"If you break down a task into small enough pieces and do what you enjoy, things are definitely possible, even if you don't expect them to be," Finberg said.
"And after you work hard, it feels wonderful."
* YEAR WON: 1982 * CATEGORY: Science * HIGH SCHOOL: Miami Palmetto * NOW: Founder and CEO, Amazon.com. Lives in Seattle
Jeff Bezos remembers feeling larger than life when he was called to the Dade County Auditorium stage to receive his Silver Knight award for science in 1982.
"As a high school senior, it felt like I'd won an Academy Award," Bezos said. "The program was really fun. The lighting was very cool."
A few years after winning, Bezos continued to find himself in the spotlight.
An Internet pioneer, Bezos is founder and CEO of Amazon.com, a venture that turned him into one of the world's youngest self-made billionaires.
But despite the accolades he has achieved for his business savvy, Bezos looks back at the Silver Knight as the award that provided the most motivation to go after his goals.
"That was the first time I got any formal recognition for being a good student," Bezos said in a telephone interview from Amazon headquarters in Seattle.
"At that tender age, getting some recognition really helps you stay on the right track," he said.
Bezos graduated top in his Miami Palmetto Senior High class. At Princeton University, his focus shifted from physics to computer science and electrical engineering.
He worked for several Wall Street firms after college, applying computer science to the stock market.
Soon, Bezos saw the Internet rising in popularity, and he came up with a business plan in 1995 to sell books online.
Since then, Amazon.com has grown into a one-stop retail shop where consumers can browse and buy thousands of products, not just books.
Now 43, Bezos still proudly displays his Silver Knight trophy.
He says students shouldn't be afraid to pursue what interests them, even if it means changing their original plans.
"If you love science, follow that and see where it leads. If you love literature, follow that," he said.
"I've seen people who try to force passions on themselves. It never works."
* YEAR WON: 1965 * CATEGORY: Athletics * HIGH SCHOOL: Hialeah High * NOW: Retired after 15 NFL seasons, inducted into Hall of Fame. Lives in Chicago.
He was class president, starred on four varsity teams and aced his honors science classes, but Ted Hendricks thought the Silver Knight award would go to his athletic rival, Larry Rentz.
"It was a very well-kept secret," Hendricks recalled. "I was on pins and needles along with my family. When the announce- ment was made, I was very, very happy."
Both young men had standout football seasons. As quarterback, Rentz took his Coral Gables High team to the state championship, winning an Athlete of the Year award in the process. The 6-foot-7 Hendricks played defense and offense for Hialeah High, using his height to pull down touchdown passes as tight end.
Hendricks' coach nominated him for a Silver Knight, an honor he credits to his well-rounded education.
"I think it was my academics that swung the vote in my favor," said Hendricks, 59.
Hendricks was a three-time All-American defensive end at the University of Miami. Drafted by the Baltimore Colts in 1969, Hendricks played 15 seasons -- in 215 consecutive games -- and won four Super Bowls. He won induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1990.