Eisenhower Middle/High School senior Danielle Oaks is looking for ways to give back.
Oaks, one of two Times Observer students of the year in 2012, attributes the person she is today to the people who have been around her through her past.
"The inspiration of my parents and teachers leading me in the right direction got me here," Oaks said. "They've given me the opportunity to do what I'd like to do and have the chance to just go with that."
With all the activities in which she participates, Oaks has had quite a few role models surrounding her.
She participates in choir both at the district and regional levels and takes part in the high school's Fantasia singing group. She pointed out she loves to sing. It's easy for those who have met her to see, or more accurately hear, since she sometimes hums or sings quietly to herself to fill the silence.
"Basically I joined (choir) when I was in sixth grade," Oaks recalled. "I tried out for a part and then joined choir. I enjoyed it and have been doing it ever since."
Oaks said she has many fond memories of her time in choir and she recalled, "concerts, lots of concerts".
"I had a lot of fun with those," Oaks said. "Those and music festivals I've really had fun with."
Oaks is also something of a bibliophile. She is a member of her school book club and even traveled to Youngstown State University in Ohio for its English Fest.
When asked about a favorite book or author she struggled to come up with just one answer.
"That's a hard question. How do you pick one?," Oaks responded. "I like lots of different types of books. I pretty much like them all."
According to Oaks, the book club focused on author Laurie Halse Anderson this year and completed seven books. She said she connected most with Anderson titles 'Speak' and 'Twisted' as they related to high school age life.
According to Oaks she manages to fit time helping put together the yearbook into her busy schedule.
Oaks said she appreciates the ability to take part in all those activities. Especially as she holds offices in two clubs.
"I've enjoyed taking on leadership roles," Oaks said. "It's been an opportunity for learning different things from each activity."
Oaks' club activities haven't interfered with her scholastic achievements. She has been on the merit honor roll since 2006. Oaks earned an Academic Achievement Award each year from 2008 until 2010. She won the District and Regional Choir Award in 2012 and has won Foreign Language (Spanish) and English Awards in 2009 and 2010. Oaks also won poetry contest awards from 2010 through 2012.
When she isn't busy with clubs, academics or yearbook activities, Oaks still finds ways to fill the day.
"I enjoy spending time with my family and friends," she said. "I like to go swimming in the summer or just relax and read."
Oaks also participates in an activity that will come in handy down the road, Spanish club.
According to Oaks, she has been accepted to Edinboro University and will be pursuing a degree in Spanish or education. That's where the giving back comes in.
"I wish I could have taken more than four years of Spanish," Oaks said. "We don't get to start until ninth grade."
She said of Edinboro, "I felt comfortable there. That's a big part. They have a wide range of degrees available."
Oaks isn't just planning on giving back once she earns her degree though; she's doing it now.
Oaks takes time each summer to volunteer during vacation Bible study at Lander United Methodist Church. She said she has helped at the program for two years and plans to do so again this summer.
In addition to her work with vacation Bible school, Oaks has served as a high school library aide since 2010.
As for winning her place as a student of the year, Oaks said, "Its an honor. I'm grateful for the opportunity to have received it."
Besides her parents, Oaks noted, she attributes a handful of teachers as special influences on her life. She attributes her choir instructor Denise Pearson for encouraging her musical development. Librarian Jeanette Walter, Oaks noted, has shared and encouraged a love of books. She noted her tenth grade English teacher Carol Livingston made an impact on her. She also credited her Spanish teacher, Jeweline Rozanski, with being an inspiration to her.
"I'm grateful to all of them," Oaks said. "I really thank all the people that have supported me."