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Nine Silver Knights, 10 honorable mentions for local high schools

St. Thomas Aquinas tops chart with five winners, followed by Columbus with two

MIAMI | Nine students from local Catholic high schools were winners and 10 more earned honorable mentions in this year’s Silver Knight Awards, sponsored by the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.

St. Thomas Aquinas High in Fort Lauderdale had five winners and one honorable mention; Christopher Columbus High in Miami had two winners and two honorable mentions; Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami had one winner and two honorable mentions; and Archbishop Edward McCarthy High in Southwest Ranches had one winner.

Honorable mentions also went to two students each from Belen Jesuit Prep in Miami and Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove; and one student from Cardinal Gibbons High School in Fort Lauderdale.

The Silver Knights recognize academic achievement as well as outstanding service to the community among graduating seniors in public and private high schools throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

A total of 742 seniors from 115 high schools were nominated for Silver Knights this year. Fifteen winners from each county took home the statue along with a check for $2,000 and 25,000 American Airlines Advantage miles. The 45 honorable mention recipients from each county received a plaque and $500.

Here is a listing of the winners and runners-up, with a brief description of the winners’ accomplishments. Some of the descriptions are taken from the Miami Herald’s Silver Knights site, where all the winners and honorable mention recipients are listed.

 

 

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY

Megan de Armas, Lourdes Academy, Business

Megan de Armas, Lourdes Academy, Business

Photographer: COURTESY

Megan de Armas, Lourdes Academy, Business

When Megan first began volunteering as a camp counselor assistant with the Adult Mankind Organization, a summer program for underprivileged children, she set out to fulfill her minimum community service requirement and not a minute more. To her surprise, she enjoyed the experience so much she started her own program, Kickin’ It With Kidz. The program teaches underprivileged children ages 5 to 13 basic soccer skills and the discipline to excel in life. The program is expanding to Pamplona, Spain, where a student she tutored in South Florida will teach soccer at a camp for autistic children. Megan also went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, where she helped build aqueducts to get water to the community. She is a Business Honor Society inductee and a math tutor, and participated in the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Miami Conference.

 
 

 

Antonio Castellanos, Columbus, Interactive Media

Antonio Castellanos, Columbus, Interactive Media

Photographer: COURTESY

Antonio Castellanos, Columbus, Interactive Media

Antonio spent the first three years of his life in a Siberian orphanage before he was adopted, resulting in his lifelong quest to help orphans. To earn his Eagle Scout rank, he transformed an abandoned parking lot into a basketball court for the residents of His House Children’s Home, raising over $2,000 for the project. Antonio is senior vice president of the Christopher Columbus News Network (CCNN Live). With two other students, he filmed the documentary “Proof of Life,” which won a regional Emmy in the high school category and tells the story of the Castaways Against Cancer group kayaking more than 160 nautical miles to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Buoyed by that, he and his fellow journalists traveled to the Dominican Republic, where they produced a 30-minute documentary, “Every Drop Counts.’’ The film focuses on how volunteers, including Columbus students, built a system to provide water to remote villages there.

 
 

 

Christopher Ahrendt, Columbus, Journalism

Christopher Ahrendt, Columbus, Journalism

Photographer: COURTESY

Christopher Ahrendt, Columbus, Journalism

As president of the Christopher Columbus News Network (CCNN Live), Christopher wrote, produced and anchored 20-minute morning shows. He helped film the documentary “Proof of Life,” which chronicled the Castaways Against Cancer group kayaking 160 nautical miles to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The film’s premiere raised more than $5,000 for Castaways. He also led the production of “Every Drop Counts,” a long-form documentary about BLUE Missions, a nonprofit that built a system that provides potable water to people living in mountaintop villages in the Dominican Republic. Christopher also mentored aspiring middle school journalism students through the CCNN Summer Camp and participated in the Scholastic Olympics, providing journalism training to middle school students at Epiphany School. He rebuilt the studio at David Fairchild Elementary, where a teacher first introduced him to journalism.

Honorable mentions:

  • Lucas Zumpano, Belen, Business
  • Sofia de la Peņa, Carrollton, Business
  • Gonzalo Londoņo, Columbus, Drama
  • Robert Lopez-Irizarry, Belen, Journalism
  • Erin Uddenberg, Lourdes, Music and Dance
  • Camille Garcia-Mendoza, Carrollton, Speech
  • Angel Perez-Castaneda, Columbus, World Languages
  • Maria Mendoza, Lourdes, World Languages
 
 

 

BROWARD COUNTY

Kelly Woodson, St. Thomas Aquinas, Drama

Kelly Woodson, St. Thomas Aquinas, Drama

Photographer: COURTESY

Kelly Woodson, St. Thomas Aquinas, Drama

Kelly is empowering young generations through her Lead to Lean Choir, a component of her nonprofit Lead 2 Lean, which she founded to advocate healthy living to teens, adults and the elderly and to combat childhood obesity. The project teaches children at the Boys and Girls Club of Hollywood both music skills and life lessons, including discussing current events, combating bullying and teaching participants breathing and other coping skills. Kelly is also an ambassador for the anti-bullying organization National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment. She has been a member of Nativity Parish’s choir for nine years and has been invited to sing the national anthem at a Miami Heat game, as well as perform at local events featuring elected officials. In addition, she has performed in more than 10 school and community theater productions. Most recently, she played Sister Mary Patrick in “Sister Act.”

