Broward Silver Knights shine in service


Broward County high school students were honored for academic achievements and community service Thursday with The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald Silver Knight awards.

One high-school student runs marathons and triathlons to raise money for disabled children like himself. He was born blind and with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Another thrives on his role as angel for an elementary school and a medical center for chronically ill and poor children. And a third launched a program through Broward County libraries to help immigrants study to become U.S. citizens.

These are among the winners of the prestigious Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald Silver Knight awards, presented Thursday night in Miami.

“This is clearly one of the top recognition programs in the entire country,’’ said David Landsberg, president and publisher of the Miami Herald Media Company. “It has recognized generations of winners who have gone on to be leaders and successful business people across the country. We’re especially pleased to be able to recognize both academic achievement and the incredible commitment these students have shown to our community. The Miami Herald Media Company is proud to continue this incredible tradition.’’

For more than a generation, The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald newspapers have bestowed Silver Knight awards upon the region’s top high-school seniors.

Past recipients include Jeff Bezos, a Palmetto High alumnus who founded, and Ted Hendricks, who graduated from Hialeah High and was later named to the National Football League Hall of Fame.

Public and private schools can nominate students in categories ranging from arts to vocational studies. A panel of judges selects the winners. The awards are presented at an Oscar-like ceremony at the James L. Knight Center.

Each winner takes home a glittering Silver Knight statuette, a medallion, $2,000 and two round-trip tickets from American Airlines. Three honorable mentions in each category are awarded $500 and an engraved plaque.

This year was among the most competitive on record. The number of nominees from Miami-Dade and Broward topped 700, and their résumés raised the bar to a new level.

Take Jacob Goldberg, the winner for athletics.

A marathon runner and triathlete, Goldberg, 18, was born legally blind and with Tourette’s Syndrome. But rather than be sidelined by his disability, the Pine Crest School student uses guides to compete in races that have raised more than $50,000 for Together We See, the foundation he and his sister, Rachael, started in 2007 to send disabled kids and their siblings to camp.

He organized a 5K fundraiser and barbecue to sustain the foundation after he leaves for Cambridge, Mass., to attend Harvard College.

“I’m lucky for what I do have: my family, my sport,’’ Goldberg said after receiving his award. “The idea of being commended for my work makes me want to continue helping others.’’

Alexsandra Bello of West Broward High School took top honors for mathematics. She has led her school’s math honors society for two years — helping to increase membership and to start an after-school tutoring program.

Bello also has volunteered to help children with disabilities since 2007 when she joined the West Pembroke Pines Miracle League as a buddy, helping kids with mental and physical challenges to play baseball. She helped organize games, match volunteers with players, and raised more than $5,000 to buy new uniforms, equipment and trophies.

The most rewarding part of her volunteering, Bello said, is to see fellow students and children succeed at something they previously found difficult, whether it’s math or baseball.

“It was an honor to be recognized here,’’ said Bello, who aspires to be a math teacher. “But that’s the best award.’’

As in previous years, Thursday’s ceremony was a grand affair.

The honorees dressed to impress in formal gowns and suits. Family members waited anxiously to hear the winners’ names called.

When Joshua Brett Venkataraman was named the winner for drama, the St. Thomas Aquinas High School student strode confidently up to the stage to receive his statuette.

“Coming into this, I told myself it wasn’t important if I win. It’s more important what I’d done for the kids,’’ said Venkataraman, who has worked tirelessly to collect children’s books, printers and computers for a performing arts magnet school, Deerfield Park Elementary, where many students are underprivileged.

Venkataraman, 18, also has collected and delivered 5,000 books and hundreds of toys and clothes to the Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center, which treats chronically ill and poor children.

He is headed to the University of Florida in the fall.

Read more Silver Knight stories from the Miami Herald

Aminda Marques Gonzalez, (left) executive editor of the Miami Herald, and Manny Garcia (right) executive editor of El Nuevo Herald, present the Silver Knights award in Business to Michael Jones, from St. Thomas Aquinas High in Broward. This was the  Miami Herald's annual Silver Knights awards ceremony which was presented at the Knight Center downtown Miami, Wednesday, May 22, 2013.


    Miami Herald honors top-achieving high school students with Silver Knights

    Top-achieving high school students from Miami-Dade and Broward were honored at Wednesday’s Silver Knight awards.

Christie Ramsaran

    Silver Knights

    2013 Broward Silver Knight Award winners

    A gifted painter, Christie started a volunteer organization, Team HeArt, that specializes in donating large-scale murals to the community. The group, which brings its own supplies so that the murals are truly free of charge, has designed and painted murals for the River of Grass Community Center nursery, as well as the science lab at Welleby Elementary School in Sunrise. The Welleby mural is ocean-themed and includes the school mascot — a dolphin. Christie has also volunteered extensively to benefit the Falmouth Place of Safety Girls’ Home in Jamaica — donating her artwork, a small library of books, and serving as an in-person mentor at the home, which serves orphaned, abandoned and abused girls. She was named a National Merit and National Achievement semifinalist, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and will attend Yale University in the fall.

Sara Caruso


    2013 Miami-Dade Silver Knight Award winners

    For Sara, Saturdays were once reserved for picking up trash on the Dinner Key spoil islands serving Shake-A-Leg, a nonprofit that makes water sports accessible to children with disabilities. But she and a few classmates wanted to do something more meaningful. So three years ago, they founded We Can Sail, a free Saturday mentorship program providing arts and sports to children and bonding time for families at the Coconut Grove center. Today the program has about 30 mentors and 30 children who attend. Sara runs the arts and crafts room, and with a paint brush, palm fronds and driftwood converted a rusty storage container into an underwater-themed boat rental office. She also plays the bass, double tenor and ukulele. Her paintings have been shown and sold at B West Studio in New York and Urban Garden in Miami.

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