Silver Knight

2011 Broward winners and honorable mentions


Zachary Saltzman

Pine Crest School

An avid doodler from the time he could pick up a crayon, Zachary began taking art classes in high school and very quickly became passionate about painting. Using this talent to benefit the community, Zachary transformed an afterschool center for low-income children, painting classrooms with different themes. He was initially asked to contribute a few sketches for a Fort Lauderdale centennial project, but ended up creating an entire coloring book to educate children about the city's historic sites. For each illustration, he photographed the sites and interviewed staff to learn more about the landmarks. Zachary is an AP Scholar, National Hispanic Honor Society member, volunteer at the Ann Storck Center and musician in the University of Miami Honors Band.

Honorable mentions: Julia Marie Sarduy, Pembroke Pines Charter High; Melanie Nicole Columbo, North Broward Preparatory School; Alexis Lyndsey Weisel, Monarch High School.


Courtney Brant

Archbishop McCarthy High School

Seeing the hungry and homeless on the streets of Fort Lauderdale inspired Courtney to get involved. During the past four years, she has served numerous meals to the homeless at the Cooperative Feeding Program of Broward. Before each Thanksgiving, Courtney helps pack and distribute boxes of food and works in the soup kitchen. In December, she hosts an annual toy drive for children served by the shelter. She has enlisted about 30 volunteers a year, inspiring many friends to start their own projects. Courtney brings sandwiches to the shelter year-round and manages an annual food drive. She also ran a summer soccer camp for children. An avid athlete, she lettered in volleyball and soccer (she's known for her gravity-defying flip throw-in at games) and she runs track.

Honorable mentions: Shayna Rebecca Palmer, St. Thomas Aquinas High; Adrian A. Romero, Pembroke Pines Charter High School; Amanda Tyler Novatnack, Pompano Beach High.


Benjamin Gajus

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

A budding businessman with awards at state and international levels, Benjamin turned a summer gathering supplies for sick children into a three-year program that ultimately collected 40,000 items. After visiting the Children's Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Fort Lauderdale with his Scout troop, Benjamin returned to see how he could best help the kids, who are uninsured or underinsured, and battling chronic diseases. Initially, he and a friend launched a small campaign asking for gently used supplies for babies and children. Benjamin has since expanded the project, collecting beds, cribs, car seats, household items and school supplies. He is also a varsity football player, plays piano, helped rebuild a parsonage and is an Eagle Scout.

Honorable mentions: Alexandra Kaplan, North Broward Preparatory School; Taylor Lynne Brown, Coral Springs Charter High School; Matthew Joseph Diamond, South Plantation High School.


Tatiana Becker

Fort Lauderdale High School

When Tatiana learned the drama department at Fort Lauderdale High was being cut and her teacher fired, she mobilized a campaign to save both. Tatiana and her classmates formed United Students for the Arts to protest the cuts. They created a website, designed T-shirts and rallied 4,000 Facebook supporters. Once the school's drama department - and other arts programs - were safe, Tatiana continued her efforts to promote and sustain arts education through her nonprofit group. Described as a talented performer, Tatiana earned Superior ratings at yearly Thespian District Competitions, was Drama Club vice president, and her school's National Honor Society president. She has also volunteered as an usher at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Honorable mentions: Cassie Haley, Western High; David Roberts, University School of Nova Southeastern University; Kimberlee Johnson, J.P. Taravella High.

English & Literature

Alli Weiss

Cypress Bay High School

After reading about foster children aging out of the system and entering adulthood with their belongings packed in garbage bags, Alli and three friends found a way to start them out with dignity: suitcases. They founded Project 1841 (which stands for 18 year olds, four girls, one cause), raising money through bake sales, T-shirt sales and other efforts. They have helped more than 300 teens make the transition when leaving foster care, filling suitcases with toiletries, pillows and other basic necessities. Among her many activities, Alli has also been a leader in the American Sign Language Club, has organized fundraisers for a camp for underprivileged children and writes an education blog.

