From Silver Knights to All County athletes, it’s honors week in South Florida

05/18/2014 10:41 AM

05/18/2014 10:43 AM

This is the season to shine for high school students in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and for the Miami Herald Media Company, next week is the pinnacle.

Sandwiched between proms, college planning and the pomp and circumstance of graduation, we honor South Florida’s best and brightest for everything from athletic accomplishment to academic achievement and civic involvement. The upcoming recognition touches more than 100 public and private high schools, and spotlights more than 1,000 students. It also provides a glimpse at our future leaders.

For the Herald, it all starts Tuesday night at the James L. Knight Center, with the 56th Silver Knight awards.

The Silver Knight Awards program began in 1959, the brainchild of John S. Knight, then the publisher of the Miami Herald, to recognize outstanding high school seniors for not only academic achievement, but for unselfishly applying their special knowledge and talents to contribute significant service to their schools and communities. During the years, Silver Knight winners have become scientists, judges, ambassadors and titans of industry. Among the past winners: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (Palmetto High), Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales (Beach High), artist Xavier Cortada (Miami High) and media lawyer Johnita Due (Southridge High).

Nominees from all schools appear on a designated day to be interviewed by a panel of independent judges. Each panel chooses one Silver Knight and three Honorable Mentions in their category. Names are not revealed until the Silver Knight Awards ceremony. Silver Knights receive $2,000, a Silver Knight statue and a medallion presented by American Airlines. The three honorable mentions are presented $500 and an engraved plaque. The cash awards are made possible in part by the support of American Airlines, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

I’ve had the honor of serving as a Silver Knight juror for 12 years (this year in Digital and Interactive Media), and I always come away from the process amazed and inspired by the talent and commitment of these young people. There are three judges in each category (45 for each county, 90 total), and they include several former Silver Knight winners, including Miami attorney Raphael Penalver (1969, Science, Columbus High).

This year, there are 622 students nominated in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in 15 categories: Art, Athletics, Business, Drama, English & Literature, General Scholarship, Journalism, Mathematics, Music and Dance, Digital and Interactive Media, Science, Social Science, Speech, Vocational-Technical and World Languages. In an Oscar-like ceremony Tuesday night, three honorable mentions and one winner will be named in each category.

Tuesday night’s event, which we will report on Page 1 of Wednesday’s Herald, is just the start of the recognition.

On Wednesday morning, we present the 57th Miami Herald All County Athletic Awards for Miami-Dade. On Friday morning, we host the counterpart recognition event for Broward County student athletes.

We expect nearly 1,200 attendees at Jungle Island for the Miami-Dade breakfast, and 1,000 at the Signature Grand in Davie for the Broward breakfast. Both events are sponsored by Doctor’s Hospital Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicince and The Orange Bowl. In all, some 450 athletes will be recognized in 18 different sports for their skill, courage and academic excellence. Like the Silver Knights, many of the students honored are destined for greatness.

Past honorees include Olympian Sanya Richards (St. Thomas Aquinas), University of Miami standout Duke Johnson (Miami Northwestern), Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight (Pine Crest School), Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (Brito High School), tennis star Chris Evert (St. Thomas Aquinas) — the list goes on and on.

When Andre Fernandez, who has headed up our high school coverage since 2006, introduces honorees, they will include the top male and female athletes of the year and top athletes in every sport — as well as the top scholar athletes, and student-athletes who have overcome the most adversity.

“It’s really rewarding to see all the effort from these kids when you cover them all year, and then you see the special moment they have with their families,’’ Fernandez said. “It brings the entire county together to celebrate the whole year.’’

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