This week, The Leader’s special summer series, “Where Are They Now?” catches up with a pair of graduates from the Class of 2011. Seven years out of OHS, see what Jamie (Lahey) Lamb and Jaylene Ponce are doing now.
Jamie (Lahey) Lamb
While it’s not uncommon to see college students traveling abroad, this Class of 2011 graduate did a bit more than just visit a few monuments – Jamie Lamb, nee Lahey, went abroad in college to intern, to meet her family, and along the way inevitably became more independent.
After graduating from Oakdale High School, Lamb went on to attend Santa Clara University to study finance at their business school. During her time spent in the Bay Area, she was involved in a Christian Club and a Portuguese Club on campus.
“I was very shy ... very uncomfortable doing quirky things,” Lamb reflected of her high school days. “But college helped me come out of my shell.”
She also volunteered at Young Life throughout college. An organization that does outreach, very similar to a youth group, but one that isn’t necessarily a youth group; more of a stepping stone for people who wouldn’t necessarily want to go to church just yet.
In 2014, Lamb spent a quarter abroad. She, along with a few others, went to London, England from New Years to March. As part of a university program, they got to go to another country for a few months and intern.
“I interned at a credit union there,” she explained, “and work culture in England is different.”
She noted that there were people from all over the world working with her in that environment. Though credit unions aren’t as prominent in the United Kingdom as they are in the USA, she still was able to gain valuable experience and maintains her friendship with the manager.
When asked why she chose London, she responded “To be really honest, London had the best program for business majors” … and, she added with a laugh, “they spoke English.”
While abroad, she visited six countries, including Portugal, where her mom’s cousins are from. There, she was able to stay with family and “see where my grandparents grew up and got married.”
It all was a learning experience.
“I think the hardest part was getting on the plane, not knowing who was picking me up ... otherwise, I became pretty independent.”
Lamb was also able to catch up with a Swedish exchange student who had been hosted in Oakdale while she was at high school, so it proved to be a trip to get in touch with both family and friends.
She did get homesick a little bit, but she reported that the one quirky thing she missed was Mexican food. Though we have no shortage of it in Oakdale, it didn’t prove to be as much of a feature food during her time abroad. However, though she did miss the food from home, there was still plenty to do to keep her distracted.
“On that trip, London is just magical in and of itself. And Paris?” Lamb began to gush about the places she visited abroad, and concluded with “It’s really hard to pick favorites.”
Some other highlights from her trip included visiting Stonehenge, Roman baths, the Eiffel Tower, and more.
After wrapping up the quarter abroad and finishing her internship with London Capital Credit Union, Lamb graduated from Santa Clara University in 2015.
Soon after, she married Knights Ferry local Clayton Lamb and got a job with NetApp as a Financial Analyst for three years. Now, she lives in Texas with her husband and daughter, Piper.
Looking back, if she could’ve given her high school self any advice, she expressed that it would probably be “to come out of your shell ... don’t be afraid to be your own person.”
Jaylene Ponce, Oakdale High graduate from the Class of 2011, has been baking up a storm since her time in Oakdale.
Though her time spent at Oakdale High School was largely defined by sports, she’s stepped on to a whole different playing field now. Before, Ponce was a part of the golf team all four years, and also was involved in shotput and discus for three.
“Sports really taught me the art of teamwork and putting in your effort,” Ponce reflected. “Even though the sports I did were individual based, your overall score went to the team’s overall score for the win or loss.”
It seems like lessons like these can be applicable throughout life, including in the baking world with larger projects. But before she fully immersed herself as a pastry chef, Ponce attended Brigham Young University, where she had a minor in Culinary Arts.
“I actually graduated with my Bachelors in two and a half years, taking 19 to 23 credits every semester,” Ponce explained. “Getting good grades was always important to me, so I carried that work and dedication over to college.”
Recognizing that she’s always had a passion for baking, Ponce interned in the Pastry Department at the Ritz Carlton in Marina del Rey. After that six-month period, she got the opportunity to transfer to the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman, an experience, she described, as “an incredible dream come true!”
Through her time spent at the resort, she grew and learned with plenty of talented individuals.
“We did banquets for thousands of people and I actually got to meet and cook with a lot of celebrity chefs,” she enthused.
Among those celebrity chefs were Florian Ballanger from Cupcake Wars, the late author and travel show host Anthony Bourdain, chef and restaurant owner Jose Andres, and author Eric Ripert.
Of the Cayman Islands, she said “the island is beautiful, the culture is even more beautiful and working there was such an incredible opportunity. I went there not knowing a single person and left a piece of my heart there when I ended up coming home.”
As of now, Ponce is caring for her new baby boy. She still does indulge in some baking on the side, including wedding cakes and for birthday parties. Her latest obsession is French macaroons, which she expressed are hard to master in a home oven, though something she made plenty of in the hotels she worked for.
“I would love to bring another bakery to my small town community,” she shared.
Though she wishes that she would’ve gone to school for a business degree so she could focus on getting a bakery opened, she said “I don’t regret my opportunities working for five-star resorts – that really helped elevate my knowledge in baking.”
She concluded with sharing a plethora of advice. Among it all, the main message was clear: “Do what makes you happy ... you are capable of amazing things! Never forget that!”
The special summer series will have its final installment next week, with a chance to touch base with some members of the Class of 2010 from OHS.