Local high school seniors are making a difference

Miami Herald Editorial Board

At Wednesday’s Silver Knight event, winners rejoice in their victory on stage
At Wednesday’s Silver Knight event, winners rejoice in their victory on stage MIAMI HERALD

There are plenty of reasons to question the future of this great nation. But if local students’ focus, commitment and dedication to a better world are any indication, we can all rest a little easier.

The Miami Herald/el Nuevo honored this year’s outstanding high school seniors at its 59th Annual Silver Knight Awards — the Oscars of high schools in Miami-Dade and Broward.

The winners, from public and private schools, were heartwarming in their academic success and early interest in making life better for others.

For instance, as the Miami Herald’s bios detailed this week, Gabriel Vergara from Felix Varela Senior High School in Miami-Dade, began with a letter-writing campaign calling for the release of Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian man who was imprisoned because he is a Christian. This endeavor led him to see that there were many other untold stories of human rights violations around the world and that he could be a force for social change. He recruited classmates to additional campaigns, highlighting problems with elections in Haiti and corruption in Brazil.

Sophia Lisa Meloro, from Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Broward, was committed to improving our water quality and sustainability and to eradicating the invasive lionfish. She launched an education initiative, Liquidate Lionfish to spread the word about their damaging effects on the Atlantic Ocean’s biodiversity and coral reefs.

She’s reach more than 500 people over two years. And as a member of her school’s marine biology club, she helped researchers at NSU gather information on the different shark species off Florida.

Nicole Taggart from Calvary Christian Academy in Broward she partnered with The Healing Hands of Colombia, her native country, to raise money for learning materials, including TVs, computers, tablets, projectors and a video camera. She’s planning a trip to Colombia this year to deliver the supplies.

Other local seniors are succeeding, too.

At Booker T. Washington Senior High this week, Ezekial Hobbs, 18, was surprised with a Biscayne Bay Kiwanis Club scholarship, a whopping $30,000 award that will pay for his education at Florida A&M University.

“Education was something that I always believed in, that it would take me places in life,” said Hobbs, adding that he hopes to set an example for kids in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

Hobbs is in the school’s National Honor Society, is the founder and editor of Booker T’s literary magazine, and has also been an editor of the school’s yearbook. He plans to study journalism and political science.

FAMU, one of the country’s premier historically black universities, is welcoming an increasing number of similarly accomplished students to its Tallahassee campus, interim FAMU President Larry Robinson told the Editorial Board this week. “They can hit the ground running,” Robinson said. “We go after the best and the brightest.”

FAMU is facing its challenges head on, zeroing in on fundraising — where its body of accomplished alumni can play a role — and bolstering its graduation rate and the number of Ph.d.s that it produces. This year, three women, two from South Florida, will get doctorates.

When Florida schools and students are driven to excel — and groups like the Kiwanis are willing to help — the future, indeed, looks brighter.