Honorable mentions: Amy Goodner, St. Thomas Aquinas High; Ilana Wolpert, Pine Crest School; Jody-Ann Powell, Plantation High School

General Scholarship

Anna Joykutty

American Heritage

While teaching nutrition at a local Boys and Girls Club, Anna heard about Adarsh, a school in India caring for children with cerebral palsy and autism. She contacted the school's principal and since 2007, Anna has traveled to Adarsh every summer to work with toddlers and their mothers. She raised $3,500 for Adarsh by running a henna tattoo booth at American Heritage's annual multicultural fair. The money helped start projects including a neurovisual rehabilitation program and an outreach van equipped with therapists to treat children unable to attend the school. Anna is also president of the National Honor Society, an AP Scholar with Distinction and the recipient of the faculty's Outstanding Student Award for three years.

Honorable mentions: Jared Harrison Odessky, Nova High; Courtney Librizzi, Coral Springs High; Kimberly Danae Ellis, St. Thomas Aquinas High.


Gabrielle Strauss

American Heritage

Struggling with dyslexia, Gabrielle turned her disability into an inspiration for others. Writing was her most difficult challenge, but rather than avoid it, she persuaded the yearbook editor to let her join the staff. Eventually named senior editor, Gabrielle realized her experience could help others. She decided to start a yearbook at The Victory School, which assists and educates children with autism. While steering her own yearbook, Gabrielle devised assignments for The Victory School's students, hired a photographer, edited copy and designed the book. She raised money for the project by selling ads and soliciting donations. A dedicated volunteer, Gabrielle is also a member of the Quill and Scroll National Journalism Honor Society.

Honorable mentions: Kristen Celeste Garcia, Saint Thomas Aquinas High; Paula Catalina Garcia Patino, Pompano Beach High; Kristen Suarez, Pembroke Pines Charter High School.


Zulieth Mendoza

McArthur High School

Zulieth was able to turn her tutoring skills into a successful business. But when she heard about low-income elementary school students struggling to prepare for the FCAT, she launched a free program to help them. She developed a special curriculum that was expanded to other schools, and recruited more tutors. Among the students who benefited was a 19-year-old student struggling to graduate. "I was being held back because of this one math class, " he wrote. "It was like I was falling into darkness." Zulieth, he continued, "was my beacon of light." She has also collected toys and food for the needy and tutored her varsity football team. She is director of her church's youth choir and its sign language group.

Honorable mentions: Danielle Colson, American Heritage; Esteban Valencia, Cypress Bay High School; Kaleena Crooks, Boyd H. Anderson High.

Music & Dance

Jessica Cook

Hollywood Hills High School

Jessica found time between leading her school band, working to rebuild homes in New Orleans, performing in the county's honor band, tutoring, and organizing Girl Scout events to rid a local park of invasive plants. After visiting the park with her mother during her freshman year, she came up with the idea to eliminate the air potatoes, Caesar weed and rosary pea choking the grounds. She has worked with the city's parks department and organized more cleanups. She won a grant to buy trash bags, gloves and native plants and recruited up to 150 volunteers. Her honors include Outstanding Senior Leader and the University of Rochester's Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Award.

Honorable mentions: Tyler Jay Laurence, University School of Nova Southeastern University; Micole Kaye, Cooper City High; Yourisha Janel Wims, Dillard High.

New Media

David Dubrow

North Broward Preparatory School

Faced with having to find a community service project, David chose to work with something he liked: computers. He refurbished discarded computers and installed them in retirement centers where he also set up tutorials. Many of his students had never used a computer but they were quickly friending him on Facebook and communicating with their grandchildren. One 90-year-old student learned how to Skype. David said he developed friendships with the retirees, who call him a "Junior Bill Gates." He also does home visits for elderly residents who have their own computers. He is a member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honors Society and a physics tutor.

Honorable mentions: David Ernesto Vendrell, Calvary Christian Academy; Maude Leclerc, American Heritage; Cicero Roas Guimaraes, Deerfield Beach High.


