Palmetto High School senior Natalia Ortega interned this summer at the University of Miami’s Dean of Student’s office. She worked four days a week for ten hours a day, taking on primarily administrative duties.
“I answered phone calls, I scheduled appointments with the deans, I delivered packages and letters across campus, I faxed things,” she says. “I loved it. Especially because UM is a school I have always had an interest in. Hopefully I’ll be able to go there as a student this coming year.”
In previous summers, Ortega volunteered at ZooMiami as a camp counselor. She watched the kids while they ate lunch and ventured out to the various areas of the zoo the kids were to visit that day.
“I love working with younger kids,” she says. “I have a younger sibling. It’s in my nature to want to be around them.”
She loved being at the zoo.
“Being with the animals was so much fun,” she says.
They had close encounters with some animals – the two that came to mind were parrots and a chimpanzee.
Her community service includes volunteering at the Actor’s Playhouse on Miracle Mile. She ushered at evening shows when she attended a summer acting program during the day.
“I did four or five shows. I did CATS – that was my first show and lead role ever,” she says. “I did Seussical Jr., Into the Woods, and Shrek the Musical.”
Naturally, Ortega has been in the Palmetto drama program since she was a freshman.
“I’m now the Thespian president,” she says. “I love musical theater. I found a passion for it when I was around 11 years old and I’ve been pursuing it ever since.”
Since joining the Palmetto program, she’s been in productions of Curtains, Charley’s Aunt, Beth in Little Women, ensemble in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Witch in Into the Woods, a techie for I Hate Hamlet, and Helena in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Surprisingly, she does not plan to major in musical theater in college. Instead she wants to go into law. She’s considering either criminal defense law or entertainment law.
So far, she’s been accepted to Florida International University and is still waiting to hear from UM, the University of Florida, New York University and the Miami-Dade Honor College.
“I’ll be taking sociology in my undergrad major,” she says. “Apparently it’s a ticket to law school and it’s considered to be a rather interesting major. That’s what I’ve heard so that’s what I’m going with.”
Aside from Thespians, which she says takes up 85 percent of her time, Ortega is involved in several clubs at school. She’s in Florida Future Educators of America. Club members work with the teens that attend Palmetto with special needs.
“We make them feel welcome and whole in society,” she says.
She’s also a member of the debate club, although she does not attend debate competitions because competition preparation takes too much time away from her time in the drama program.
“We usually do environmental topics,” she says. “When we are doing debates, we debate environmental things like global warming, and how much humans are affecting the planet. We’ve also done political debates and things on human rights. Usually we like to switch sides to gain knowledge on what it’s like being a defendant as well as a prosecutor.”
Ortega is also in the Creative Writing Club.
“We discuss which writing prompts would be the most interesting,” she says. “We get together, write, read to each other and do peer reviews. It’s a pretty cool club.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld