Three CCA Seniors Win Awards at 65th Annual Silver Knight Ceremony

By: Alyssa Mendez | Photos: Matias J. Ocner/Miami Herald
Each year, the Miami Herald honors outstanding South Florida seniors for their commitment to service and academics through its Silver Knight program. CCA Fort Lauderdale's Class of 2023 took home the most wins in our school’s 23-year history! Continue reading to learn about this year’s winners and the projects they implemented that extend the love of Christ.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” –1 Timothy 4:12

In Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in the abovementioned verse, we are reminded that even young people can be leaders and motivate others to love through action (Hebrews 10:24).

This truth was evident when 750 graduating seniors from throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties were honored for their outstanding community contributions and academic excellence at the 65th Annual Miami Herald Silver Knight awards. This ceremony mirrors the pomp and circumstance one would experience at the Oscars, which adds to the excitement factor for the students and families in attendance.

Each year, multiple seniors from Calvary Christian Academy (CCA) Fort Lauderdale are recognized as nominees for this service-centric program. However, this year, CCA’s Class of 2023 made history – taking home the most wins our school has seen since its launch in 2000!
CCA’s Class of 2023 made history – taking home the most wins our school has seen since its launch in 2000!

WINNERS

Out of the 750 students nominated from 69 Miami-Dade and 32 Broward public, charter and private schools, 30 winners were named (Brugal & Tavel, 2023). In each county, one winner is named per discipline: art, athletics, business, digital media, drama, English, general scholarship, journalism, mathematics, music, science, social science, speech, vocational tech, and world languages.

On top of being presented with a Silver Knight statue and medal on stage, each winner receives a $2,000 scholarship as well as a round-trip American Airlines flight within the continental U.S.

 
ISABELLA LEON
CCA’s National Art Honor Society President – was named Broward County’s Silver Knight winner in Art for programming Create to Create – a volunteer-driven event she coordinated in partnership with CCA, Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, and 4KIDS. Isabella had the opportunity to share her love for the arts to 33 children in the foster care system who received lessons in music, theatre, dance, and visual art. The children also got to enjoy games, pizza, and cupcakes. This event not only blessed the children in attendance, but also provided foster parents with complimentary childcare for a few hours. At the end of the event, a message was shared with the children, reminding them that they were uniquely created with a purpose.

 
Isabella graduated with a Fine Arts Endorsement from CCA, which means that she took the most challenging arts classes offered at the school. She was also honored at this year’s Cappies Gala among other South Florida high school theatre students for her performance in CCA’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. She won a Cappie for Best Comedic Female Actor in a Musical. Isabella and two other CCA students also won a Cappie for Best Ensemble in a Musical for the musical number “The Step Family”. Isabella plans to pursue a major in Visual Arts at Florida International University beginning this fall.
[Isabelle shared] her love for the arts to 33 children in the foster care system
DANIEL CUESTA
CCA Fort Lauderdale’s Class of 2023 Valedictorian who is University of Notre Dame-bound – was named Broward County’s winner in General Scholarship. His major service contribution involved bringing the first Brick-by-Brick Programme (aka LEGO Brick club) for children on the autism spectrum to the United States in partnership with the Play Included Community Interest Company based in the United Kingdom and an autism center in Davie, Fla. called the Social Mind Center.

 
Children in the program get to complete a LEGO model while alternating roles (engineer, supplier, or builder) in an allotted time frame. A trained and certified adult moderator ensures that the team works together smoothly and overcomes the challenge of assembling the model together. This program is officially endorsed by the LEGO Foundation and is offered at no extra charge to families at the Social Mind Center. Daniel not only played an active role ensuring the team was properly licensed, trained, and funded, but also volunteered his time to serve as a moderator on a weekly basis.

Through the AP Capstone class he took at CCA, Daniel had the opportunity to conduct research to measure the program’s effectiveness. His study revealed measurable improvements in both the children's perception of their emotional skills as well as their parent's perception of their children's emotional state. Additionally, while their children participated in the program, parents were able to support one another by sharing their experiences, advice, and resources.

“My hope for this program is that it continues to scale up and grow, not only regionally, but nationally and globally as well,” said Daniel.

Daniel has been named National Hispanic Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, and has received the AP Capstone Diploma. He also graduated with a World Language endorsement from CCA. Daniel’s Silver Knight award was accepted by a CCA staff member, as he was traveling and unable to attend the ceremony.

HONORABLE MENTION & NOMINEES

According to Brugal & Tavel (2023), the Silver Knight competition also recognizes 90 other students as Honorable Mentions (three Honorable Mentions per discipline in each county), which is an incredible honor as well. This year, CCA senior Ranita Rajkumar won an Honorable Mention in digital media.

 
Ranita designed and developed a personalized app to provide teens and young adults a safe place to discuss, express, and offer support to one another regarding various mental health issues, particularly anxiety and depression. The users have access to local professionals, helpful resources, and a hotline for mental health. Ranita completed an Artificial Intelligence Applications program at the University of Texas Austin and plans to incorporate an AI chat bot therapy service within the app.

The following students were celebrated as well for their community contributions at the Silver Knight ceremony. As nominees representing CCA, they underwent a rigorous application and interview process.

  • Taylor McMullen – Athletics
  • Lucca Zito – Drama
  • Kemarah Thermidor – English
  • Brianna Tully – Science
  • Franco Ruocco – Social Science
  • Raquel De La Cruz-Rodriguez – World Languages

We are so proud of our nominees and winners for setting a positive example and extending the love of Jesus Christ in their community through the passions and abilities He has given them. The lives they’ve impacted give us glimpses of heaven here on earth.

If God is stirring your heart to step into spaces where He is moving locally, we encourage you to check out Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale’s upcoming Love Your Neighbor outreach events for volunteer opportunities.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” –1 Peter 4:10

 
If your child is a rising 12th grade student at CCA with a demonstrated, authentic passion for community service and a minimum GPA of 3.2, email Mrs. Womble at MelodieW@CCAEagles.org for more information on the Silver Knight nominee qualification process.
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