After 14 years of being an “F” rated school, Miami Northwestern Senior High School now has an “A” grade.
The transformation, during which the school’s graduation rate increased from 55 percent to 82 percent, occurred after the school’s principal, Wallace Aristide, partnered with Miami Parking Authority CEO Art Noriega as part of the Council for Educational Change. That organization aims to get CEOs, attorneys and high-ranking executives to partner with school principals to help them lead their struggling schools out of the dark.
On Thursday, the council held an awards ceremony at the Trump National Resort in Doral, where Aristide told his school’s story of trouble to triumph. After his speech, the council awarded former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning for his contributions toward education.
In 1997, Mourning and his wife, Tracy, created a nonprofit foundation called Mourning Family Foundation that supports organizations that enhance the lives of children and families in South Florida through education, enrichment and advocacy.
Their foundation has supported more than 1,000 kids and families through the Overtown Youth Center and the Honey Shine program. In 2009, the Miami-Dade School Board named its new high school in North Miami Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High.
Mourning got the crowd laughing quickly during last week’s awards ceremony.
“I guess they didn’t expect that I was coming; they picked the smallest podium,” Mourning (who is 6 foot, 10 inches tall) said, chuckling. “But no, I am so humbled and honored to be here.”
He continued by congratulating Aristide on his efforts, noting that the school’s number of dual-enrollment classes grew from four to 14.
Mourning Senior High student Garrett Tolbert, 17, handed Mourning his award.
“I’m proud of you, truly, I’m proud of you,” Mourning told Garrett. “I know I speak for everyone in here, because you are the example of what happens when we prioritize education.”
The ceremony was followed by a dinner and live jazz music by Miami Coral Park Senior High School band students.
Mourning left the audience with glossy eyes as he stepped away from the lectern. He told them that he has “won many awards” in the past, but that this one supersedes them all.
“Basketball is temporary, but the influence and legacy you leave for others is forever,” he said. “Education saved me and my wife’s life. It inspired us to give children an education, a purpose.”