Those hours are separate from the time she spent competing in several pageants, where she has scored win after win. This past June, she won the crown for Miss Teen American Beauty 2015. Before that, she was named Miss Teen Earth Florida 2014 and United States Teen Water. In all, Dakota holds five different titles from various pageants. However, while separate, those hours she spent helping others directly tied into to her victories.
The titles all fall under Beauties for a Cause, which judges candidates mainly by their platforms. Dakota’s platform was formed around a passion for sea turtles.
“My uncle Carl, he’s obsessed with Sea Turtles,” Dakota said. “Once he showed me about sea turtles, I looked more into it and found out they were endangered. Here in Southwest Florida, this is one of the areas they come to, so I was like ‘Why not get involved and try to make a difference, helping the community in a good way.’”
Some of her activities to help the turtles included putting in hours volunteering at the Naples Zoo and raising funds throughout Lee County, with her efforts helping her to several crowns. She’s even dedicated 10 percent of the money she has raised to cover travel expenses for these pageants to the Sea Turtle Conservancy up in Gainesville, a sum that currently adds up to $1600.
But her energy and charity also extends to people, as she has recently started volunteering her time at the Galisano Children’s Hospital over at Lee Memorial’s HealthPark Medical Center.
“It was an eye opening experience,” Dakota said. “Even though they’re going through this horrible experience, they manage to keep smiles on their faces.”
She’s also done fundraising for Stay Alive and Thrive, an event to help raise HIV awareness. There she met at 2 year old girl with HIV who was totally mesmerized by Dakota. “I just fell in love her and danced with here all night. This little girl just warmed my heart.”
“Just being able to go out and help other people, that’s one thing I love to do,” Dakota said in an interview at the Sun Bay Paper office. “I’ve always put other people in front of myself. Being able to help the community and putting myself out there to help other people is a big passion of mine.”
Children in particular are a focus for her time, trying to help them get involved in the community. One such instance was here speaking at the Cypress Lake Middle School, with hopes of getting students there to help out in local sea turtle conservation efforts. “It’s all about the younger generation because they are the next in line. It’s good to target older people, but younger people are great because they look up to you and as a role model. You have to be a positive force in the community.”
All this work does take dedication. Between balancing her duties as a volunteer, a pageant winner, and a student at North Fort Myer High School, where she maintains a 4.0 GPA, some sacrifices must be made.
“My social life was off the plate once all this stuff started,” Dakota said. She and her mom, Susan, form a tight knit team, and together plan out Dakota’s days down to the hour, to ensure she has enough time for every activity in which she’s involved.
“Time management is so big in all of this,” Dakota said. “When you agree to do something, you have to be able to follow through.” On top of all of this, she still finds time to babysit around her neighborhood.
Recently, she has found time to take part in acting. She has landed a role in an independent film production here in Lee County named “Hanging Millstone,” which began filming this past July. Focusing on the plight of missing children, the movie project seems to hit on the theme of Dakota’s altruistic work thus far. She’s also had auditions with shows like Elementary and Orange is the New Black.
Her ultimate goal, however, is becoming a pediatrician. Currently, she is awaiting acceptance from either the University of Miami or University of Central Florida. Once she vacates all of her titles at the end of her current pageant reigns, she also hopes to participate in Miss USA.