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As one of the nation’s premier student recognition programs, the Miami Herald Silver Knight Awards will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year. To strengthen the program and ensure its future, the Miami Herald Media Company announced on Monday that it has received more than $3 million in grants for its new scholarship endowment fund.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation contributed an initial grant of $1.5 million. It was matched with $1.5 million from Miguel (Mike) B. Fernandez, founder of the private equity firm MBF Healthcare Partners. The Miami Herald Silver Knight Scholarship Endowment Fund has also raised $146,000 in matching grants from Herald Charities trustees, the McClatchy Foundation and present and past publishers of the Miami Herald.
The Silver Knight Awards program, produced annually by the Miami Herald Media Company, honors outstanding high school seniors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties who have excelled in the classroom and in community service. More than 1,300 high school seniors have taken home Silver Knight awards, including Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General; Bill Conti, Oscar and Emmy Award-winning composer; Frances D. Cook, U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon; Steve Reinemund, retired CEO and chairman of PepsiCo; Jimmy Morales, Miami Beach city manager; Joseph P. Farina, retired chief judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit; and Rafael Penalver, attorney at Penalver & Penalver, P.A.
The Silver Knight Awards program was launched at the Miami Herald in 1959 by John S. Knight, past publisher of the Miami Herald, founder and editor emeritus of Knight-Ridder Newspapers, 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner, and founder of the national philanthropic Knight Foundation. “John S. Knight believed in celebrating the best of our town’s academic excellence and commitment to service. We’re honored to continue to support that Miami tradition,” Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation and former Miami Herald publisher, said in a statement.
Said Fernandez, “as an immigrant, I strongly believe in giving back to the community and the nation that has supported my goals and achievements.” His statement continued, “the Silver Knight Awards nominees exemplify the ideals of leadership and community service, values that they will carry forward on their own path to success. I’m proud to be able to support their dreams.”
This year’s winners, 15 students each from Miami-Dade and Broward counties, included students who created prosthetic hands and devices to help patients recover from spinal surgery. Others started fashion businesses, installed computer labs in foster homes and raised money for cancer research.
Each received $2,000, 25,000 award miles from American Airlines, a medallion and a Silver Knight statue during an elegant May ceremony at the James L. Knight Center attended by 2,500 people and live-streamed for an even wider audience. The runners-up received $500 each and an engraved plaque. Murthy, the keynote speaker, told the students to “never believe that you don’t have what it takes to solve the big problems we face as a country.”
The Silver Knight Awards Endowment Fund will be administered by Miami Herald Charities and The Miami Foundation. The Silver Knight Awards is seeking corporate and private partners to further strengthen the program, and to increase the college scholarship funds that are awarded to winners who do not have the resources to attend the universities of their choice. Those interested in making a pledge to the endowment can contact Alexandra Villoch at AVilloch@miamiherald.com.
“We are very excited about these important grants,” said Villoch, Southeast Region publisher for McClatchy, parent company of the Miami Herald, and board member of Miami Herald Charities. “They will have a tremendous impact, allowing us to continue to honor the legacy of our founder, as well as further the passion and drive of the next generation of high school seniors — students who are destined to be our future leaders.”