This week, the second installment of The Leader’s special summer series, “Where Are They Now?” features a trio of graduates from the Class of 2016 at Oakdale High School. Catch up with Adam Olsen, Caitlin Golding and Austin Romito to see where their post-high school path has taken them so far and what lies ahead for their respective futures.
A traditional path for a lot of Oakdale High graduates is to go to college right after graduation. There are other paths: to go into the military, straight into the workforce, explore trade schools, and more. Past quarterback for OHS’s renown football team followed one of these alternative paths, all the way to Cape Verde, just under 6,000 miles away from this small town.
Adam Olsen decided to become a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in his senior year of high school.
“He just strongly felt that he should go on a mission,” his mother, Kim Olsen, relayed. “It didn’t mean it was easy to keep that thought and everything in his mind at all times, because he still had senior year to finish ... he pretty much was set on going, but it was still challenging.”
While at Oakdale High School, Adam was thoroughly involved in sports. His parents recollect that he was part of the football, baseball, basketball, and track teams, and was also part of the leadership class.
“Having the opportunity to play in championship games, to have been coached by VOL legends, and to have had success in doing so has brought me great joy,” Adam expressed in one of his emails home. “It has taught me character, leadership abilities, and many more attributes.”
Adam only gets to email his family once a week, and Skype with his family twice a year during his two-year mission – once on Christmas and once on Mother’s Day.
“The church wants him to be focused on being a missionary. Living the life,” Paul Olsen, Adam’s father, explained. Paul went on to detail the kind of work that Adam does in Cape Verde: a country with an arid climate, composed of 10 volcanic islands, and located off the northwest coast of Africa. The closest country to Cabo Verde is Senegal, “so it’s kind of out there in the middle of nowhere,” Paul joked.
On his mission, Adam has taken up various leadership roles, including a position as district leader, a zone leader, and currently assistant to the president. There, he serves by preaching his faith, teaching English to locals, and helping with service projects in the community.
“I’ve been really proud of him. He’s just grown into a really spiritual young man ... I think our bond has actually strengthened as a family,” Kim admitted. “I mean of course we miss him. But I think it’s strengthened all of us, with him being there.”
“I think he has said that it’s the hardest thing he’s ever done, but it’s been the most rewarding thing he’s ever done,” Paul noted.
The Olsen family is no stranger to missions – Paul went on a mission to Chile, Kim to Japan, and their daughter to Spain.
“So we know what it’s like, we knew what he was going to experience,” said Kim.
“Many people wonder why we missionaries have left school, the comforts of everyday American life, and pay to live in a third world country that doesn’t even speak a written language,” Adam wrote in his email. “The reason I have done so is because I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and blesses and changes people’s lives, just as it has mine.”
Though Caitlin Golding graduated with the Class of 2016 having committed to her future earlier than most, she still had a lot to prepare for in the transition from Oakdale High School to University of California, Davis.
“It’s definitely a different life,” she expressed of her past two years in college compared with her time at OHS. “And going from semester system to quarter system is going to slap you in the face no matter what.”
Oakdale High School currently operates under a semester system, while a majority of UCs and CSUs function under a quarter system. While the high school opens its doors in early August and classes graduate at the end of May, quarter system schools begin classes nearing the end of September and let out in the middle of June.
Golding has described her time at UC Davis as “hard, but it’s supposed to be. Balancing sports with school – it’s an adjustment.”
At OHS, Golding played goalie for the water polo team, and was on varsity for three of her four years. She’s continued her position while playing for the UC Davis water polo team. The latter location has broadened her horizons so much that she and the university’s team got the chance to train for the fall season (as opposed to OHS’s spring water polo season) in Barcelona, Spain for a few days, and did a beach polo tournament in Palamós.
“They were really supportive of me playing after high school and helped my career,” Golding said of Oakdale coaches Diane Kline and Alan Stender.
Golding was also a competing member of the Academic Decathlon team for three years, studying subjects like World War I, Energy and Innovation, and India, participating in the county and state competitions all three years. She noted that AcaDec was a way to push herself academically, just as water polo was a way to push herself physically.
She said a mixture of water polo, AP classes, and her involvement in Academic Decathlon prepared her most for college life in both rigor and “where to allocate” her time.
As a psychology major, Golding has been spending her time taking psychology classes and is currently looking into internships as she figures out her academic track. She noted that she could be in school for six to 10 years depending on her course of study.
This summer, she’ll be swimming and staying active in the pool while remaining in Davis. She described Davis as “the perfect fit” both in terms of location and personally. Her highlights were the candid natures of the coaches there as well as how welcoming and understanding the water polo team was as she transitioned from high school to college.
“I’m pretty happy with how things ended up,” Golding summarized.
For someone who considered himself to be “on the backburner” and “more of a homebody” in high school, this class of 2016 graduate has been off exploring and reporting since he left for college. Austin Romito found his niche as a photojournalist, while majoring in business with a minor in public relations at California Baptist University.
“When I lived in Oakdale, I didn’t travel,” Romito admitted. “I went to Mexico every summer, but we drove down there.”
Now, two years after graduating, Romito has been to Texas, Louisiana, the East Coast, the United Kingdom, Germany, and is leaving for Kenya in late June. His African adventure is service-centered, as he and others will be serving in a village in West Kenya at a hospice center, school, and orphanage.
During his time at CBU, Romito went on a trip to Texas for two reasons: to go and help with home-building after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey and to cover the extent of the hurricane and its effects.
He also trekked over to Louisiana to cover the “Returning Hearts Celebration” at Angola Prison – a program that let inmates go through a recovery journey and, upon graduation, get to spend a graduate-wide day with their kids and get to “feel like a normal dad for one day.”
Though Romito gets the chance to do all of this coverage and reporting, his path to CBU was a bit rocky. He noted that neither of his parents went on a conventional college route, so they didn’t have too much advice for him when he began the college search.
“I was applying to random schools and I was applying undeclared,” he explained.
Romito added that after he had visited CBU, he fell in love with the school and saw that the community was especially welcoming.
This welcome feeling has extended past his first impression: “People there care about my spiritual growth, my educational growth, my personal growth,” he enthused.
Of his preparedness for college, Romito spoke highly of the Advanced Placement program at the high school. He noted that some of his college classes ended up being even easier than the AP high school courses he took at OHS.
While in high school, Romito helped develop Rock Solid Club (a Bible study), co-started an underground newspaper with help of classmate Makayla Johnson, and aided in the presence of CASC in the Central Valley, highlighting fellow Class of 2016 graduate, Emma Boggs, as a big initiator and teacher in the process.
“On a personal note, I wish I was more diligent with my work … I wish I would’ve done more sports,” Romito admitted.
He explained that freshman year at CBU was a reality check for him, because he didn’t create healthy studying and learning habits in high school, so he had to make up for it that year. He also encouraged students to take advantage of any opportunities they can take.
For a final note, he prompted: “Don’t be afraid of an embarrassment, don’t be afraid of a challenge.”
Next week, the series will focus on stories of graduates from the Class of 2015.