Closing out a special summer series, catching up with Oakdale High School graduates from the past several years, the finale features two members from the Class of 2010. Here’s a look at what former Mustangs Michael Homer and Michelle Carter, now Dunn, having been doing since their days at OHS.
This Class of 2010 graduate has taken somewhat of an “unconventional and perhaps meandering” path since high school. Michael Homer, the salutatorian for his year, has tried his hand at a myriad of opportunities.
Before he went to college and abroad, Homer played soccer at Oakdale High School, and spent his nights and weekends working at Oakdale Cinema back before it closed down. On a leadership level, Homer was the Student Board Representative, and was also part of the leadership class to help put on events and activities. Academically, Homer was one of the alternates on the Academic Decathlon team and took AP classes.
“I also played in a garage rock band, but we never got discovered,” he noted with a chuckle.
He spoke highly of his involvement in AP classes, where he made good friends and had teachers “who helped me develop intellectually and personally ... my favorite class was Mr. Simoncini’s AP US history class.”
This comes as no surprise to many past Oakdale High students, who frequently highlight Simoncini’s classes as their favorite.
Once he graduated high school, Homer double majored in Economics and Chinese at UC Berkeley, studying abroad in Beijing one summer. He also “interned at a non-profit in Shanghai during another summer.”
He described the move to the Bay Area as “a bit of a culture shock,” given that he was so accustomed to the small town atmosphere of Oakdale, where people say “good morning” to each other when they pass one another on the street. The increase in population, difference in social views, and more added to this “culture shock.”
After college, Homer went out to explore many different life paths: “I worked at a tech startup in San Francisco, studied Chinese in Tainan, Taiwan, spent a month living the ascetic life in a Buddhist monastery on a mountain, and also taught seventh and ninth grade math at a public charter school in Empire, California.”
Now, he has his sights set on law school back at Berkeley. He completed his first year and this summer had been interning for the legal department at Splunk, a data analytics company in San Francisco.
Staying busy, Homer is in the midst of applying for a job at a law firm for next summer.
“Next week I will have about 20 law firm interviews within the span of four days,” he shared.
However, he must be used to being busy, given that he’s one of six kids from the Homer family. “I feel extremely grateful to have had parents who are supportive of my aspirations and also instilled in me all of my good qualities. Each of my siblings is stellar in their own way too.”
Though he’s followed many eclectic paths, Homer expressed that he wouldn’t change a thing.
“If I had not made the choices I made before, I would not be who I am now. And I’m happy with the direction I’m moving in now.”
Michelle (Carter) Dunn
Some graduates see their fair share of the world and want to settle down elsewhere, however Michelle Carter (now Michelle Dunn) decided that Oakdale is right where she belongs.
Dunn graduated with the Class of 2010, and knew exactly what she wanted to do. Thanks to programs at the high school like ROP, she was able to narrow down what she wanted in a career.
“I was torn between dental hygiene and being an elementary school teacher,” she relayed.
The ROP, or Regional Occupational Program, is designed to give technical job training for juniors and seniors in high school. This allows them to go into the work field for a period or two of class every day and test out the waters. Dunn was a teacher’s aide, and though she enjoyed her time “it helped me realize it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”
Dental hygiene then ended up being the clear path for Dunn. She expressed that, unlike most people, she often felt comfortable in the dental chair, as she spent plenty of time there for orthodontist and dental work.
The most reasonable and cost-efficient path after this was to attend MJC to get pre-requisites done, and then Dunn moved on to Shasta College in Redding.
“It wasn’t this big private school where tuition was four times as much,” she shared of her decision to attend Shasta rather than other colleges. “I just loved the NorCal environment and the history of my dad going there.”
Altogether, her education past Oakdale High School looked more at big picture, as she had a plan for herself. Because Dunn knew what she wanted to do, she looked at the most efficient and cost-friendly ways to get there.
“I was never really a go-getter and this was kind of the one thing that was my big leap of faith,” she admitted. “It really paid off, and it helped me to see that I was able to accomplish a lot more than I thought I would.”
She still did get to venture out of California, given that her college was a segue for her to go on a trip with Medical Teams International to Guatemala. There, she and others spent a week giving dental care to a village “where some people may have not even seen a toothbrush.” This gave her a chance to leave her comfort zone and explore a totally different world.
After college, Dunn came back to her hometown to do some temp work which is “pretty much like working as a substitute hygienist.” This gave her the opportunity to work in a lot of local offices, see what they were like, and when an opening came around, she and the employers would already be familiar with one another.
As for coming back to Oakdale, Dunn shared that “Oakdale has pretty much been my home as long as I can remember.” She and her husband, Blake Dunn, met when they were young in Oakdale and their families are local.
“I think it really does have a whole sense of community: I like how the whole town is behind the football team, there’s Mustang merchandise down at Save Mart, and it’s a day’s drive from the rivers, lakes, ocean, and mountains,” she explained. “I can see us being here for a long time.”
Dunn shares the sentiments of the classmates after her in that she wouldn’t change a thing in her journey back to Oakdale.
“The path that I went on was good for me – it may not be everybody’s path – but the successes and failures really made me who I am and built my character.”
She is one of the many graduates who find that coming back to Oakdale is the best option for them; graduates like these prove that our small town is a wholesome community that welcomes its kids back with open arms. And that is something special.
The Leader would like to thank all of those OHS grads who took time to share their stories and life and career paths through this special summer series.