Congrats on the 50th and I have been following the great stories.
In 1970, I was 10 years old and because my brother, Paul Steinhardt, could not attend, I had the honor of sitting in for him (though I was about 4 feet tall at the time) and accepting the General Scholarship award on his behalf. I was only 10 and I vividly remember it as one of the proudest moments for our entire family. Not only was I proud of Paul but just having my picture on the front page of the Miami Herald holding his award gave me a chance to tell everyone about it.
I am writing to you now because I read about the 50th Anniversary Silver Knight Award and some of the human interest stories surrounding that event. Because my brother Paul is one of the most humble persons I know which is also why I am sending this email to you -- I guess you could say I am filling in for him again. For a moment, please let me share with you a few notes about my brother and then the reason why I am sending this to you.
Our father passed away I was 4 month old and Paul was 8. Without much financial resources, our mother purchased a house across from Ponce Junior High, where Paul attended and then went on to graduate with a 5.0 GPA (yes -- 5.0, not a typo) from Coral Gables High in 1970. After being awarded the Silver Knight in General Scholarship, he went on to Caltech, then PHD from Harvard. Scary to be his brother, wouldnt you think? But ask him any question about his work and he loves to share it in the most animated of ways with respect, patience and understanding. Paul Steinhardt was awarded the Einstein chair at Princeton University and his most recent book The Endless Universe is a well regarded theory on the Big Bang and was selected by the Wall Street Journal for best summer reading list.
So why am I writing to you about this? Certainly, many of the Silver Knight winners went on to well deserved success. From an outsiders view, my view, the elegance of the Silver Knight Award is that the honor itself, even if it were only the nomination, brings with it a coronation from adolescence to adulthood. The Silver Knight acts as the very last award which validates years of hard work during their childhood -- which will now be multiplied as they go on to adulthood with all the success that awaits them. Perhaps this is why when our had mother passed away, the only sentimental thing Paul asked for was his Silver Knight Award from 1970. This was very easy to find because until my mothers death, it was always proudly on view in her home and in our family hearts as well.
Thanks for the great articles and I thank the Herald for maintaining the integrity of the awards.
My name is Rev. Alejandro Roque, OMI and I was the recipient for the Silver Knight Award honorary mention in Art 1971, representing Miami Senior High.
The reason why I write is that, although I did not win the Silver Knight for Art that year (I came in second -- with a huge standing ovation) getting the honor of the nomination and receiving the Honorable Mention Award in Art really made a difference in my own life and choice of profession. Also to hear Dr. Joyce Brother's encouraging words the night of the awards touched me deeply and I do know that I am a Silver Knight success story in its own right!
The fact that I excelled in my art and academic studies (graduated with honors) in order to be nominated and, that part of the requirement of the Silver Knight was community involvement and service, it made me get involved in the world that surrounded me.
Now, mind you, my life had not been so easy during those early years in Miami -- I was a Pedro Pan Project kid (one of the 14,000-plus children that came along from Cuba in the 1960s). As a child I kept moving from school to school until my parents arrived in 1966. I knew what poverty was, what being an alien meant (I was even mistreated by some elementary school teachers that did not know how to deal with children that where from different cultures or that did not like Cubans whatsoever -- I am a survivor!). I got to see that there were so many other people out there that 'don't have it so good', that I was encouraged to get more involved.
Once I graduated high achool I began to study architectural design at Miami Dade Junior College North Campus, but soon I had to drop out from full-time to part-time studies to support my entire family (I became head of household). But luckily, I was able to get a job as an apprentice in a large architectural and engineering firm, where I really learned and perfected my trade, architectural design. I worked with this outfit and later on with another enginnering firm for about 10 years (I was the head designer) and during those years, I worked in this field helping in the design of many beautiful condos and projects here is South Florida and abroad. Yet, the hunger to serve the poor called me to a higher calling: I became a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate (a religious priest, which took another 7 years of studies) and I have been serving in many poor areas of South Florida and the USA since then.
Currently I serve as pastor of an extremely large and highly complex (multi-cultural/ multi-ethnic/ multi-language) Catholic church community in Miramar, Saint Stephen Protomartyr Catholic Church. (The Miami Herald Neighbors section has covered a significant number of stories in our place because so many hings are always happening here.) I began working in the church right after ordination in 1988. I was able to redesign inside out back in 1991 when the church celebrated its 35th anniversary -- it was my art and design experience that I gained because of my involvement with the Silver Knights that allowed me to do this. And the church still looks GREAT!
Currently, among the many hats that I wear, I co-chair a huge organization in Broward called BOLD Justice to bring about justice on specific issues for the citizens in Broward County. Once more, I attribute these concerns of mine due to the fact that The Silver Knights Awards made me become a concerned citizen and to be active in any type of issue relating to the betterment of my community!
At one point in my ministerial life, when I served as pastor of another large and difficult inner city church in Carol City (Saint Monica Catholic Church), I actually was asked to serve and work by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and The State Department during the balseros' detentions in GITMO in 1994-1995 for a period of 10 weeks in those very difficult refugee camps. My job was not only with the balseros but also with our military young men and women in Joint Task Force 160. I can assure you, those were not easy days for anyone and at the end of my work there, I was honored not only by the Roman Catholic Church but also by the Armed Forces -- and, best of all, I got to see when the immigrations laws lifted for the majority of those Cuban refugees and they came into the USA as legal immigrants!
Dear friends at the Silver Knights, I can assure you that if the Silver Knight competition had not been part of my life during that teenage stage of my life I don't know where I would be today. I will always be grateful to the Miami Herald and to their Silver Knight Awards to have such an important award competition to encourage our young men and women to strive for the stars! As I said in the begining, I did not win the main award for art in 1971, yet I WILL ALWAYS BE A SILVER KNIGHT because of all the great things it did for me! If you look at it this way, I received the TOP PRIZE! And I will never forget it! Thank you and God bless you all! Rev. Alejandro Roque, OMI Pastor, Saint Stephen Catholic Church