It’s an honor to be nominated for a Silver Knight and only outstanding students such as Palmetto High School’s Erin Dandes are selected. Dandes is the Palmetto nominee in the Social Science category.
Among her leadership roles, Dandes is the treasurer of the senior class, a position that she has held since her freshman year.
This year she was appointed president of the school’s Honor Council. The Honor Council gives students who have been accused of cheating a second chance to get peer counseling. That counseling includes study techniques, time management and tips on how to deal with peer pressure, with the hope that this will prevent any other incidents.
Dandes has been an athlete, running cross-country and track. She runs the halfmile, two-mile and does the shot put. She like to run and says it’s a great way to relax and clear her head.
“I have a lot of friends on the team, which makes it enjoyable,” she says. “It’s a great way to exercise.”
Being involved in her class, in athletics and volunteering in the community has earned her 1,300 community service hours, a huge number for an already busy high school student.
She earned many hours though her community service project called Paws to Read. She takes her dog to the Coral Reef Library every other Tuesday from 4 to 5 p.m. so children can read to the dogs.
“I actually started it in seventh grade for my bat mitzvah project. I’ve always loved animals and working with children, so it seemed perfect,” Dandes says. “My first one was a Labrador and my current one is a Golden Doodle — a Golden Retriever mixed with a Standard Poodle. He was brought up on a ranch in Texas. I got him as a puppy.”
In order to be a therapy dog, the dog must have mastered basic obedience.
“He’s not allowed to grab food from anyone’s hand,” she says. “There’s a lot of testing.”
Dandes follows the program instituted by Therapy Dogs International. She has her dog recertified annually by one of the TDI trainers who live in Pinecrest. Training took at least a couple of months of nightly practice.
Dandes goes to the library at the same time, tutoring group meets. Kids from that group often interact with the dogs, but Paws to Read is not limited to the students beingtutored.
“Pretty much whoever is there can interact with us,” she says. “With my first dog, my original program was at Pinecrest library, but that program wasn’t as strong so I ended up doing my own at Coral Reef.” Her desire to become a doctor led her to volunteer at Baptist in the Errand Service department.
“Whenever a doctor needs something to go to a lab or telemetry, I help them out and deliver that,” she says. “I thought it would be a good idea to engage myself in the hospital environment and see what it was like. I love it.”
Dandes is considering a career in pediatrics or gynecology and she plans to attend a small liberal arts colleges. She has looked at several colleges from Miami to the some in the northeast. She could major in math because that is one of her stronger subjects, but chemistry is also a possibility. She has been accepted to the University of Miami and other schools are expected to accept her for admission in April.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld