SILVER KNIGHT AWARDS

The amazing achievers: Fifteen standout students won Silver Knights for work in and out of the classroom

 

ebenn@MiamiHerald.com

Daniel Lage helps poor patients figure out their healthcare options at a Little Havana clinic, and he has authored a medical-journal article about children's heart disease.

Soon, he'll graduate from Gulliver Prep and head off to Harvard.

Lage and 14 other Miami-Dade high school seniors won The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald 2007 Silver Knight Awards at a ceremony Tuesday night in Miami.

"It's an incredible feeling. I still don't believe it," Lage said backstage after being named the winner in the General Scholarship category.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Lage said he understands the importance of helping others.

"My parents came from nothing, and now their son is a Silver Knight," Lage said. "They always taught me: What you have in your head, no one can take away from you."

Lage collected used textbooks from his peers and sold them online, using the proceeds to pay for books and supplies for an after-school program. He has logged more than 1,000 hours volunteering at the San Juan Bosco Clinic in Little Havana, taking blood pressures and counseling patients.

Lage plans to study biology and someday return to Miami as a physician.

"I'm going to go right back to the people in Little Havana and Miami," he said. "That's my calling."

Lage's accomplishments -- plus his 5.9 weighted GPA -- seem extraordinary for a teenager. But Silver Knights are no ordinary teens.

"It always amazes me to hear about their generous hearts, their desire to give and how they find the time to help others, no matter how jam-packed their schedules are with studies and homework," said Joe Oglesby, editorial page editor of The Miami Herald and Tuesday night's master of ceremonies.

Not able to hear their names called out as the winners were two students from Michael Krop High who missed Tuesday's ceremony because they had a previous obligation: a science competition in Albuquerque, N.M.

New Media winner Weina Scott sent her brother and Mathematics winner Bryan Landman sent his girlfriend to the ceremony as their representatives.

The Knight Concert Hall at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts served as the ceremony's venue for the first time. In keeping with Silver Knight tradition, the event felt like a high school version of the Academy Awards, complete with formal wear, a jazz band and bright lights.

Now in its 49th year, the Silver Knight Awards have honored thousands of students who are standouts in their academics and extracurriculars.

Former winners have gone on to win Oscars, create multibillion-dollar companies, compete in Super Bowls and get elected to office.

Tiffany Agam isn't sure what the future holds for her, but she knows it will involve helping others.

Agam, this year's Art winner and a senior at Ben Lipson Hillel, organized an art auction that raised money for children's chemotherapy treatments and created a photographic collage at her school to raise fellow students' awareness about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

Her plans now that she's a Silver Knight?

"I'm writing two books right now, and all the proceeds are going to go to kids who need help," Agam said, nearly out of breath from the evening's excitement.

"I'm really in shock right now. I did not think I'd win. These other kids are all amazing."

Students are nominated by teachers at their schools for the Silver Knight award, then a panel of judges in each category chooses a winner and three honorable mentions.

This year's 15 winners and 45 honorable mentions were selected from about 400 nominees. Fifteen Broward County students were named Silver Knights in a ceremony earlier this month.

The winners each receive $1,500, a Silver Knight statuette and medallion, and a round-trip ticket from American Airlines.

The honorable mentions receive $500 and a plaque. Each nominee receives a certificate. The event was sponsored by American Airlines and the Blank Family Foundation.

MIAMI-DADE SILVER KNIGHTS

JERI LYN STONE

KILLIAN

Jeri gives free clarinet lessons to underprivileged middle school students. Every student she worked with earned superior ratings on their solos at district competition.

She has also received superior ratings for her clarinet interpretations of Mozart. Teachers describe her as someone who exemplifies "perfection in music and academics."

She has been drum major of her school's marching band, president of the Music Honor Society and Science Honor Society. She's also played with the University of Miami Honor Band, South Florida Honor Band and Festival of Winds.

She's an advocate for the environment, having insisted her school begin a recycling program. She is ranked sixth in her class of 765 students and has a 6.0 (weighted) GPA.

*Honorable Mentions: Nasya Mendoza-Elias, Palmetto; Kellie Gayoso Calzon, South Miami; Loubins Richard, Miami Central.

BUSINESS

DANIEL REDLICH

RASG HEBREW ACADEMY

Daniel has managed hundreds of stocks. For the past two summers, Daniel worked as a stock trader in New York. He decided to teach other high school students around the world the basics of stock trading by creating a website called www.TheBizBasics.com, which includes daily lesson plans and business competition.

But Daniel has also given back more than just business knowledge. He also raised money to send Passover baskets to Jewish soldiers serving in Iraq. His fundraising events included a mother-son dinner. He also created a video documentary about 9/11 and volunteered at the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center as a youth director.

He plans to attend the University of Rochester this fall on a $24,000 scholarship.

He has a 5.9 (weighted) GPA.

* Honorable Mentions: Nikhil Mehta, Miami Beach; Brittany Clarke, Turner Tech; James Rowan, Palmetto.

DRAMA

JODY ELLENBY

PALMETTO

Nearly every role Jody performs on stage has led to an award.

Off-stage, Jody played a more important role as an advocate against drunken driving. The death in 2000 of Helen Marie Witty, whose portrait hangs in her school's drama room, motivated Jody to organize a walk in honor of the 16-year-old killed by a drunken driver. Jody's Walk for Witty raised $26,000, much of which will replenish a scholarship fund in Helen's memory.

Jody is president of the Thespian Honor Society. She has been a member of the Palmetto Players and Imagination Theater, the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization Holocaust Impact Theater and has worked for the Chicago Children's Choir and the Chicago Summer Opera.

She is 58th in her class of 860 and has a 5.45 (weighted) GPA.

* Honorable Mentions: Lisandra de la Caridad Vidal, Coral Gables; Andrea Adkins, Robert Morgan; Gabriela Tejedor, Coral Reef.

ENGLISH

REGINA MENDA

MICHAEL KROP

Regina's brother was recently diagnosed with an auditory disorder. That diagnosis motivated Regina to found A.L.E.R.T -- Assisting Autistic Latinos and Minorities in Education, Research and Technology. She raised $2,100 and donated it to seven schools. The money allowed them to purchase the software needed to enhance the communication skills of autistic and auditory-deficient children. She's also created a website to educate others about the program and helps autistic students at her school with the technology.

A volunteer with Kristi House, an organization that helps young victims of sexual abuse, Regina makes goody bags to be given out.

She has a 5.16 (weighted) GPA and ranks 33rd in her class of 841.

*Honorable Mentions: Benjamin Abramowitz, RASG Hebrew Academy; Britney Martinez, Turner Tech; Paige Rivkind, Miami Country Day.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE

JOSE INSUA

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS

As a leader of his school's Catholic youth group, Jose organizes homeless feedings, pro-life marches and tutoring sessions. Jose is a peer minister in LIFE, Living in the Faith Experience, a highly selective program that involves traveling to Texas in the summer.

But it's his ability to articulate the most complex subjects that has impressed his teachers. As an Advanced Placement Spanish Literature student, Jose seeks to understand the cultural nuance of classical texts. He earned a 5 on the AP Foreign Language Exam.

He also volunteered at Mercy Hospital in the physical therapy unit and tutored twin brothers, helping them pass their FCAT exam.

The National Honor Society member ranks sixth in his class of 326 students. He has a 4.6 (weighted) GPA.

* Honorable Mentions: Jennifer Vargas, Coral Gables; Virgilia Zabala, John A. Ferguson; Sara Edelman, Palmetto.

ART

TIFFANY AGAM

HILLEL

After reviving her school's National Art Honor Society, Tiffany organized an auction that raised funds for children's chemotherapy treatments. "While we all see art as a form of therapy, in this case, art is really saving lives," she wrote.

She also compiled a 150-recipe cookbook: This fundraiser was dubbed the "Chicken Fund" because proceeds helped feed poor families.

Tiffany also created a photographic collage depicting the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. She displayed her work for a week to raise awareness of the atrocities in the African region.

But while her art focuses on global events, she also acts locally. Last year, she saved two chickens from slaughter. They now live in her backyard.

She has a 4.7 (weighted) GPA and ranks in the top 10 percent of her class.

* Honorable Mentions: Raquel Kalil, Coral Reef; Melissa Tablante, New World; Eric Rodgers, South Dade.

JOURNALISM

ANDREW RUIZ

HIALEAH

Andrew's mother died of breast cancer when he was 14. Determined to honor her memory, Andrew founded Teens Against Cancer. As a team captain for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life event, he helped raise more than $22,000.

Andrew also reaches out to classmates whose lives have been affected by cancer, putting aside his own feelings as he helps others cope. He has written about families living with cancer in his school paper.

In addition to being managing editor of his school yearbook, Andrew is president of the National Honor Society, vice president of the Key Club and a member of Quill and Scroll, Law Club, FBLA and Mu Alpha Theta.

Academically, Andrew ranks 26th in his class of 887 students, and he has a 5.0 (weighted) GPA.

*Honorable Mentions: Logan Jaffe, Michael Krop; Jamie Hoffman, Beach High; Brittney Jones, Miami Jackson.

SOCIAL SCIENCE

MEI LI

PALMETTO

Mei spent every Saturday morning for eight years at Chinese school, learning that language's more than 1,000 characters.

She used that knowledge to translate medical data from a researcher at the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miamis Medical School. The translated information was presented to researchers in Shanghai.

Mei also has aspirations of being a diabetes researcher and has worked on preclinical trials.

This young woman also has an artistic flair. The science wing at her school has painted scenes of the coral reef system and the Everglades thanks, in part, to her efforts.

She has also been named the Most Valuable Player on her badminton team.

Mei is eighth in her class of 860 and has a 6.28 (weighted) GPA. *Honorable Mentions: Eryca Schiffman, Michael Krop; Jon Ingraham, Carol City; Scott Elfenbein, Killian.

ATHLETICS

TAYLOR HARLAN

MIAMI COUNTRY DAY

Taylor is one of the state's top runners and a leading scorer in soccer with 170 goals in three years. She's had plenty of practice. She began kicking the ball around at age 4.

But when she learned some children couldn't pay for a pair of cleats, she set up a donation box.

She cleaned up the worn shoes and threaded new laces through them. Every time she collected 100, the Police Athletic League distributed them to needy children. Thanks to her "Kleats 4 Kids" effort, 400 children have received refurbished athletic shoes.

She was named MVP of her track team three years straight and MVP of her soccer team each of the last four years. She is also a five-time All-Dade County first-team player.

Taylor ranks in the top 25 percent of her graduating class with a 3.6 GPA.

* Honorable Mentions: Adrienne Horn, Northwest Christian; Nayia Moysidis, Killian; Bret Voith, Gulliver Prep.

SCIENCE

KYLE AMBER

PALMETTO

When Kyle's older brother was diagnosed with leukemia, Jackson Memorial Hospital didn't have a bone marrow transplant unit.

So Kyle, then age 5, came up with a plan: He'd raise the money to build one himself.

He started out with bake and sticker sales. A decade later, he was running Kids That Care, a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $150,000 to help critically ill children.

Kyle is team captain of the National Science Bowl team, president of the Science National Honor Society and secretary of the Physics Club/Jets.

His wide range of interests also includes playing the sitar.

Kyle is ranked fifth out of a class of 860 and has a 6.7 (weighted) GPA. But most important, his brother is a cancer survivor.

*Honorable Mentions: Iris Yi Zhang, Coral Reef; Nina Wong, Michael Krop; Nia Brisbane, Felix Varela.

MATHEMATICS

BRYAN LANDMAN

MICHAEL KROP

Bryan's passion for numbers has helped him achieve numerous awards. He was named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search and the Siemens Science Competition.

But Bryan's interest in numbers goes beyond academics. He's also aware of Florida's startling statistics in death rates by drowning.

That's why he participates in the Learn to Swim program, where he's taught several children, including one autistic girl. Her case was challenging because he had to move her arms in a circular motion for her to understand the concept.

He earned perfect scores on the SAT Reasoning-Math, ACT Math, SAT Math Level 2 and PSAT Math tests. He is bound for Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ranks first in his class of 841 with a 6.8 (weighted) GPA. *Honorable Mentions: Anide Duval, North Miami Beach; Glory Idelfonso, Miami Jackson; Pamela Aracena, MAST Academy.

SPEECH

CARRINGTON BESTER

CAROL CITY

Carrington has used his life story to help others stay clean and sober.

He has often given speeches in front of packed halls about his mothers former drug addiction and his placement in foster homes. Through the Students Making All the Right Moves (SMART) program, he made motivational speeches to students who were deemed hopeless or had given up because of absent parents or poverty. He also organized seminars on topics ranging from pop culture to college.

As a member of the Africa Sister-School Alliance, Carrington traveled to Rwanda to represent Miami-Dade County Public Schools with School Board member Robert Ingram.

Carrington is ranked 14th out of his class of 550. He has a 4.44 (weighted) GPA.

*Honorable Mentions: Nachombe Pierre, Miami Central; Jesula Charles, Miami Senior; Katherine Concepcion, Coral Park.

VOCATIONAL - TECHNICAL

DANIELLE DORFMAN

GULLIVER PREP

Wanting to share her love of running, Danielle launched a nonprofit organization that collects and donates athletic shoes.

Known as Running Friends Forever, this organization has sent 500 pairs of gently worn shoes to the cross country team at Little River Elementary, as well as internationally to Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil and the Caribbean.

She also initiated a chapter of the Future Society of Women Engineers at her school to dispel the myth that engineering is a "man's career."

She and classmates are working with the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Danielle's project would alert a caretaker if a person has fallen out of a wheelchair.

She has a 4.95 (weighted) GPA.

*Honorable Mentions: Katrina Sharp, Coral Reef; Bruno Silva, Miami Country Day; Alfred Gonzalez, La Salle.

NEW MEDIA

WEINA SCOTT

MICHAEL KROP

Weina is the co-creator of a podcasting company, which she sold for stock worth $200,000. She has stayed on as the companys CEO with a $40,000 annual salary, spending a few hours each night running the company after shes done with her homework.

The Web service known as switchpod.com gives users space to upload audio and video programs as podcasts.

Frustrated by the lack of information about the college application process, Weina created Switch U, a website that allows students to download videos of college presentations that she videotaped and edited.

Weina created a service project that sent more than 5,000 books and school supplies to a Haitian school.

This Yale University-bound student ranks second in her class of 841 students. She has a 6.63 (weighted) GPA.

* Honorable Mentions: Deivid Rojas, Coral Gables; Husam Wahdan, Coral Reef; Evandro Gomes, Miami Beach.

Read more Featured Past Silver Knights stories from the Miami Herald

  • Haitian teen driven to achieve -- and help others along

    While corraling errant shopping carts in the parking lot of a West Little River grocery store, Estanley Baptiste dreams of Harvard. He works the late shift every night but Thursday, helping people unload their groceries and scouring the parking lot for trash. On a recent night, the parking lot empties early, and Estanley is called upon to mop the floors. This, he thinks to himself, should be part of his admissions essay.

  • 1966 SPEECH & DEBATE | JOEL PERWIN

    For lawyer, life is a debate

    The 1966 Silver Knight for speech and debate has worked as a prosecutor, speechwriter in Washington and ran for president in 1972

  •  
Johnita Due is now senior counsel and diversity council chair of CNN.

    1985 JOURNALISM | JOHNITA DUE

    CNN attorney gives power to those without voices

    Johnita Due, daughter of civil rights activists John Due and Patricia Stephens Due, has come full circle. A Silver Knight award winner in journalism, she is now making sure the voices of people who often aren't heard get their say.

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