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Saturday Features Distinguished Young Women Competition


Coming up on Saturday, March 10, the annual Distinguished Young Women of Oakdale program hosted by Soroptimist International of Oakdale will be held at 7 p.m. at Magnolia School Auditorium. The local Soroptimist group has sponsored the program for the past 30 years.

This week, we profile the second six of the 12 candidates for the Distinguished Young Woman title this year: Misha Mistry, Erika Nichols, Jean Pagaduan, Bianca Sams, Natalie Williams, and Shannen Yang.


Misha Mistry

At Oakdale High School, Misha is President of the Service Club and participates in the Interact, Poetry Out Loud, Dead Poets Society, and Cultural Cuisine clubs. She is also active in the Model United Nations program and is a member of the Science Olympiad team. Prior to her junior year, Misha participated on the Academic Decathlon team. Misha serves her community as an Oak Valley Hospital Junior Volunteer. She is a member of and performs community service with the Central Valley Gujarati Samaj. Misha enjoys art specializing in watercolor and ink drawings and was awarded third place at an art show for her entry. She plays the piano, the classical Indian drum tabla, and enjoys reading and tennis. Following graduation from OHS, Misha plans to attend UCLA and study medicine. Misha’s biggest supporters are her parents Shreyas and Shilpa Mistry.


Erika Nichols

Following graduation from Oakdale High School, Erika plans to attend college and earn a law degree. At OHS, Erika is active in student government, Future Farmers of America (FFA), The Health and Wellness Club, and is a member of the Varsity Cheer team. She has received an FFA Chapter Degree award. Erika’s community service activities include helping at the Valley Home Fall Festival, interning for and serving as a campaign worker for Congressman Jeff Denham, planning and volunteering at women’s ministry events at Life Community Church, Operation Christmas Child, canned food drives and toy drives. Erika enjoys history, politics, and leadership as well as dancing and music. Supporting Erika in all that she does are her Aunt Teresa Kinney, Uncle Chris Kinney, brother Sky, and sisters Iliana, Alicia, and Adalyse.


Jean Pagaduan

At Oakdale High School, Jean is active in the Model United Nations program and is a member of the Academic Decathlon and Science Olympiad teams. Jean tutors fellow students and serves as President of the Interact Club and Secretary of the Service Club. She is also active in the Debate Club and Dead Poets Society Club. Jean has received numerous awards including the Paul Harris Fellowship Award, OHS Student of the Month, as well as several place awards in Academic Decathlon and Science Olympiad competitions. Jean volunteers through her church and is an Oak Valley Hospital Junior Volunteer. In her free time, Jean enjoys drawing, photography, music, reading, movies and film analyses, and computer coding and learning about programming languages. Following graduation, Jean plans to attend a four-year university and study something in the medical field or STEM field. Encouraging Jean every step of the way are parents Jose and Myrissa Pagaduan and sisters Joan, Marjorie, Jonna, and Marian.


Bianca Sams

Following graduation from Central Catholic High School, Bianca plans to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and study agricultural engineering. At Central Catholic, Bianca serves as Associated Student Body (ASB) Commissioner and participates in Future Farmers of America (FFA), Varsity Cheerleading, and Advance Dance Team. She has earned her Academic Block C and received FFA Leadership and Top 10 percent of FFA Chapter awards. Bianca served as Captain of the Junior Varsity Cheer team and was honored with MVP and Most Spirited awards at the end of the season. Bianca is a two-time recipient of the Monsignor De Groot and Golden Scholar Athlete awards. She also received an award for over 40 community service hours for her time volunteering at fundraisers for area Catholic schools, auctions at St. Stanislaus Catholic Parish Fall Festival, as well as food and clothing drives for her FFA Chapter and ASB. Bianca has studied dance at Strut Performing Arts and performed with the YES Company. Keeping up with Bianca are her parents Brad and Yvonne Sams, brother Brent, and sister Ashley.


Natalie Williams

After graduating from Oakdale High School, Natalie plans to attend Brigham Young University, majoring in piano performance. She has been playing the piano for 13 years, and teaching for four. Natalie plays the piano and organ for her church choir, Young Women’s group, and congregation. She has been honored by her church for service, as well as earned her Academic Block O and Renaissance Platinum awards. Natalie is a member of the Service Club, French Club, and Interact Club. Community service activities include: I Love Oakdale, girls camp junior counselor, meals for families and elderly, babysitting, and helping with wedding prep, decorations and clean up. Natalie enjoys serving others, spending time with family and friends, traveling, playing the piano, and performing. Proudly encouraging Natalie are her parents, Vaughn and Janice Williams, brothers Kevin, Alan, Sean, and Christopher, and sisters Wendy, Michelle, Jeanette, Julie, and Mary.


Shannen Yang

Shannen is active in the Service Club and Interact Club at Oakdale High School. She also participates on the Science Olympiad team and is on the Varsity Tennis team where she was honored with a Sportsmanship Award. Shannen has won numerous place awards at the Regional Science Olympiad competition and as an alternate in the Academic Decathlon, as well as the Stanislaus County Science Fair. She has achieved a Certificate of Merit Level 8 on piano and Certificate of Merit Encore recital. Shannen is an Oak Valley Hospital Junior Volunteer. Besides piano and tennis, Shannen enjoys traveling, watching TED talks or absurd science videos, discovering music, and reading novels and articles. After graduation, Shannen plans to attend UCLA and study biomedical engineering. Always encouraging Shannen are her parents Alexander and Ping Yang and brothers Cleavant and Ethan.


Also in the Class of 2019 are Danni Bench, Grace Buzzini, Alexandra Casillas, Adrienne Ferreira, Chloe Liekhus and Bethany Metcalfe, profiled in the Feb. 28 issue of The Leader.

On Saturday evening, the 12 hopefuls 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.