser into trying it three years ago.
Now, Fischer finally will be reaping the benefits of those work days the past three years.
Selling members for eight hours of work each, Hays High's FFA chapter Sunday night raised $8,775 that will be used for scholarships for outgoing seniors.
One of those 10 seniors of the class of 2013 will be Fischer, who along with her classmates, is among the first class that will have worked all four years.
The auction was started their freshman year as a closure to national FFA week. And the event -- spearheaded by Fischer and Smith, now a sophomore at Kansas State University and a state FFA officer -- has gained popularity each year.
In the past, approximately $700 has been kept out of the proceeds to pay for a meal they have the night of the auction.
This year, however, the entire meal was donated, including place settings, so every single dollar will go to the seniors, who earn scholarship money according to points kept by adviser Curt Vajnar for participation in FFA activities throughout the year.
Last year, Vajnar said, the top scholarship award was $1,400, and most of the students received at least $800.
Approximately $4,000 was raised each of the first two years of the auction. Last year's amount went up considerably to $6,650, followed by this year's record amount.
Local auctioneers Jason Schneider and John Kisner donate their services for the night. Schneider has a son, Clayton, now a junior, in the FFA program, while Kisner is a 2006 graduate of Hays High and the local FFA chapter.
"We are so thankful for all this support," Vajnar said. "This helps the seniors who want to go on to college and continue their education."
Dennis Atwell, one of the biggest spenders Sunday, agreed.
Atwell's company, Pioneer Seeds, is a national sponsor of FFA and was one of the sponsors for Sunday's meal, and he also owns farmland in Lane and Ness counties.
"It's part of our mission statement," said Atwell, who bought five students. "But I also do this for help on my farm.
"I get the pick of the litter. I've had some of these kids for three years, and they tell me others who would be good workers, too."
A total of 39 individuals and one two-member team of two girls were auctioned off, making the average hourly wage more than $25.
"The biggest thing is, it's all for a good cause," Atwell said.
Bringing the highest bid was Fischer, whose boss for whom she works after school and on weekends, Mark Rohr of the Lazy H Ranch of Antonino, paid $625 for her services.
"It's nice to actually know you're walking out of here with some money," said Fischer, who is highly active in FFA and has a chance to earn one of the larger scholarships given out this year.
"College is expensive. So every bit helps."
Three other students each brought rights at the $400 range, and every worker brought more than $100.
"I think this is great," said Kisner, who said FFA was a big part of his life at Hays High. "I'm glad I can help out."