The Miami Herald

15 Broward students win Silver Knight Awards

They have volunteered at a clinic in Ghana, led a fledgling marching band and created a flag-football league for disabled kids -- all while finding time to excel in their classes.

These are among the exceptional high school seniors who were honored Thursday night at the Silver Knight Awards.

Fifteen winners and 45 honorable mentions from Broward were named at a ceremony at the James L. Knight Center in Miami. The same number of teens from Miami-Dade were also honored for their academic success and thousands of hours of community service.

``You draw us together through your academic achievements as well as your commitment to service,'' said David Landsberg, publisher and president of the Miami Herald Media Company.

The awards, presented by The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, celebrate South Florida standouts in 15 categories.

Many of the winners, who shared excited hugs and college plans backstage, started their own service projects to help their schools or people close to them.

FOOTBALL LEAGUE

James Myers was inspired by his best friend, who has muscular dystrophy, to co-found a flag-football league for disabled kids.

At Parkland Flag Football Buddies, each player in a wheelchair has a buddy to push them down the field. Sports Illustrated named the league a Youth Team of America.

``It really made me understand that if I have something, I need to give back,'' said James, a varsity football player and Advanced Placement student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who won the Silver Knight in athletics.

When budget cuts at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek did away with the school's marching band, International Baccalaureate student Adrian Grossman recruited classmates and started his own. He created musical arrangements, choreographed drills and scheduled rehearsals.

THE BAND LEADER

``At first I really wanted it because I missed band,'' said Adrian, the Silver Knight music winner, who plays about 10 instruments -- including violin, bass guitar and trombone -- and will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.

``But then I realized it wasn't really for me, it was for them,'' Adrian said of his bandmates. ``I hope they can take that passion, the passion I had for music, and use it in their lives.''

Other Class of 2010 Silver Knights volunteered their time -- or drew their inspiration from -- further afield.

Summer trips to his mother's native Colombia prompted the general scholarship winner, Daniel Joel Mrdjenovich of Cypress Bay High in Weston, to fight poverty in South Florida's Hispanic community.

TEEN VOICE

He founded Teen Voice, a youth group in his church that has collected school supplies for students in Belle Glade and work shirts for farmworkers in Immokalee -- while maintaining a 4.0 grade-point average.

``When you have a passion, I guess you create hours in a day,'' Daniel said with a smile. He will attend Stanford University in the fall.

Seung Lee of Boyd Anderson High in Lauderdale Lakes, the winner in science, wanted to help people in North Korea, where his grandparents were born.

That option wasn't feasible, so he searched for nonprofits willing to send a then-17-year-old abroad.

Seung, now 18, found one that shipped him to a clinic in Kasoa, Ghana, where he assisted doctors and tested patients for malaria, AIDS and other diseases.

The International Baccalaureate student and varsity football and water polo player -- who dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon -- returned to Broward and set up an organization to send money to the underfunded clinic, which reused supplies like gloves and needles.

MISSION WORK

At Hollywood Hills High, Yamisel Conde collected clothing and toys for a missionary trip her church organized to Baru, an island off the Colombian coast.

It was Yamisel's second mission, after one to the Dominican Republic. She undertook both while swimming and playing water polo, acting in theater productions and working part time as a lifeguard, and later as a restaurant hostess, to help support her family.

``Oh, my God,'' Yamisel said after winning the drama category. ``I can't believe it!''

She and the other winners were awarded a Silver Knight statuette, a medallion, $2,000 and a round-trip ticket from American Airlines.

Three honorable mentions in each category received a $500 scholarship and an engraved plaque.

The Silver Knights are sponsored by American Airlines, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

This year, teachers nominated a total of 610 students in Miami-Dade and Broward for the awards. A panel of judges chose the winners in each category.

The Silver Knights were first presented in Miami-Dade in 1959 and expanded to Broward in 1984. Past winners have become politicians, diplomats, corporate CEOs, rocket scientists, artists and teachers.




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