She can't stand Madonna. She adores Baryshnikov. She's not wild about salads but loves strawberry mousse. "The Sound of Music" is her favorite movie and she admits "The Wizard of Oz" is a close second. College is definitely on the agenda; smoking is not.
At 13, Natalie Diaz is poised, soft-spoken and confident. She is also a heroine and a winner. Earlier this month, the eighth grader at Arlington's Swanson Intermediate School was one of five young people honored by First Lady Nancy Reagan and Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) for acts of caring and heroism performed this year. More than 70,000 children nationwide competed for that honor.
One day last July, when she was still 12, Natalie decided to go along when her mother drove Natalie's older sister to her job at one of Arlington's public libraries.
"It was a real hot day," she said. "I had no plans."
While her mother and sister talked in the front seat, Natalie sat in the back, dreaming and looking out the window. Suddenly, after the car rounded a corner, Natalie saw something that grabbed her attention: an elderly woman lying in a ditch by the side of the road.
"I just saw her and I told my mom to stop the car," Natalie said.
Natalie's mother, Annette Cordero, pulled over at once and all three family members rushed over to the woman.
"Her arm was all scratched up and it was bleeding," Natalie said. "You could tell she was in pain."
"Her groceries were scattered all over the place," she added.
The 72-year-old woman had been returning home with a heavy load of groceries when she slipped on gravel and toppled backward into a construction ditch. The accident caused the woman to break her ankle and sprain her wrist.
"She had been there for about an hour," Natalie said. "When we got there, there was [someone in] a car just sitting there watching her."
To this day, Natalie said she is amazed that people saw the woman, passed her by or just stared at her, and offered no assistance.
Natalie said she helped her mother and sister lift the woman into the front seat of the car and gather the spilled cans of vegetables and packages of paper towels. With the woman safely in the car, Natalie's sister headed off for work and Natalie and her mother headed for Arlington Hospital.
"She told us she had no relatives around," Natalie said. "I wanted just to stay with her. She looked really tired."
For the next nine hours, Natalie insisted on staying at the hospital while the woman saw several different doctors.
Finally, about 9 p.m., Natalie and her mother drove the woman back to her Arlington home and stayed with her for another hour or two, getting her settled in her apartment.
"We saw her after the accident for about two weeks," Natalie said. "We still call her every once in a while to see how she's doing and tell her we haven't forgotten her."
Looking back at the summer incident, Natalie thinks she did nothing extraordinary. Rather she thinks she acted "normally," exercising the kind of consideration everyone should under the circumstances.
"I felt good about myself though," she said.
So, apparently, have a lot of other people.
When Annette Cordero saw a magazine ad in September for The Care Bears/Woman's Day "Care-A-Lot Kids Campaign," she decided to enter her daughter in the contest to honor a handful of children between the ages of 4 and 12 for acts of caring performed during 1985.
About a month later, Natalie learned she had been chosen as a winner.
Earlier this month, Natalie and the four other winners, along with their families, were treated to a two-night stay at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, a trip to the White House to meet with Mrs. Reagan and a lunch at the Rayburn Building to be honored by Glenn. In addition, each winner received a check for $5,000 and a giant stuffed Care Bear.
Natalie decided to split the reward evenly with her mother and her sister, Annette. For now, she will let her mother handle the money but has opened a savings account, in which she has placed $500.
Some of the money, Natalie said, will be used to pay for ballet lessons. These days, she takes lessons three days a week. For Natalie, ballet is an absolute priority. Her dream is straightforward enough: to become as great a classical ballet dancer as Mikhail Baryshnikov.
Since returning to school after being honored at the White House and on Capitol Hill, Natalie said she has been treated like a celebrity.
"People are still asking me about it," she said.
Although she doesn't mind the attention, sometimes she gets discouraged at the emphasis.
"They don't say, 'There's the girl who helped the lady,' " she said. "They say, 'There's the kid who won $5,000.' "
"I guess that's expected from kids," she said. "Just sometimes it bothers me."