Lakeville graduate has his eyes on the skies
Lakeville South graduate aims toward a career in aerospace, Air Force
Lakeville South High School’s Ben Shaffer might have graduated last week, but he’s already on his way toward establishing a life for himself.
Shaffer, elected to speak at last week’s 2012 commencement ceremony, is a small business owner with plans to major in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University in Ames as a part of the Air Force ROTC.
His ultimate goal centers on serving his country in some respect in the aerial realm.
His “Plan A” is to fly with the Air Force after college. He said he earned his pilot’s license in December.
“My Plan B is to use my degree in aerospace engineering to design and develop aircraft for national security” for such companies as Boeing or Lockheed Martin, he said.
Shaffer has also been an avid athlete, participating in South’s track and cross country teams, in addition to slalom skiing in his free time.
It was that last activity that inspired him to start Affinity Ski Wear with a friend in 2009.
“A friend of mine and I saw the lack of cool, cheap street wear in the freestyle skiing and snowboarding community, so we decided to start a company,” Shaffer said.
It grew quickly as the business began acquiring clients outside of skiing and snowboarding, such as school clubs and other sports.
Business has been strong enough that it had become his primary activity outside of school.
“Much of my time is taken up by designing and printing,” he said.
While in school, Shaffer earned himself a cum laude designation as he tackled increasingly challenging science classes.
Shaffer gave his teachers high marks.
“I’ve enjoyed all my teachers and their classes,” he said. “They have all made me who I am today.”
But one teacher who “had the biggest impact on my future aspirations was Mr. (Steve) Ullrich,” he said. “Unfortunately, he was laid off last year due to budget cuts.”
Ullrich taught engineering and architecture, Shaffer said, in addition to serving as his robotics team adviser.
“He was so helpful – so involved in his class – and an incredibly smart man,” Shaffer said. “My future in engineering was influenced heavily by his classes and seeing the kind of people engineers become.”
Ullrich also inspired Shaffer to pursue entry into the Air Force.
“He served in Vietnam and is retired Air Force,” Shaffer said. “Just what this man had been through and his wealth of knowledge was unmatched.”
Outside of school, Shaffer’s heroes are his parents.
“They’ve been through so much together and seeing their drive, hard work and perseverance through those times is incredible,” he said. “They’ve never been afraid to take a risk or seize an opportunity and that is an ability that I value greatly.”
Looking toward the future, Shaffer does not see his business waning too much once he leaves for Iowa.
“I’m hoping that I will still be able to continue printing shirts while I’m in college,” he said. “Iowa State is nice because it’s only three hours away, so I will be able to come home on weekends to print.”