Three Oakdale seniors snagged the highest level of recognition for four years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication when they were named co-valedictorians and salutatorian.
Daniel Dunning and Alissa Kummer (each earned a 4.3 GPA) will share the valedictorian honor while fellow AcaDeca student scholar Kyle Ridenour (4.27 GPA) has been named salutatorian. Both Kummer and Ridenour joined the Oakdale School District in the sixth grade while Dunning started in kindergarten.
The Oakdale Leader took the time to talk with these scholarly standouts to find out the secrets to their success and to share a part of their journey to the top.
If you were giving advice to incoming freshmen, what would you impart as secrets to your success?
Daniel: Don’t underestimate the first few weeks of school. It’s easy to dig yourself in a hole really quick. Do your homework, work hard and give 100 percent on every assignment. Also, time management is important.
Kyle: Accept that you’re going to have to sacrifice something but know that the sacrifice is worth it. While you’re in the midst of it, keep your head down and just get through it.
Alissa: Perseverance is the key element. Look at your future goals, not what you’re doing at that moment. Knowing it will pay off in the end will get you through those hard moments.
Today, it’s all about being a well-rounded student. How did you strike a balance between achieving high marks and staying involved with the community or clubs?
Daniel: Your freshman year it’s important to nail down what’s expected of you. Build slowly and put forth the appropriate amount of effort to achieve your goal.
Kyle: For me, I joined the Aca Dec Team and jazz band. You want to make sure it’s something you enjoy and something you can do well. Do just a few things and excel at what you do instead of spreading yourself too thin.
Alissa: Focus on knowing what you do is what you’re passionate about and willing to put time and energy into because you love it.
What were some of the challenges you experienced along this four-year journey?
Daniel: It was a challenge really committing myself to something. Aca Dec was really a turning point for real commitment. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Kyle: Having perseverance. Doing really well the first three years but that last semester it’s hard to keep that momentum going.
Alissa: Trying to do everything really well. There was a lot of internal pressure.
When asked who was the most influential teacher over their academic lifetime thus far, all three were unanimous: Lissa Jones, the AcaDeca coach and AP teacher.
Daniel: She was very inspirational and she made very judicious choices of when to be stern and when to be laid back.
Alissa: She was almost like a friend.
Kyle: She gave really good pep talks. She would remind us, it’s about sacrifice now so you’ll be satisfied with the results later.
Without parental support, it’s difficult to attain such academic heights. Tell us how your parents helped you achieve your goals.
Alissa: I received steady support from my parents. It would be hard to do this without that support.
Kyle: It wasn’t that my parents had huge expectations, but early on they instilled in me a desire to do well, and it worked. My parents are actually pretty laid back.
Daniel: I had parental expectation to do well but I think I had more internal pressure to excel, more so than my parents.
What life lessons or memories are you leaving with from your experience with Oakdale High?
Alissa: I’ve learned a lot and not just in an academic sense. You learn a work ethic and life skills. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Kyle: A combination of work and activities mixed in with support from my friends. We’re a really close group and it’s incredible to have that connection. I’m going to remember all my friends and how these people got me through.
Daniel: I’m going to remember all the good times. The work is magnified when you’re in high school but in retrospect, the friends, teachers and people I’ve met have helped me learn a lot about myself. It was a time of constant change, of always learning, always with friends.
Daniel plans to attend UCLA and major in mechanical engineering; Kyle plans to attend UC Berkley and major in English; and Alissa is planning to attend Oregon State with an undecided major.