At 15 years of age, Stettler’s Dakota Derr has already discovered the rich rewards of community service through volunteering.
Derr is being honoured as ‘Youth Citizen of the Year’ at the Stettler Awards Gala being held Oct. 22nd. Hosted by the Stettler Regional Board of Trade and Development, the event is being live streamed for the public to view on the Board of Trade’s Facebook page.
For many years, the Stettler Awards Gala has been a prestigious event where citizens have an opportunity to honour the accomplishments of local businesses and citizens.
“I was amazed,” she said, recalling when she heard the news that she had landed the award. “I was in shock!”
A cheerful young lady who is always willing to lend a helping hand, Derr is also following in the footsteps of her mom Tanya who won ‘Female Citizen of the Year’ at last year’s awards ceremony.
In the meantime, Dakota is happy to not only to help out where she can, but to connect with others through the several groups that she is involved with.
“I volunteer at the Heartland Youth Centre,” she said during a recent chat. “This year, I’m part of the Keystone Club and last year I was in the Torch Club, and we went around and did community services things, like the Fireman’s Foodbank Blitz drive and doing set-up and take-down for the Festival of Lights.”
Dakota said the clubs also help to arrange donations for Christmas hampers, plus they have visited seniors in local long-term care facilities as well.
“We play games with them, and we will bring them Christmas cards,” she explained, adding that it’s the kind of gesture that helps to put a smile on residents’ faces. Plus, it provides a pretty good feeling for Dakota and the other volunteers as well.
“It’s just nice to help people out.”
Dakota is also a member of the local cadets, and has been part of that organization for about four years now. Some of their volunteer efforts include helping out at the local Legion, too.
According to the Stettler Air Cadets web site, “The aim of the Air Cadet Program is to develop in youth the attributes of good citizenship and leadership; promote physical fitness; and stimulate the interest of youth in the sea, land, and air activities of the Canadian Forces; however, each focuses on its own parent element. The Air Cadet motto is, ‘To learn. To serve. To advance’.
And those are the kind of characteristics that Dakota shows.
Looking ahead, Dakota said she really enjoys working with children so she plans to settle on a career path that includes connecting with youngsters, such as working as a counsellor for example.
Meanwhile, Tanya pointed out that her daughter is also a big help with a number of initiatives that Tanya is involved with around town as well.
“It gives her independence, and she’s learning those life skills as she is growing, too,” she explained of the influence community involvement has had on her daughter. “It’s important to be able to be aware of other people’s needs.”
Tanya said the Youth Centre also really encourages volunteering and helps to instill that sense of community spirit in young people.
“I went through the Youth Centre as a youth, then I became a staff member and now I’m a board member,” she explained. “So it’s been a big part of my life. Again, they are amazing at the Centre and they encourage them to do community service which makes you appreciate being able to go out and help others.”
Winnie Bissett, executive director of the Heartland Youth Centre, said that Dakota has not only grown up taking part in the programs at the Centre over the years, but is now increasingly taking on leadership roles, too.
“This summer, for instance, she was quite involved in our programs by volunteering a lot. Dakota is excellent with the kids – she is very patient, and she is a really good role model for them as well.
“We love having her here,” she added. “She comes in here with a really good attitude and a smile on her face.”