Three of Miami’s highest-achieving students, honored recently at the Silver Knight Awards, are joining FIU’s class of 2022.
The Miami Herald Silver Knight Awards is one of the most highly regarded student awards programs in the country. For nearly 60 years, it has recognized students for excellence in academics and community service. This year, of the 742 nominees from Miami-Dade and Broward counties, only 30 joined the ranks of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, a former U.S. Surgeon General and the first female ambassador to the Middle East – all former Silver Knight winners. Of those, Katherine Almendarez, Melissa Padron and Emily Pasteris are headed to FIU.
Almendarez represents Miami-Dade County as the winner in the speech category. She founded a non-profit organization that donates school supplies to children in impoverished countries. As founder and CEO, she oversees all aspects of the company which has helped more than 350 children and Honduras, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. She will be a Panther after receiving her high school diploma and associates degree from Miami-Dade College.
Padron won the Silver Knight for English in Miami-Dade. She spent two consecutive summers in Cuba teaching English to college sophomores and juniors. She created a tutoring program at Coral Park Senior High to help fellow students struggling with the English portion of the Florida Standards Assessments test. Her efforts helped to boost overall scores at the school.
Currently a student in the Miami Arts Studio, Pasteris founded the drama club at her former elementary school and contributed 2,000 hours of service to the program. By helping to organize auditions, coaching sessions, choreography, fundraisers and promoting the club’s performances, she earned the Miami-Dade Silver Knight Award for drama.
FIU was at the awards ceremony as a sponsor of the science category. The unversity showcased its latest marine research and engineering advances using virtual reality goggles. As part of the exhibit, FIU physics students engaged the crowd with demonstrations that created electricity and defied logic.
“Seize every opportunity that comes your way. Be fearless. Get up when you stumble and use the road-bumps to get better,” Heithaus said. “Work together. Make things better for others. Do that and our future will be in great hands.”