“High school’s been fun!”
Those were the final words offered by Oakdale High School Valedictorian, Gabrielle Ceja and Salutatorian, Russell Pabalan as they concluded their interview with The Leader earlier this week.
With finals well behind them, and in the midst of a week filled with rehearsals and celebratory activities, both students took some time to reflect upon their educational career at Oakdale Joint Unified as it comes to a close.
“I feel prepared and I feel ready,” Valedictorian Ceja stated of her next chapter.
She will attend University of California, Los Angeles this fall. Her plans are to major in Biology, on a pre-med track.
“I would like to find a career in a more specialized area,” she said, “pathology or something of that sort.”
Fellow speaker and Salutatorian, Pabalan, will be traveling a bit further south come late summer as he journeys to the University of California, San Diego. He too will be pursuing a career in the medical field as a Micro Biology major.
“I want to pursue a career in the medical field so I’m on the pre-med track,” Pabalan said. Noting that his initial plans are to pursue med school beyond his Bachelor’s degree, the Salutatorian recognized the biology opportunities in the San Diego area.
“I’m keeping doors open,” he said of prospective employers, “but right now my plan is to go to med school.”
As the Val/Sal duo of the Class of 2018, both students have been entrusted with the task of addressing their class during Friday night’s 7 p.m. graduation. It is a task which both seem comfortable with, as well as prepared for. Speaking separately, the speeches will range between three to five minutes each.
“My theme is that as you have a legacy you leave behind, you also have a legacy that you carry with you,” Pabalan shared.
Ceja stated her speech will reflect on the past/present and how it can help as they transition to the future. The speakers said each of their speeches were written in one sitting and shared with one another so as not to be redundant.
While both seniors noted feeling a sense of connection and being pleased with the college campuses they’d chosen to call home, Pabalan was a bit more candid on his overall feelings going forward.
“Complicated. Mixed. The future is ambiguous,” he said of his future journey. “I say these words because really in my past I’ve taken my town for granted. As I’m leaving and going to a much bigger place, I’m realizing our town is really, really unique and really, really encouraging and helpful in so many ways that other places don’t have.”
As the 2017-18 Student School Board member, Pabalan shared the experience gave him true insight to how committed the community is to its youth and their education.
“I feel like I’m leaving something I’ve taken for granted,” he said. “I’m ready, but I’m kind of scared.”
Ceja echoed Pabalan’s appreciation for the community and most notably OJUSD educators. As the oldest child of her family (Pabalan is the youngest of three), each of her three OJUSD chapters were uncharted prior to her joining the student body.
“I didn’t know what to expect, even in junior high,” she said. “The support that I’ve received through my educational experience has been amazing. I think it’s that academic support that I got, that really is why I’m here now.”
So when two students gain so much from a community and educational experience, who might they note as an educator to most influence them?
In the case of Ceja and Pabalan, don’t expect a straight answer. As testament to the honesty in which they shared, as well as operate, both students became hard pressed to cite just one name. As each rambled off similar names, both agreed the quality and personalization offered by numerous staffers at OHS did not go unnoticed.