In this week’s installment of The Leader’s special summer series, “Where Are They Now?” we catch up with three members of the Class of 2013 from Oakdale High School. Here is a look at what life holds now for Janki Mistry, Madison Lane and Hayley Benson.
Janki Mistry has been active in her field at school since her graduation from Oakdale High School in 2013. She graduated from UCLA last year as a psychobiology major and has been working in their cardiology lab.
Despite Mistry’s medically-oriented career path, there were no AP science classes at OHS during her time to completely prep her for the classes at UCLA. Currently, OHS offers one AP Biology class, though this class was first introduced in August of 2015, two years after Mistry graduated. This is the only science AP offered out of the 13 courses.
While at OHS, Mistry volunteered in various service clubs, won the title of Oakdale Junior Miss for her year (now known as Distinguished Young Woman), played piano in jazz band, and participated in Academic Decathlon and in GSA.
Mistry took this leadership to UCLA with her when joining the American Medical Women Association, where she served as president her junior and senior year. The association aims to teach undergraduate girls how to get into medicine, apply to programs, and promote women’s health.
She also did lots of research “working with professors, and we had our own projects,” she described. She helped mathematically analyze the circadian rhythms of normal mice compared with mice treated with Huntington’s disease. While in the cardiology lab, Mistry explained that her research aims to better treat heart failure and those who have heart attacks.
Mistry is currently attending medical school to become a doctor.
“Living in L.A. opened up a whole new world,” she said. “It was a big change moving from Oakdale ... but I learned more about my culture and food and more.”
She expressed that Oakdale had given her a better sense of community, especially contrasting it with the fast pace of Los Angeles. She has maintained her OHS friends and noted that she is “happy and proud to see them grow,” and to “keep the Oakdale connection.”
Though voting ended a few weeks ago, Oakdale High Class of 2013 graduate and salutatorian Madison Lane still has politics on her mind – and has for the past few years. Lane graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, affectionately known as Penn, an Ivy League school, with a major in Philosophy Politics and Economics (PPE). She went in expecting to do more with the economics aspect of the major, but ended up delving more into the realm of politics.
While at Penn, Lane participated in parliamentary style debates and did behind-the-scenes work for theater as part of a work-study program.
Lane also got the chance to do a few internships in Washington, DC as part of the Penn in Washington program.
“It’s kind of like study abroad, but then in DC,” she explained.
She had two internships – for Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein – where she would read letters and do constituent service. Coincidentally, some of the juniors at Oakdale High School are asked to write letters to senators in their English classes to practice writing business letters and write about something they’re passionate about. Lane recalls reading some of these letters on behalf of Senator Boxer, including one sent in by her younger sister.
“I would go to different events around Capitol Hill ... write memos for staffers to read,” Lane relayed. “A lot of the intern’s jobs were to fill (staff) in about events around the Hill.”
Currently, Lane is in Philadelphia working for a political ad agency, doing a lot of analysis work. She’s studying for her LSATs and getting ready to apply for law school, with hopes to be enrolled in the fall of 2019.
“A lot of it is about being at the right place at the right time and knowing the right people,” she said of a future in politics. She expressed that a career in politics isn’t necessarily something that you can plan out. For now, her hopes are to delve back into the world of public policy as an attorney.
Of her involvement with Oakdale, she noted that “AcaDec definitely prepared me for the amount of reading, the amount of studying that it would take ... being on the school board helped me present myself professionally for internships and job interviews.”
She served as the student representative on the board her senior year at OHS.
“I think it’s cool that the education I got at Oakdale High, not having to pay a cent for my education, allowed me to still be a graduate of an Ivy League University,” she concluded. “I didn’t have to pay for the same education that my friends (at Penn) did ... Oakdale does a pretty good job.”
Oakdale alum Hayley Benson had a lot of advice to give to high school and college students while she walked through her university journey over the past several years. The Class of 2013 graduate and valedictorian attended the University of San Diego and graduated last year with a major in psychology and minor in theology and religious studies.
“Maintain relationships you want to keep in your adult life,” was her first tip. She noted that she, Lane, and Mistry (along with a few others) had been friends since their Cloverland days and have “always been competitive with each other, but in a friend way. It’s what drove us to be top of our class and pursue our careers.”
Out of all she was involved with in high school, she specifically highlighted her participation in water polo and theater. Water polo helped her grow as a leader and work as part of a team – and she noted both skills came in handy when at college. Theater aided her public speaking skills and helped her to express herself, which resulted in being more comfortable giving presentations.
“Find things you’re interested in and passionate about,” she encouraged, “and it doesn’t have to just be through high school ... enjoy what the town of Oakdale has to offer.”
Benson went to USD with plans to be a lawyer, then a therapist, then finally found she most wanted to do social work. These past few months, she’s taken a gap year to work at the Oakdale Family Resource and Counseling Center as a family advocate. She has familiarity with this position thanks to an internship she did with the United Way and the Every Student, Every Day program.
“I wish I had done more (internships) in different fields in college ... because if you take an internship and you figure out that’s something you don’t want to do, then now you know,” Benson recommended.
She said it’s like going to college, thinking you want to have a certain career, taking all the classes, then finally getting out on the field after graduating and finding out only then that you don’t even like what you went in for.
“It was a really good experience,” she said of her internship, “it was challenging, and affirmed I wanted to go into social work.”
While taking a gap year to work, Benson spent her time with family and applying to graduate schools. She plans to attend Washington University at the Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, Missouri in the Master of Social Work program in the fall.
Next week, a visit with some Class of 2012 graduates as the summer series continues.