Oakdale High Senior Lauren Watson isn’t afraid to dream. The 18-year-old, however, knows that to dream is not enough. To achieve one’s dreams you must work and not just a little, one must work hard to achieve their dreams.
This fall Watson will report to the University of California at Davis and begin her studies toward her major of Evolution Ecology and Bio Diversity: the dream to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
Earlier this month the OHS senior moved one step closer to achieving that dream when she learned she was the 2016 recipient of the Leo Volz Scholarship.
The Leo Volz Scholarship pays $25,000 per year for four years for a maximum of $100,000 toward tuition and books. Volz was an Oakdale farmer who bequeathed a scholarship to be set up through OJUSD in his will, which was endowed with $2 million.
“I was so excited and really grateful,” Watson said, noting that she chose to apply to specific schools based on her major and long term goal.
The senior elected to apply to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis, with UC Santa Cruz and UC Davis as her top picks. She was accepted to both.
Once accepted, Watson and her mother began to ponder the ‘how’ in the way of payment. The senior shared her personal pride in her mother, a single mom who earned her nursing degree in 2013.
“We’ve been relying on scholarships for quite some time,” she said. “I will be the first person in my family to go to a four-year university.”
But not just anyone is eligible for this esteemed and highly coveted scholarship honor. The OHS exclusive scholarship includes certain criteria a student must meet to apply. Criteria which includes a GPA of 3.8 or higher, as well as obtaining certain scores on the SAT or ACT. The students are then invited to apply, but not all take advantage of the opportunity.
“I was told you’re not the best of the best so you’re probably not going to get it,” Watson said of peer input. “Obviously I was still going to go for it. I’m really happy to know that I was acknowledged for being well rounded.”
The senior holds a 4.13 GPA and is active in varying clubs on campus including: the PHAST Club, GSA Club, CSF and Link Crew. She also played on the OHS Golf team for three years, as well as participated in OHS Drama Club productions.
“I’ve also been a dancer with Valley Oak School of Dance for the past 15 years,” she said.
In addition to her activities on and off campus, the senior has worked at the OHS Cafeteria since her junior year to earn extra money. She began attending classes at Modesto Junior College last fall to try and get a jump on her general education classes.
“It just made sense,” she said of increasing her school load by attending college. “It would have been less general ed to pay for when I attended college next fall.”
It’s an expense she no longer needs to be concerned with as the Leo Volz recipient.
“I really, really appreciate being acknowledged,” she said. “Putting in hard work can pay off. You don’t have to have the highest grade point average or be the smartest.”
It’s also a great way to cap off a career as an OHS Mustang.
“If you want to apply and qualify you really should,” she advised future seniors. “In this community they really do embrace diversity.”
Watson shared that the process was completely anonymous. Students are assigned identification numbers for the application process. Once the finalists are chosen, new numbers are assigned.
“I had no idea how anonymous it really was,” she said. “I really appreciated that.”
As for her future Watson is excited to be well on her way to achieving her goal of studying veterinary medicine.
“I want to be a vet because I love animals,” she said. “I love animals because they don’t need a lot. They’re good companions. That’s why I want to work with companion animals.”