When Oakdale High School senior Mason Schmidt was recently called out of his English class to the Principal’s office, he knew there was an announcement to be made, but he wasn’t sure if the news was good or not.
Schmidt found out soon enough, however, that he was selected as the 2013 Leo Volz Scholarship recipient.
“The first thing I thought is, ‘this is going to be life-changing,’” Schmidt recalled. “I come from a modest upbringing. My father is a truck driver and my mom is a preschool teacher.”
The terms of the Leo Volz Scholarship awards $25,000 per year for four years, for a maximum of $100,000 toward tuition and books at any accredited university. Schmidt plans to attend UC Davis and aspires to become a history or math professor.
He said that from the Principal’s office, they called his parents on his cell phone and put them on the speaker phone to notify them.
“My mom cried,” Schmidt said. “I could tell they were blissful and happy. You could hear relief in their voices.”
His parents are Michael and Peggy Schmidt of Oakdale and he has an older brother, Adam, who attends University of the Pacific.
Students must meet certain criteria to apply for the scholarship, and those particular students are, therefore, invited to apply. Of those invited to apply, not all do so, but there were 30 applicants this year. It was then narrowed to a field of three. The students were required to write an essay and participate in an interview before a panel.
The interview was “nerve wracking,” Schmidt said, but added that once he was in front of the panel of people, it wasn’t as intimidating as he thought it would be.
“I felt like I did a solid job in everything,” he said. “The competitors…were very qualified and very deserving. It could’ve been any of us… It’s just such an amazing opportunity. It’s something I’m probably most proud of up to this point in my life.”
Schmidt said that there have been people who’ve been of great support and influence on him throughout his life thus far.
“My parents have supported me through anything I wanted to pursue,” he said.
Annette and Richard Hutton introduced him to arts and theater, which, he said, will stay with him for the rest of his life as a hobby.
“It definitely shaped who I am today,” Schmidt said.
He added that OHS teacher Pete Simoncini has also been a great role model, noting his community involvement and how he’s always helpful as an educator, despite all his commitments.
Schmidt also has his own number of commitments and accomplishments. He’s served on the city’s Youth Advisory Council for six years and is the current President. He has performed with Hutton’s Hamlet theater since 2004. He is the OHS Drama Club secretary. He’s been in about 30 plays. He’s also the publicist for the OHS “S” (Service) Club, a junior volunteer at Oak Valley Hospital for two years, and the school site student representative for two years. He won seven medals over the course of three years on the OHS Science Olympiad team, is a Link Crew leader, was on the tennis team for three years, and was in California Scholastic Federation for all four years of high school. He also tutors elementary and high school students in math, and has taken piano and voice lessons since childhood. He has also received and Academic Block “O” as well as one for Drama, and is involved in other clubs and service.
Simoncini considers Schmidt as a rare, extraordinary student who “stands at the apex of a list of several truly outstanding students.”
Simoncini shared one of the letters of recommendation that he wrote for Schmidt. In it, he wrote of Schmidt’s myriad positive attributes.
“Mason possesses an outstanding work ethic, preeminent academic prowess including outstanding writing and speaking skills, a tremendous thirst for knowledge, an incredible desire for self-improvement, impeccable moral character, and a wonderful personality – a combination of traits that has resulted in a truly exceptional student who has absolutely unlimited potential for future great success,” Simoncini wrote.
Simoncini considers Schmidt a model student and added that the teen is the quintessential student showing outstanding behavior, respect, and courtesy in the classroom.
“He has been dedicated, focused, hardworking, bright, articulate, and committed to excellence,” Simoncini wrote. “His work has always been of the highest quality, demonstrating a mature thought process, outstanding research and presentation skills, and an overall extraordinary level of cognitive ability.”
Simoncini noted that Schmidt has particularly impressed him in that he has been “habitually prepared” for every class and has actively participated in all of Simoncini’s many lectures. He also counts Schmidt as “one of the most honest, candid, and forthright people” he’s ever known.
“He possesses the highest level of moral character with unquestioned integrity. Amid all of his other considerable qualities, Mason is a genuinely very nice human being,” Simoncini stated. “I have become extremely impressed with his great maturity, total honesty, and extremely positive attitude. He is also a true friend who goes out of his way to help those who are in need.”
Further, Simonicini noted that Schmidt personifies the label “true gentleman.”
“He is an outstanding young man,” Simoncini said. “…Obviously, I think very highly of Mason.”