Wendi Oppenheim

Pine Crest School

After finding an old water bottle in her family's car, Wendi wondered why it smelled and whether it was safe. First, she convinced the University of Miami's chemistry department to let her conduct summer research using their ultraviolet spectrometer, then she continued the work at her school. She found that heating plastic bottles, specifically baby bottles, can leach eight times the allowed levels of the chemical bisphenol A. Wendi compiled a 422-page summary and launched an effort to enact bans. She appeared before the Broward County Commission and the Broward League of Cities, and this summer, she will be interning for New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg in Washington, D.C. A fencer, Wendi was also the president of Pine Crest's student government.

Honorable mentions: Joel Haines, American Heritage; Steve Charles, Coconut Creek High; Neil Raj Kumar, University School of Nova Southeastern University.

Social Science

Graham Rabinowitsch

William T. McFatter Technical High School

Determined to increase student involvement in Broward County, Graham has served on numerous civic committees. He is chairman of the Florida PTA's student involvement committee, assistant student advisor to the Broward County School Board and has served on the county's diversity committee. Graham also chaired the Civic Engagement Committee of the Broward County Association of Student Councils and spoke at a Tallahassee rally on education. Graham said his commitment comes from a belief in public education and every person's right to participate. Just because most students can't vote, he wrote, "this should not diminish their voice." Graham was also president of his class.

Honorable mentions: Andrew Gregory Anderson, Calvary Christian Academy; Giancarlos Rodriguez, Archbishop McCarthy High; Emily Senderey, Nova High.


Wesley Dixon

American Heritage

Wesley didn't need to look any further than his own family for inspiration. After attending a summer seminar on health in the African-American community, he looked at how healthcare impacts social issues. His grandmother had lived in poverty in Columbus, Miss., but he credits the good health of his mother and her 10 siblings as one reason they succeeded. Working with the Urban League of Broward County, Wesley came up with a plan to help underprivileged seniors pay for prescriptions. He has collected $750 for his Pennies for Prescriptions project. Wesley is also an accomplished debater and was a Tournament of Champions qualifier. He was named an AP Scholar of Distinction, a National Merit semi-finalist and will attend Yale University.

Honorable mentions: Adam Nathan Waters, Coral Glades High; Thomas Vincent Mulrine VI, St. Thomas Aquinas High; Caitlin Marie Raddatz, Coral Springs High.

Vocational Technical

Jamie Ramos

Nova High School

After seeing homeless people lying on the sidewalks in Washington, D.C., Jamie wanted to do something to help. Three years ago, she started collecting money for the Hallandale Food Pantry and the Cooperative Feeding Program. Since then, she has led efforts to collect more than 19,000 pounds of food and clothing. Jamie has contributed more than 2,500 hours of community service, more than any other student in her class, according to her guidance counselor. Jamie also brought the Presidential Volunteer Service Award program to her school. While she struggles with dyslexia, it doesn't hold her back. She has won top awards at the county's District Technology Competition and was on Leadership Broward Foundation's Youth Advisory Council.

Honorable mentions: Nico John McQuiston, Everglades High; Harrison Michael Kantor, West Broward High; Kaylin Marthe Lynch, Cooper City High.

World Languages

Danielle Poreh

University School of Nova Southeastern University

A trip to Poland's concentration camps inspired Danielle to forge a project that would help her work for peace. Although she was born in Israel, Danielle said she only had a textbook understanding of the Middle East conflict. To learn more, she contacted a center in Israel and began an Arabic studies program. While at the center, she spent afternoons and evenings in intensive studies. Mornings, she would travel to Arab villages, teach English and Hebrew and offer art classes. Danielle said she was able to help Arab children better understand Israelis and Judaism. She also started a foundation to stop childhood hunger in America that earned her a national grant. She is an AP scholar and teaches taekwondo to underprivileged children.

Honorable mentions: Evan Jackson, Fort Lauderdale High; Carolina Echeverri, Cooper City High; Ellory Camryn Euler, Cypress Bay High.