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Eleven Vie For Distinguished Young Woman Honor - main
Soroptimist International
Laci Blount


The annual Distinguished Young Women of Oakdale program will be held on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m. at Magnolia School Auditorium. Soroptimist International of Oakdale has sponsored the program, formerly known as Junior Miss, for the past 28 years. Distinguished Young Women is a national scholarship program which recognizes, rewards, and encourages excellence in young women. The program’s mission is to positively impact the lives of young women by providing a transformative experience that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership, and individual talents. Oakdale High School senior Amy Craig currently holds the title of Oakdale’s Distinguished Young Woman.

Oakdale’s program features 11 candidates from the Class of 2017. They are: Laci Blount, Katie Dunlop, Kaitlyn Mast Gruidl, Anne Homer, Madison Marler, Autumn Neal, Carley Newbill, Makenzie Phillips, Annalise VanderVeen, TJ Verdegaal, and Elizabeth White. They will compete in five categories: Scholastics, Talent, Fitness, Interview, and Self Expression for the Distinguished Young Woman of Oakdale title as well as category and other scholarship awards.  The candidate selected as Oakdale’s Distinguished Young Woman will go on to compete at California’s Distinguished Young Women program this summer.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children and students and may be purchased at the event. The doors will open for tickets and seating at 6:30 p.m. For more information, please call Program Chair Nancy Lilly at (209) 607-7605.

This week, we feature five candidate profiles. Look for the remaining six in the Feb. 10 edition of The Leader.


Laci Blount

Laci is active in FFA, marching band, steel band, and cross country at Oakdale High School. She is also a member of 4H and has earned awards in leadership, showmanship, and speech. Laci has also earned her Academic Block O and Athletic Block O at OHS. Active in her community, Laci has volunteered for Relay For Life, provided musical entertainment for care center residents, and volunteered at holiday events as a 4H member. Laci has also volunteered in Valley Home activities such as their Fall Festival and Christmas Parade. Laci’s interests include music, sports, and animals. After graduation, Laci plans to attend college and study to become a trauma nurse. Encouraging Laci every step of the way are her parents Dave Blount and Tim and Kristy Whitehouse, and siblings Cody, Austin and Kassady.


Katie Dunlop

After graduation from Oakdale High School, Katie plans to attend Brigham Young University to study to become a speech therapist or high school English teacher. At OHS, Katie is a Link Crew Leader and participates on the track team in the high jump event. Outside of school, Katie studies ballet, jazz, and tap and also enjoys skiing and painting/graphite drawing. Katie’s interests also include spending time outdoors as well as film analysis in her Film as Literature class at OHS. She has participated in dance recitals to help raise awareness and funding for the Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Foundation and has also volunteered for the Family Support Network and her church. Katie’s passion is ballet and she enjoys watching the work of professional ballet companies. Keeping up with Katie every step of the way are her parents Tom and Belinda Dunlop as well as siblings Jeffery, Amie, and Allison.


Anne Homer

Anne is a member of Oakdale High School’s Science Olympiad and Academic Decathlon teams. She is a co-founder and President of the Dead Poet’s Society Club and also participates in the French and S Clubs. Anne is a member of the varsity golf team and is a leader for English tutors. She has received her Academic Block O, Athletic Block O, Josten’s Renaissance Student of the Month, place awards for Occupational Olympics and Academic Decathlon, and the “Doing High School Right” award. Outside of school, Anne is an Oak Valley Hospital Junior Volunteer and also volunteers at the Oakdale library. Following graduation, Anne plans to attend the University of Leeds, University of Manchester, or University of Edinburgh to study literary translation. Anne enjoys reading, origami, knitting, crocheting, sewing, baking and golf. Proudly supporting Anne are parents Jim and Jane Homer and siblings Joseph, Michael, Jimmy, Emily, and Katie.


Madison Marler

Following graduation from Oakdale High School, Madison plans to attend Brigham Young University Provo or Idaho and major in liberal studies with the career aspiration of becoming a teacher. At OHS, Madison is a member of the varsity cheerleading team and was selected Best All Around Cheerleader. She also participates on the swim team and has earned her Athletic Block O for her efforts. After school, Madison studies dance at Valley Oak School of Dance. She also participates in the youth group at her church. Madison enjoys serving others and has participated in dance performances for care center residents, provided Christmas gifts for a needy family, removed gum from walls and floors at OHS, provided free babysitting, and painted over graffiti in local parks. Cheering Madison on in all of her endeavors are her parents Rob and Tennille Marler, sisters Ashlyn, Kennedy, and McKinlee, and brother Jaxton.


Kaitlyn Mast Gruidl

Kaitlyn enjoys singing and acting and participates in drama at Oakdale High School where she has earned her Theatre Block O. Kaitlyn also enjoys volunteering and helping others and currently serves as a Link Crew Leader at OHS, an Oak Valley Hospital volunteer for the ROP (Regional Occupational Program), and team member for Relay For Life. Kaitlyn has been honored by the “Doing High School Right” program. After graduation, Kaitlyn plans to attend the University of California at San Francisco and study nursing. Her goal is to work as an emergency room or oncology nurse. Supporting Kaitlyn in all of her endeavors are her “yaya” Sue Ward, mother Melissa Gruidl, and special friend Michael Hopkins.