The 2016 Silver Knight Awards honor South Florida high schools’ finest
Cypress Bay High School
When the Art Honor Society and Cypress Bay baseball and softball teams decided to make their fields a more positive space for athletes, visitors and students, Alana Barrett led the effort by helping design and paint murals on the dugout walls.
She painted after school and Saturdays, sometimes alone and often in scorching heat and rain. Some mornings she would find the murals defaced, but her love of public art prevailed. Alana received the Arts for the Future Award/Scholarship in Visual Arts for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. She is an Advanced Placement and Honors student and in the National Art Honor Society.
Honorable Mentions: Daniel Farji, David Posnack Jewish Day School; Dana Musso, North Broward Preparatory School; Hannah Cooper, Charles W. Flanagan High School.
Nicole De Brigard
Saint Thomas Aquinas High School
As president of her Future Business Leaders of America chapter, Nicole De Brigard focuses on early-morning balloon sales that raise funds for students on financial aid. She initiated coffee sales, which raise funds for tuition, books, clothing and meals for students.
Nicole is Student Council vice president, and a member of the National Honor Society and the National English Honor Society. She coordinates food collections at the St. Vincent de Paul shelter, helps coordinate a 5K run for Wings for Warriors and serves as a senior Girl Scout ambassador. She is certified as a Eucharistic Minister through the Archdiocese of Miami, is a Wendy’s Heisman Award winner and is a member of the varsity Cross Country Team.
Honorable Mentions: Paola Ortega, American Heritage School; Arix-Yani Fabre, Pine Crest School; Jordan Trumbore, Cardinal Gibbons High School.
Charles W. Flanagan High School
Alison Simbana knows that receiving the traditional bag of candy at Christmas can make a world of difference to an indigent child or senior citizen in Ecuador. Through her initiative, the International Christmas Drive, she and her family and friends raise funds to deliver a warm Christmas to those in need in Ecuador.
At school, she is president of the Academy of Finance and a head teller at the BrightStar Credit Union, where she helps students manage finances. She tutors through Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society and volunteers at Lakeside Elementary.
Honorable Mentions: Jose Costa, North Broward Preparatory School; Aaron Mitchell, J.P. Taravella High School; Nicholas Napoli, Saint Thomas Aquinas High School.
DIGITAL & INTERACTIVE MEDIA
McArthur High School
Finding a solution for every student who needs help with school is the goal behind Deziree Lara’s tutoring website. Beginning in her sophomore year, Deziree and friends started a program called McA Tutors through which students can schedule help sessions with tutors.
This AP and Honors student also volunteers every week at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Newborn-ICU, and through her leadership in McArthur’s Student Government Harvest Drive, she helped raise enough food and gift cards for 137 families last Thanksgiving.
Honorable Mentions: Courtney-Lauren Faiella, Coral Springs Charter High School; Grace King, American Heritage School; Adam Ramjattan, Broward Virtual School.
David Posnack Jewish Day School
To serve as a summer intern with Live Different, and build houses for impoverished families in the Dominican Republic and Mexico, Gabriel Szajnert turned to his love of theater. He developed an English take on “Microtheater,” the popular style of theater usually performed in Spanish. Through funds raised from Microtheater, he helped build houses for two families in the Dominican Republic and another family in Mexico.
Gabriel is vice president of Mu Alpha Theta Math National Honor Society and class treasurer. He tutors through the Science National Honor Society, volunteers for Jewish Family Services through the National Honor Society and collects stories from Holocaust survivors through the school’s Holocaust Awareness Club.
Honorable Mentions: Erica Merlino, The Sagemont School; Casey Guarasci, College Academy at Broward College; Michelle Langone, University School of Nova Southeastern University.