 

 

Colin Fitzgerald, St. Thomas Aquinas, Interactive Media

Colin Fitzgerald, St. Thomas Aquinas, Interactive Media

Photographer: COURTESY

Colin Fitzgerald, St. Thomas Aquinas, Interactive Media

After one of his father’s closest friends died in 2015, Colin learned about all his philanthropic efforts and decided to continue his legacy. “I vowed to give back and help the community any way I could,” Colin said. He turned to H.O.M.E.S., Inc., which provides community and economic development for disadvantaged and low-income residents, including housing young adults aged out of the foster care system. Colin started a holiday drive at his school to collect household supplies for the young residents of H.O.M.E.S., Inc. so the organization can focus its fundraising efforts on fulfilling bigger needs. He also led a group of students to film and live-stream last year’s graduation at his school, is a member of Quill & Scroll, and won Best Visual Design from the University of Alabama’s Communications and Media Program last summer. He volunteers at St. Mark’s Episcopal School summer camp, and is on the Student Council and school sailing team.

 
 

 

Alexa Hui, St. Thomas Aquinas, General Scholarship

Alexa Hui, St. Thomas Aquinas, General Scholarship

Photographer: COURTESY

Alexa Hui, St. Thomas Aquinas, General Scholarship

Alexa is the founder of Take the Stage! dance service learning project, which offers special needs children ages 8-13 eight-week dance sessions through a partnership with Broward County’s Parks and Recreation Special Populations Division. The program later grew into a partnership between her school’s International Thespian Honor Society and HOPE Outreach Center’s aftercare program, in which the honor society members tutor the students, teach them dance and play improv games with them. Lastly, Take the Stage! organizes an annual Mother’s Day Drive, the proceeds of which are used to make nearly 1,000 Mother’s Day baskets for homeless families at Broward Outreach Center. Alexa is student body president, past president of the junior class and past president of the National Science Honor Society. She is also a National Merit Semifinalist, National Hispanic Scholar and AP Scholar with Distinction.

 
 

 

Christine O’Dowd, St. Thomas Aquinas, Mathematics

Christine O’Dowd, St. Thomas Aquinas, Mathematics

Photographer: COURTESY

Christine O’Dowd, St. Thomas Aquinas, Mathematics

Christine is president and co-founder of RaiderKind, a nonprofit that spreads kindness, prevents bullying and empowers middle school girls to succeed. She was driven by being bullied in the sixth grade and wanted to prevent other girls from going through that. RaiderKind volunteers have made presentations to more than 40 schools and organizations, reaching more than 1,100 girls and teaching them about community service. They also raised $22,000 to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Special Olympics, Jack and Jill Children’s Center and Kids in Distress. Christine is an AP Scholar with Distinction for calculus and a National Merit Commended Scholar for being in the 99th percentile of PSAT test takers nationally. She is in the Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society and attended the Stanford University Summer Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship.

 
 

 

Paige Pokryfke, St. Thomas Aquinas, Science

Paige Pokryfke, St. Thomas Aquinas, Science

Photographer: COURTESY

Paige Pokryfke, St. Thomas Aquinas, Science

Before she started her project, Paige had no idea how much one card could make a difference in a soldier’s life overseas. She began Paige’s Patriotic Pen Pals in 2014 because she wanted troops to know their service and sacrifice were appreciated. She became president of her school’s Military Affairs Club two years ago and has written, collected and sent more than 10,000 cards. She set up a table at her school’s Friday night football games so others could make cards. She also sends sympathy cards and red, white and blue cross key chains that she makes for the families of fallen soldiers. She has helped serve dinner at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1966’s Veterans Day Ball. Paige won first place at the Broward County Science Fair last year and has received the American Psychologist Award and Recognition Award at the State of Florida Science Fair.

 
 

 

Joshua Honorat, Archbishop McCarthy, Vocational Technical

Joshua Honorat, Archbishop McCarthy, Vocational Technical

Photographer: COURTESY

Joshua Honorat, Archbishop McCarthy, Vocational Technical

While visiting his mother at her workplace and attending basketball games and events at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Joshua was moved by the sight of an extraordinary number of homeless individuals. These were families sleeping on the ground and under bridges in the downtown area. Their situation so captured his attention that he began to reflect on ways to help. He came up with the idea of collecting yoga mats so the homeless could sleep on them instead of the cold and hard cement of the streets. His idea caught on rather quickly after he announced it on social media and via word of mouth among family and friends. Through his outreach, Joshua collected over 100 mats which were distributed in five different locations in the downtown Miami area. He named his project, “Sleepless in South Florida.”Joshua is an an Archbishop McCarthy High Excelsiors Scholar, AP Scholar, and has received various Vex Robotics awards. He also received the South Florida Leadership Training Camp Honor Council Award and participated in the Florida American Legion Boys State 74th Session.

Honorable mentions:

  • Gianna Ferrante, Cardinal Gibbons, Science
  • Janey Gauthier, Saint Thomas Aquinas High School, Speech

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