The Corral field will once again be filled with white chairs, as Oakdale celebrates graduations and promotions this week.
As the return of traditional graduation returns, so do commencement speeches given by the Oakdale High School 2021 Valedictorian, Joey Janssen and Salutatorian, James Homer.
The former Fair Oaks Elementary School Falcons, both Janssen and Homer have plans of traveling south come the end of summer to begin the next chapter of college life.
Janssen has chosen to attend UCLA where he plans to major in Civil Engineering and minor in Computer Science.
“Hopefully that will go well,” he said of his college choice, particular to his major. “It was one of the top engineering programs of all the campuses I got into and I also have family down there. I really like the area.”
Homer will be a short drive away as he plans to attend UC Irvine, where he will major in Computer Science.
“I hope to specialize in machine learning and AI and I eventually want to become a software engineer and live in LA.”
Homer shared the field was always in the back of his mind, with a father who worked for IBM, and older brothers always playing video games.
“Technology was something I was always looking into,” the salutatorian said. “Something was interesting me.”
Yet before they begin packing for their Southern California endeavors, the two must first finish out the year at Oakdale High, a week which includes giving speeches during the graduation ceremony this Friday night, May 21.
Admitting to a small case of the nerves, the valedictorian shared he plans to speak a bit about the pandemic.
“I think that’s going to be a huge point to talk about and also how it has affected everyone,” he said. “Our class especially and how we’ve had to persevere and been able to push through that barrier. It’s prepared us well for the world.”
Homer shared he also plans to speak on the “tough time” of COVID-19.
“It’s through the collaboration of thought that we will all get through this,” he said. “I think I can speak for almost everyone in my class, where we still feel like juniors at heart right now. None of us really feel like seniors, it’s kind of surreal that we’re graduating. It was definitely tough and sad that things kept getting pushed back.”
Yet not one to let the past get him down, Homer shared the return to campus has brought with it many positives, noting the “glimmer of hope” shared by students.
“Although we weren’t dealt the best hand, we’re still going to try and make the most of our last moments at Oakdale High School,” Homer said of their final week. “It went by a lot quicker than I think we all thought it would. Nothing’s quite sunk in yet. I think it might hit me in a week or two or maybe after graduation.”
Janssen echoed Homer’s thoughts and sentiments, noting usage of time during distance learning to work at “bettering himself” in preparation of what’s to come next.
“I definitely learned how important it is to have a group of friends,” Janssen said of growing up in Oakdale. “Oakdale is so small, that we’re tight knit and know everyone around. So it’s kind of taught me the importance of having close friends and staying true to those people.”
College life, both said, will bring new adventures.
“I’ve always been someone who’s really loved being independent,” Janssen shared when speaking of going off to college.
“It’s a scary, but exciting thought,” Homer said of going to college. “I definitely think it will be a good way for me to grow and expand my horizons, that’s for sure.”
As the two prepare to leave Oakdale High and the 95361, they both shared the influence of teacher Pete Simoncini as one they are both grateful for.
And as for summer …
“I think the plan for the summer is to not have any plans,” Homer said.
Graduation ceremonies will be hosted for varying campuses throughout Oakdale Joint Unified School District this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Due to the pandemic and continued distancing guidelines, attendance for all ceremonies is restricted and attendees must have tickets. For additional information visit www.ojusd.org.