ENGLISH & LITERATURE
American Heritage School
When her lower-than-expected score on the FCAT writing test made Jordyn Fitch question her passion for English, she almost didn’t sit for the scholarship exam at Heritage. But she did, and later Jordyn’s new school counselor told her she could “truly hear” her voice in her writing. That prompted Jordyn to look beyond test scores and go back to her middle school to found “The Literary Present,” a program that fosters a love of reading and writing.
Jordyn participated in the Johns Hopkins Civic Leadership Institute last summer, and her junior year play won a state Critic’s Choice Award. She is in the National Honor Society and is active in Heritage’s Center for the Arts.
Honorable Mentions: Joelle Lawrence, Pembroke Pines Charter High School; Max Baron, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; Nathalie Thelemaque, College Academy at Broward College.
Saint Thomas Aquinas High School
Hearing words of prejudice against her brother and others with disabilities, from a person she had previously admired, changed the life course of Kelly Litts. In ninth grade, she created “Drawn Together” at the Ann Storck Center for children with disabilities, and at Jack and Jill Children’s Center for youth in low-income homes.
Kelly is president of the National Honor Society and National Latin Honor Society. She is in Quill and Scroll, Mu Alpha Theta, and the National Technical Honor Society. She is a National Merit Semifinalist and an AP Scholar with Distinction. She won First Place in the Broward County Science Fair and went on to be a Florida State Science and Engineering Fair Finalist for her project to test for E. coli-contaminated water. She won the Sky’s the Limit national short story competition and has won the magna cum laude National Latin Exam three years in a row.
Honorable Mentions: Michael Benben, Western High School; Navya Baranwal, Miramar High School; Lucas James, North Broward Preparatory School.
Coral Springs Charter High School
When Ashley Jablonski was 10, she and her mother co-founded a cheerleading program for people with disabilities. Her team won top honors and was chosen a “role model team” in the first year that Special Olympics in Florida recognized cheerleading as a sport. No athlete or parent ever pays for travel, uniforms, competition or gym fees because Ashley and her mom organize a golf tournament, held for the past six years, to pay expenses. She has helped raise $30,000.
As editor in chief of the Paw Print newspaper at her school, Ashley seeks to open doors for student expression. Her publication entered a First Amendment competition sponsored by the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) and won $1,000 for Paw Print to keep publishing.
Honorable Mentions: Ryan Douglas, Saint Thomas Aquinas High School; Amanda Weinstein, North Broward Preparatory School; Osmar Coronel, Archbishop Edward A. McCarthy High School.
Plantation High School
Adrian Fletcher is driven to take as many advanced math classes as possible, and he has done that through Honors, AP and IB classes and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) online program. His main passion, however, is to help others do the same through Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders, a peer-to-peer mentoring and tutoring program in which he has served as president for two years.
Adrian has served as president of the National French Honor Society for two years and has guided the state French competition. Through the National Honor Society, he helps collect food for needy families. He was selected for MIT’s six-month Online Science, Technology, and Engineering Community (MOSTEC) program, and Howard University’s Summer Actuarial Program (SAP) in Washington, D.C.
Honorable Mentions: Dylan Pinard, Pompano Beach High School; Ryan Galvankar, American Heritage; Mitchell Friedman, Pine Crest School.
MUSIC & DANCE
NSU University School
Most people would never know that Sophie Septoff is legally blind when she gets on stage and dances her heart out. Through founding “Dance in the Light,” she is making sure that all blind or visually impaired children have the chance to dance. Her program at Lighthouse of Broward has branched out to another facility in Providence, Rhode Island.
Sophie is soloist and president of Innovations Dance Theatre. She is an AP Scholar with Distinction, a National Merit Commended Scholar, and vice president of the French National Honor Society. She won a South Florida Cappie Award and an OBIE for her choreography.
Honorable Mentions: Jordynn Lurie, North Broward Preparatory School; Devi Lakhlani, Nova High School; Elexa Perlman, Pine Crest School.
North Broward Preparatory School
Green turtles in the Everglades have a champion in our next Silver Knight, who worked with Research Ecologist Kristen Hart at the U.S. Geological Survey to study diseases affecting the turtles, which are an endangered species.
