Oakdale High School senior Daniel Dunning, considered an outstanding and well-rounded student, was recently named the winner of the Leo Volz Scholarship. The prestigious and coveted scholarship pays 100 percent of an Oakdale student’s college tuition and books for four years of undergraduate education at an accredited two- or four-year college of their choice.
“Daniel is a great young man who exhibits all the qualities included in the criteria to win the Leo Volz Scholarship,” said Oakdale Joint Unified School District Superintendent Fred Rich. “He has been active in athletics, Academic Decathlon, student leadership and is one of the top academic students at OHS. He is a fine person who is well deserving of this outstanding honor.”
Dunning plans to attend UCLA and major in mechanical engineering. He said he’s interested in becoming an automotive design engineer, but said the major provides options for a number of different fields.
“I find mechanics interesting in general,” he said.
Now that he has won the Leo Volz scholarship, he said he realizes the burden it relieves for him and his family.
“It takes the pressure off finding a way to make it work and not having to take on debt in the form of student loans or family debt,” Dunning said.
He said that when he learned of his selection for the scholarship, he felt relief.
“I knew it was such a close competition,” he said.
Dunning remains quite humble about being this year’s recipient of the prestigious scholarship. He said he felt that any one of the five in the final group deserved the scholarship and could’ve won it. Additionally, he said that they’re all friends and they’ve all been very supportive of his selection.
He said that the fact that he’s won the scholarship is still sinking in because he doesn’t actually get to hold a check in his hands, as the transactions are all done directly between the bank and the educational institution.
“It was a lot of excitement,” Dunning said of when he heard the news, “…and then I felt immediately a little bit sad because it could’ve been any of the five of us.”
He added that he wished they all could have received something.
OHS college counselor Denise Hitch reported that there was a field of 40 initially qualified seniors who were eligible to apply for the scholarship. Of those, 13 students applied, then the field was narrowed to five finalists. The students each wrote an essay on a predetermined topic and were interviewed by a panel of judges.
“Just being eligible to apply is a real statement about how accomplished these students are,” Hitch said.
She added that to be one of the five finalists is a great testimony to the students’ achievements and that they were all deserving.
Dunning acknowledged that there was a degree of stress going into the interview portion of the process but once he got in there he felt okay and was confident about it when it was over. He has had a fair amount of practice with interviews due to his participation in Academic Decathlon, where interviews are part of the contest.
“Interviews are fun because you get to talk to people and get to know people…and I think that’s a cool experience,” he said.
He noted that the essay portion of the application, however, wasn’t stressful to him at all because he’s written so many essays. He said he was “satisfied” with it at the end of the day.
Dunning admitted that when he found out about his selection as the scholarship recipient, he text messaged his parents Philip and Barbara Dunning on his cell phone in passing between class periods. He said they both responded with congratulatory text messages.
Dunning is the student representative and a voting member on the OJUSD Board of Trustees. He has maintained a straight ‘A’ record throughout his school career. He earned the top Honors Division award as well as the top Overall Delegate award for this year’s Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon, has been involved in Model UN, leadership, has played four years of varsity tennis, was the school site council representative, and is also involved in CSF, GSA, and Interact clubs. He also enjoys playing the drums and video games, and helps take care of his family’s horses.
Eligibility requirements for the Leo Volz scholarship are that students must have a minimum 3.8 GPA or a score of at least 1200 points on the SAT, participation and achievement in school and extra-curricular activities, contributions to the community, employment, and financial need.
Volz was an Oakdale area farmer who lived in the area for a short time. In his will, he asked the Oakdale Joint Unified School District to set up a scholarship and he endowed it with $2 million. The ability to award the scholarship is based on the interest earned on the endowment account and also based on how many previous winners are still currently in college and using the funds. That determines how much or how many scholarships can be awarded. As stated in Volz’ will, the purpose of the endowment is to provide scholarships to OHS graduates who represent the most outstanding all-around students graduating from the high school each year. Volz also had a passion for the arts and asked that it be considered as part of the criteria.