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Final Six Candidates For Soroptimist Program
Distinguished Young Women
Annalise VanderVeen
Annalise VanderVeen


A field of 11 hopefuls will take the stage this weekend, participating in the annual Distinguished Young Women of Oakdale program. The event is planned for Saturday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at Magnolia School Auditorium.

Tickets to attend the Distinguished Young Women program 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.

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’s program this year features 11 candidates from the Class of 2017. They are: Laci Blount, Katie Dunlop, Kaitlyn Mast Gruidl, Anne Homer and Madison Marler, whose biographies appeared in the Feb. 3 issue of The Leader. This week, we have candidate profiles of Autumn Neal, Carley Newbill, Makenzie Phillips, Annalise VanderVeen, TJ Verdegaal, and Elizabeth White.


Autumn Neal

After graduation from Oakdale High School, Autumn plans to attend UC Davis, UC Berkeley, or the University of the Pacific to study to become a writer or English professor. At OHS, Autumn is a member of the Academic Decathlon team and participates in the Dead Poets Society Club and English tutoring program. She also participates on the swim team and has earned her Athletic Block O for her efforts. Autumn is a member of the California Scholarship Federation. Outside of school, Autumn received first place in the 2015 AAUW (American Association of University Women’s) regional speech competition. She has also participated in Relay For Life. Supporting Autumn’s aspirations and achievements are her parents Orval and Apryl Neal and her brother Chandler.


Carley Newbill

Carley enjoys reading and writing and, as such, following graduation from Oakdale High School, plans to attend California State University, Stanislaus, to study to become a teacher and writer. Carley made the OHS varsity tennis team as a freshman and has won several awards. Carley also plays tennis year-round. Carley currently serves as a tutor for the OHS Literacy Center. She is also the treasurer for the Dead Poets Society and belongs to the California Scholarship Federation. In her free time, Carley enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Carley’s proud supporters include her parents Steve and Darlene Newbill and sister Nikki.


Makenzie Phillips

Makenzie enjoys all sports, in particular swimming and water polo. Her training and effort in the sport helped the Oakdale High School varsity girls’ water polo team win back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Championships in 2014 and 2015. Makenzie also enjoys dancing, drawing, music, and the arts. Another interest of Makenzie’s is studying psychology. She plans to attend California State University, San Diego, to major in psychology with a career goal of becoming a psychologist. Makenzie has participated in many fundraisers in support of the OHS swim and water polo teams. Other community service has included preparing and delivering food to the homeless. Cheering Makenzie on in all of her endeavors are her mother and step-father, Tiffani Bergeron and Arian Lopez, as well as her grandparents and siblings.


Annalise VanderVeen

Annalise is a member of Oakdale High School’s Academic Decathlon team and has earned medals for her efforts. Annalise also participates in the Drama and French Clubs, and is a co-founder and member of the Dead Poet’s Society Club. In addition, Annalise participates in Show Choir as well as the swim team in which she earned her Athletic Block O for her achievements. Annalise has earned her Academic Block O and was recognized by the “Doing High School Right” program. Community service projects have included Hope for the Heart, City Impact, Love Oakdale, Vacation Bible School volunteer, and face painting at OHS football games. Annalise enjoys reading, singing and piano, swimming, theater, and travelling. After graduation, Annalise plans to attend a private university to study to become a publisher. Supporting Annalise’s goals and aspirations are parents Reese and Yvonne VanderVeen, brother Chad, and sisters Erika and Katey.


TJ Verdegaal

After graduation from Oakdale High School, TJ plans to attend San Diego State University to study liberal arts with the career goal of becoming a teacher of students with visual impairment. At OHS, TJ participates in cheerleading, track, and leadership. She has earned her Academic Block O and Athletic Block O. TJ has been honored with The National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientists Award of Excellence, Best All Around Cheerleader Award, and was selected 2016 Winter Homecoming Queen. Outside of school, TJ participates in dance and youth group. Community service activities have included participation in Feed My Starving Children supporting hungry children in Africa, Society for the Handicapped’s “A Day on the Farm,” retirement home Christmas dance productions, 30 Hour Famine, as well as donating and packaging Christmas gifts for needy teens in Oakdale. TJ enjoys dance, fashion, horseback riding, and athletics. Encouraging TJ in all of her endeavors are her parents Michael and Sarah Verdegaal and brother Jack.


Elizabeth White

With an interest in medical sciences and the study of the human brain, Elizabeth plans to attend Stanford or UC Davis to study to become a doctor or surgeon. At Oakdale High School, Elizabeth is a member of the Science Olympiad team and also participates in the Science Club, Dead Poet’s Society Club, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Elizabeth participates in a steel drum band, Rock Solid Christian Club, and the Crimson Horseman Newspaper. She loves serving her community by volunteering at the Oak Valley Hospital, Care Center, and Emergency Room, as well as at Modesto Gospel Mission. Elizabeth has received the OHS Student of the Month and Academic Excellence Awards. Encouraging Elizabeth every step of the way are her proud parents Edward and Mary White and brother Trevor.


The 11 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.

Oakdale High School senior Amy Craig currently holds the title of Oakdale’s Distinguished Young Woman.

For more information, call Program Chair Nancy Lilly at (209) 607-7605.