Nearly 1,000 local educators were nominated to serve as the godmother of the largest cruise ship in the world, and now Miami-based Royal Caribbean International’s Harmony of the Seas has named its South Florida winner.
Brittany Affolter of Teach for America Miami-Dade earned the title this week for her work with teachers at high-need schools across the county. Since 2014, she has worked with the nonprofit organization; currently she trains teachers at 14 schools in Miami-Dade that serve more than 500 at-risk and low-income students. Affolter also tutors students in her spare time and is completing her masters degree in educational leadership. She also hopes to mentor students in foster care.
And she’s only 23.
“A lot of people say ‘Slow down, you’re only 23, you have time.’ And for me it’s, ‘Well you don’t know if I have time, you never know,’” Affolter says in a video for the announcement. “So as much impact as I can make and as many opportunities I can take on now at this age when I have the energy, when I have the passion for it, then I’m going to do it.”
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[Teaching] is so important to me and such a personal thing because of the fact that growing up, my teachers played such a pivotal role in my life. I take it very seriously.
Brittany Affolter of Teach for America and Harmony of the Seas’ godmother
The godmother tradition in cruising is meant to bring the new vessel good luck thanks to the godmother sponsorship. But the honor is usually reserved for celebrities, athletes and even royalty. Past Royal Caribbean godmothers include local singer and songwriter Gloria Estefan, TV personality Daisy Fuentes and Olympic medalists Shawn Johnson and Michelle Kwan. Other lines have named royalty as godmothers, such as Carnival Corp’s Holland America, which recently named Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands as godmother of its new ship the Koningsdam, which sails from Fort Lauderdale next month.
“At Royal Caribbean, we view education as a crucial stepping stone for our young people,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of parent company Royal Caribbean Cruises, in a release. “We are very proud to be in a position to ‘pay it forward’ by celebrating the unsung heroes in our local communities who have dedicated their lives to this goal.”
Royal Caribbean put out a call in September for nominations for godmother of the 6,780-passenger Harmony of the Seas, the largest ship in the world. Affolter will officially break a bottle of champagne to name the ship on Nov. 10, shortly after its arrival at PortMiami. The ship will sail on seven-day itineraries to the Caribbean.
We are very proud to be in a position to ‘pay it forward’ by celebrating the unsung heroes in our local communities who have dedicated their lives to this goal.
Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises
As part of her prize, Affolter will win a $25,000 grant awarded to Teach for America to fund education initiatives, a two-night trip on the Nov. 10 sailing with three guests that she has influenced and a future seven-night cruise for two aboard the Harmony.
Affolter said she grew up in a challenging home environment with little support and guidance, and was able to overcome challenges thanks to the help of teachers. Her early experiences with the profession encouraged her to pursue education.
“Through teaching, it deepened my belief in just people and the ability to make change,” Affolter said in the video. “It’s so important to me and such a personal thing because of the fact that growing up, my teachers played such a pivotal role in my life. I take it very seriously.”