With graduation only days away, Oakdale High School’s Class of 2013 is about to embark on a new part of life – one that officially launches them out of childhood and toward adulthood.
Two seniors who are leading the charge for their classmates by securing the top two academic titles are Valedictorian Hayley Benson and Salutatorian Madison Lane.
“It’s really a huge honor. I’m really blessed to represent our class and I’m so glad our hard work paid off,” Benson said.
She will attend University of San Diego and major in Sociology with an emphasis in crime, law, and society. She plans to be an attorney. Lane will attend University of Pennsylvania. She will major in PPE – Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. She then hopes to obtain a minor in Business at Wharton. She eventually wants to enter the corporate world.
Benson reported that becoming Valedictorian wasn’t something she ever thought about until her junior year when she found out she was first in her class. She added that she took all the hardest classes that she could and wanted to challenge herself. She said her goal was to be the best she could and becoming Valedictorian was the result.
Lane reported that she and Benson have been best friends since elementary school – they attended Cloverland together. She said that they’ve always had a friendly, healthy competition with each other. Benson added that all of their friends are also in the top few spots in their class as well, noting that without all the friends who’ve spurred her academically that she probably wouldn’t have risen to the occasion.
“They pushed us to work our hardest,” Benson said.
“It has always been a goal for me to get straight ‘A’s in school, as well as stay involved in the community and school activities,” Lane noted. “I think both of us have been able to balance it all really well.”
Both teens are active in numerous activities outside of the classroom. For Benson, a few of the highlights include being on the OHS water polo team, church volunteering, Drama Club, Service Club, Leadership, and California Scholarship Federation. Lane has been active in Academic Decathlon, Science Olympiad, Gay Straight Alliance, CSF, OHS tennis, Service and Interact clubs, and was the student representative to the district’s Board of Trustees.
How do they keep their grades up so high with all these activities? Benson said that the busier she is the more motivated she is, and she admitted that she can get lazy without stuff to do.
“I’ve always been good at prioritizing,” Benson added. “It was always academics first… I always felt good pressure to excel and was really motivated.”
Benson is the daughter of Trisha and Steve Benson and has two older brothers. Lane’s parents are John and Tina Lane and she has one younger sister.
Benson and Lane were each recipients of a new OHS scholarship this year – the Makara Recognition Scholarship sponsored by Jason Wong, which recognizes the efforts and achievements of Valedictorian and Salutatorian.
They received their scholarships at the annual Senior Awards Night for OHS, held in early May where scholarships and other special awards were given.
Notably, the two students who received the most scholarships at Senior Awards Night, collecting eight apiece, were seniors Chandni Mistry for merit and service participation and Colton Farquer who raked in the in the Ag scholarships.
Students who received the most amount of money in scholarships were Mason Schmidt and Danny Wong. Schmidt won the prestigious Leo Volz Scholarship, which pays $25,000 per year for four years, for a maximum of $100,000 toward tuition and books at any accredited university of choice. Wong is the first OHS student to receive the Gates Millennium Scholarship Award. This is a renewable, need-based, merit scholarship, awarded to 1,000 talented students each year throughout the nation, which provides financial support to use at any college or university of choice. Their undergraduate field of study must be in one of seven disciplines: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health or science. This scholarship can also continue through the pursuit of a doctoral degree, plus the Gates Millennium Scholars receive personal and professional development through leadership programs and academic support throughout their college career.
Other new OHS scholarships this year, along with the Makara Recognition Scholarship for Valedictorian and Salutatorian, were three $1,000 scholarships from Oakdale Irrigation District, a renewable four-year $2, 000 scholarship from an anonymous donor “Old Blue,” the Live Your Dream Scholarship sponsored by former Volz Scholarship winner Todd Medema, and the $1,000 Gatzman Community Improvement Scholarship sponsored by Janie and Nick Gatzman of N & J Gatzman Farming.