By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
OHS Top Academic Students Named
100 1756
Oakdale High School Class of 2009 Valedictorians from left, Karen Molokach and Katie Zeff, and Salutatorians Sara Peterson and Chris Gebhart. - photo by Dawn M. Henley/The Leader
Four graduating seniors will take their rightful places at the top of their graduating class at Oakdale High School this year. There were ties for the honors of Valedictorian and Salutatorian. The class of 2009 Valedictorians are Karen Molokach and Katie Zeff, and Salutatorians are Chris Gebhart and Sara Peterson.
All of the students have college plans, but are unsure about the paths they will take for their majors, all considering that they may switch majors down the road. Molokach will attend Yale University and major in Literature. Zeff will attend UC Santa Barbara and will be a Humanities major. Gebhart will attend UC Berkeley and plans to major in mechanical or material engineering because he likes to “make stuff.” Peterson will also attend UC Berkeley and will go in with an undeclared major in the School of Letters and Science.
“Our accelerated program and our A.P. (Advanced Placement) classes played a part in this atmosphere for people like us to thrive. We may not have thrived so much in regular classes,” Molokach said.
The students all concurred that it can be difficult to be in regular classes where being known as “the smart kid” and having the right answers isn’t always cool. However, all of them have been in classes together since seventh grade and have been supportive of and competitive with each other.
“You know if you do succeed you’ll have someone smiling back at you,” Molokach said about being in more academically challenging classes. She added that it’s great to have that support.
She said that her mom Eva Molokach has been very supportive and that her mom’s help had a big impact on her success because her mom helped make learning fun from the beginning.
Molokach was involved in Academic Decathlon (Aca Deca) for three years, Model UN for two years, cross country, track, French club, and junior volunteers at the Oak Valley Care Center. She also attended Harvard’s summer program and Cambridge Tradition, also a summer study program. She enjoys studying languages as a hobby.
Zeff credits many people with her academic rise and said that the academic competition from her peers has helped with her success.
“It’s motivation to get done what you need done,” she said. “…We’re all really good friends.”
She added that Oakdale is a small community and since it’s a one-high school town, everyone is involved and if students need something, the community is supportive.
“I think teachers are really helpful and our A.P. program is pretty good,” Zeff said, adding that summer work required for A.P. classes has kept her prepared and in learning mode.
She also said that her parents Thomas and Shelly Zeff have always made sure that her homework was done and her aunt had been talking to her about college since her sophomore year.
Zeff was in Aca Deca for three years, Link Crew, leadership, and ‘S’ Club. She is also very involved in riding and showing horses.
Gebhart and his mom Rose Gebhart came to Oakdale 10 years ago and received a lot of support from the community and from teachers.
“The community as a whole has been really helpful for me,” he said.
He also praised the A.P. program and his teachers.
Gebhart provided an example of his study habits for challenging subjects. He said that when taking his calculus class, he studied about one-and-a-half hours per day and did extra work in order to qualify in that class for college credit.
All of the students said that being involved with Aca Deca has played a major role in helping them with study habits for difficult subjects.
Gebhart attended the Harvard summer study program, was involved in Aca Deca for three years, cross country, track, Link Crew, Go Green, ‘S’ Club, Interact Club, Model UN, Art Club and entered art contests, and also played guitar in jazz band.
Peterson credits her success with being “intrinsically motivated” and that she likes to do her best and have others know that she’s doing her best. Also, she feels it’s important to be an example for her younger sister Amy. Her parents Bobby and Yen Peterson held high expectations of her, but not in a way, she said, that pressured her.
“Being academically successful in my family was always expected,” she said, “that I would be academically inclined.”
She added that her friends have helped her be successful because they are big motivators and have been able to help her understand when she needed help.
“There’s a level of (healthy) competition that underlies our friendships,” Peterson said. “…We set the competition aside and still are friends.”
She was actively involved in ‘S’ Club and Link Crew, she said she really focused on community service. She also said she enjoys baking as a hobby because she finds it mathematical.
“All of us do a lot of different things,” Gebhart said, adding that it gives them the chance to have many different experiences.
The close-knit group also has a tendency to finish each other’s sentences, which should work out well since they have to deliver their graduation speeches in pairs. Valedictorians Zeff and Molokach will take the stage together at graduation on May 22 and talk about the future. They said they want to motivate their classmates without being cliché, be hopeful but also be realistic without being pessimistic. Gebhart and Peterson plan to speak about the class’ journey through school and what it means to be the Class of 2009.