An IB Diploma Candidate, she is taking an Advanced Scientific Research Class and started her school’s Science Honor Society. She is a member of the National, Spanish and Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Societies and is first chair flute in the Pep Band. She was selected for Model United Nations, is a National Merit Semifinalist and won a $10,000 Nordstrom Cares Scholarship.
Honorable Mentions: Nicole Odzer, Pine Crest School; Gabriela Gonzalez, Charles W. Flanagan High School; Michael Schaja, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Saint Thomas Aquinas High School
When Sydney Boyd witnessed frustration on the faces of children in after-school care at Westwood Heights Elementary School, she decided to start Operation Take-Off. Every Monday and Friday afternoon she shares her love of history, geography and different cultures to the aftercare students. Sydney’s parents instilled in her a love of geography, and when her father died, she found she could keep his memory alive by sharing poetry, music, cooking, yoga and friendship.
An AP Scholar, she helped start Aquinas Kindness club to visit middle school girls and teach conflict resolution. She is president of the French National Honor Society and has placed top five in more than five forensics speech and debate tournaments. At Women in Politics, she worked with U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson in Washington, D.C., on her campaign “Bring Back Our Girls.’’
Honorable Mentions: Sarah Gale, Pine Crest School; Charlie Rollason, North Broward Preparatory School; Justin Iannacone, Cypress Bay High School.
Nova High School
When he was in 10th grade, Jacob Levenson became a founding member of his debate team’s mentoring program with Nova Blanche Forman Elementary School. He was paired with a fourth-grade student who was struggling with poverty at home and had become a discipline problem in and out of class. Through Jacob’s tutoring and encouragement, the student’s grades jumped and discipline issues dissolved.
He is a nationally ranked member of the Nova debate team, ranked third nationwide. Jacob is a National AP Scholar and received the Brandeis University Book Award, the Rensselaer Medal, and the AP English Language Outstanding Achievement Award. He is in the National Honor Society.
Honorable Mentions: Kendra Blandon, Cypress Bay High School; Joseph Kass, Cardinal Gibbons High School; Marlana Armstrong, Saint Thomas Aquinas High School.
Saint Thomas Aquinas High School
The abandoned children living in shelters who benefit from Amber Cartier’s art supply program have helped her heal as much as she has helped them. In middle school, as a competitive dancer, Amber was bullied and physically beaten so badly that she could no longer dance. She took an art class and that became her new passion. Amber founded “Creative Heart” while in ninth grade and she provides art supplies and instruction to abused children.
She is head of her school’s film crew, live streaming football games and other events. She plays nine musical instruments and is the only female Tuba Section Leader that St. Thomas has had. Though she struggles with auditory and visual dyslexia, Amber received the AP Scholar Award and is in the National Honor Society, National Technology Honor Society and National Art Honor Society.
Honorable Mentions: Brandon McConnell, West Broward High School; Jenna Marks, David Posnack Jewish Day School; Victoria Taylor, Nova High School.
Saint Thomas Aquinas High School
As a little girl, Kristin Smalling remembers listening to her great-grandmother speaking French and wishing she could understand what she was saying. When she got to high school, she enrolled in French classes. She is now taking an advanced placement French Language and Culture class and has maintained an A average. She also serves as the historian for the school’s French Honor Society.
In her spare time, Smalling dedicated time to Karriers for Kidz, an organization she founded to provide car seats for parents who can’t afford them. She has raised over $5,000 and bought dozens of seats to donate to local hospitals.
She has volunteered hundreds of hours to various organizations and has managed to maintain a heavy course load. She is also a member of the International Thespian Honor Society, competes in yearly thespian festivals and won three excellence awards.
Honorable Mentions: Lauren Thompson, Pompano Beach High School; Rachel Bomser, NSU University School; Jennifer Lin, Cypress Bay High School.