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Ottawa teen gives time to children

August 16, 2009

OTTAWA — Having children to look after at age 17 is a delight for Mandi Utendorf.



“I volunteer four hours a week in the pediatrics unit at St. Rita’s and on the mother and baby floor,” said the Ottawa-Glandorf High School senior. This is her second year as a volunteer with St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima.



“I do a little bit of everything,” Mandi said. “I’ll watch the babies if the mothers need to leave the room or play games with the kids and get snacks for them, or sometimes I’ll answer phones and call lights. … It makes you feel good just to help out.”



Through her volunteer work, Mandi is now certain she wants a career in the medical field.



“I volunteered to see if I’d like the hospital atmosphere, and I like it a lot,” she said.



Mandi said she would like to work in pediatric oncology.



“I’ve always liked working with kids and baby-sitting. When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher like my mom, but I think I’ve grown out of that stage,” she said with a laugh. “I think helping kids with cancer, or trying to help the kids and their families, would be tough but rewarding.”



At Ottawa-Glandorf, Mandi volunteers as a member of Student Council, Key Club, and Junior Optimists.



In addition, Mandi is a member of chorale, the dance ensemble, Varsity Club, and Spanish Club, and she plays varsity tennis for the Lady Titans. She also takes advanced classes and dual-enrollment courses at Ottawa-Glandorf to earn college credit.



Outside school, Mandi sings with the high school choir at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Ottawa and has volunteered with the Teen Community Emergency Response Team through Volunteer Connection.



“With CERT,” she said, “we help out the community in crisis situations. Like for the flood, we bagged sandbags and helped move stuff, but we had to go through CERT training first. … I did extra training for hurricanes and forest fires so I could help out, like, in California or anywhere across the country.”



For fun, Mandi takes lessons at the Dance Center in Ottawa.



“This is my 12th year in dance. I do point, tap, jazz, ballet, and hip-hop,” she said.



“When it gets to recital time, it’s always fun,” Mandi added. “You learn all the dances together, but you get to make them your own. You put your own edge, your own style, to each dance. You add your own personality to it, and I like that.”



Mandi said that tap is her favorite genre of dance.



“I love how everyone can sound as one. It takes lots of practice until everybody’s got it down, so it’s definitely a challenge, but it sounds really cool when we get it,” she said.



In her spare time, Mandi enjoys reading.



“I read a lot, pretty much anything,” she said. “Lurlene McDaniel actually might have sparked my interest in oncology because a lot of her books are about kids with cancer and how it affects their families.”