By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Top In Their Class
Austin Clayton

Prioritization and self-discipline have been among the keys to academic success for graduating Oakdale High School seniors Austin Clayton and Dylan Hawksworth-Lutzow. Austin is the valedictorian and Dylan is the salutatorian for the Class of 2014.

Austin said he had some motivation for becoming valedictorian: his older sister Emily was valedictorian two years ago. The brother and sister are 16 months apart in age and there’s a bit of friendly sibling rivalry, Austin said.

“It’s always been a competition of who could do it better,” he confessed, adding that when she was named Valedictorian he felt he needed to be on equal ground with her.

Dylan said he’s proud that he’s been able to maintain straight-‘A’s throughout high school.

“It was definitely hard sometimes, some extra studying… It wasn’t easy,” he said.

He said he wasn’t trying to shoot for being at the top of the class, it just happened, and he’s proud to have achieved being Salutatorian, but it was never really on his mind.

“I was much more focused on Academic Decathlon or AP classes,” Dylan said. “…This was a nice surprise, a little recognition for the work I put in.”

Austin noted that it’s nice to be named valedictorian, but he hopes to have even bigger accomplishments in life. He said that when he’s 70 he hopes to have lots to talk about beyond his valedictorian status.

So how do these two top scholars make the ‘A’ grades?

“It’s mostly just a matter of how willing you are to spend your free time doing something you don’t really want to do,” Dylan said. “It’s not necessarily fun to study for a math test. You can be gifted…but that’s not necessarily going to go anywhere unless you’re willing to put in the time.”

Austin said that his secret to success is to work hard. Stay focused with schoolwork but also have fun at the same time, he said. Maybe take a break and go to the beach or go to the movies. He noted that managing your time well is important too. He said that he uses a lot of Post-It notes and does a lot of prioritizing.

They both shared some advice for younger students who are making their way through high school.

“Follow your interests. Don’t take a class just because it has AP or Honors on it,” Austin said, adding that getting into that kind of class and not liking it makes it hard to be successful. “Follow what you like. That’ll help in the future anyway – to have a passion in a certain area.”

“Beyond the normal organization, dedication to succeeding, and not being reckless, it comes down to prioritizing, not going home and playing video games… Sometimes that means giving up a little sleep, too,” Dylan said.

He added that putting in the time is going to result in a level of success, regardless of a person’s intelligence or skill.

“No matter how intelligent you are, it’s not going to matter unless you put in the time,” Dylan said. “That’s true for lots of things – Academic Decathlon, sports …”

Both teens do a lot outside of the classroom, too. Austin is involved in Academic Decathlon, Model UN, Science Olympiad, S Club, Interact Club, and tennis. He’s also usually worked two jobs outside of school, right now he works at a local pharmacy and also at a local realty office.

Dylan served as the student member to the Board of Trustees for the Oakdale Joint Unified School District, and has also been involved in Academic Decathlon, varsity tennis, S Club, Model UN, Gay Straight Alliance, and was a co-founder of the Frisbee Club.

Both Austin and Dylan will deliver speeches at graduation on Friday night, May 23 and they have no worries about public speaking. Austin plans to encourage people to do what makes them happy and not to do what doesn’t interest them. Dylan plans to talk about the next steps after graduation and how the graduates all have their families to thank. He said his family, especially his mom, have been very supportive and that he’ll miss them when he goes off to college – probably much like other kids.

Austin is going to attend Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Md. and study Public Health for pre-medicine. He really likes orthopedics and has an interest in neurosurgery, but isn’t quite committed to that specialty yet. He’s the son of Jim and Jill Clayton and younger brother to Emily.

Dylan said he’s decided to attend UC Berkeley and study Economics, with plans to go into politics. He is the son of Dee Hawksworth and older brother to Anna.