Incoming Palmetto High School senior Tatiana Wirth has spent summers at Zoo Miami since she was a child. The difference is that now she’s a camp counselor at the zoo’s summer camp program.
“I’ve been volunteering there since the summer before my freshman year,” she says. “I used to attend the camp so it was only natural for me to volunteer there since I loved it so much.”
She enjoys working with the children.
“I love hanging out with them so much,” she says.
She often is assigned to the 7-12 age group. Wirth says she deals with the children and helps the counselors while they deal with the animals.
She also volunteers at the zoo in other times of the year, working in the aviary cleaning up or in the children’s area, cleaning up after the animals.
“It’s fun when you hang out with people and interact with people who visit the zoo,” she says. “Plus I love animals and interacting with them is great. For the most part our interactions are making enrichments for the animals. Like making popsicles.”
She loves all the animals but her absolute favorites are giraffes.
“They are just so cool, they are nice, they don’t bother anything and they go with the flow,” she says.
Her years at the zoo led her to consider becoming a vet but now she is intent on becoming a pediatrician. Why the switch?
“I love animals so much, I can’t stand seeing them in pain,” she says. “It was a childhood fantasy.”
While it’s too hard for her to deal with an animal in pain, she’s able to create the emotional space to deal with people in pain.
“I actually shadowed my pediatrician for a few days and realized it was my calling,” she says.
In her free time, Wirth tutors her younger cousin, who has struggled with math. Wirth says math used to be her worst subject but when she got into high school, it became second nature to her.
She also volunteers for Ronald McDonald House by collecting the pop tabs from soda cans. Those pop tabs raise thousands of dollars each year.
“I’ve been doing it with my family, but this year since I’m with National Honor Society, I’m going to talk to the president to see if we can do it schoolwide, collecting pop tabs,” she says.
Wirth is a member of the Literary Society, the Social Science Honor Society and the History Bowl B team.
“For the most part we all know general history,” she says, “I’m a personal fan of art and U.S. history.”
Loving U.S. history is not surprising in the child of immigrants – her father is Jamaican and his father was Swiss. Her mother’s family is from Cuba.
In college, she plans to go into the pre-med track, double majoring in something science related like biology or chemistry and history.
“History is my passion,” she says. “I love the idea of the past and the stories of so many of the events in the past. I had the perfect teacher that made me fall in love with history.”
Her college list includes Duke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld