Though the coronavirus pandemic kept the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project’s 29th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Breakfast virtual again, the event still honored 37 Miami-Dade scholarship-receiving high school seniors and significant national and South Florida role models for young people of color.
The scholarships are Wilson Scholarships, named after U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. The former Miami-Dade public school teacher and Skyway Elementary School principal created the 5000 African American Male Role Models of Excellence back in 1993 as a mentoring program for at-risk youth.
One of the program’s early graduates was Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kionne McGhee, who co-hosted Monday’s online ceremony with fellow Miami-Dade County Commissioner Oliver Gilbert III and Jason Jenkins, senior vice president for communications and community affairs for the Miami Dolphins.
“I was bad as heck,” said McGhee, a Howard University graduate. “I had Ds and Fs on my report card. Then, the Role Models stepped in and turned my life around. Now, I’m a lawyer. I was a former Democratic leader in the [Florida] House of Representatives. Now, I’m a Miami-Dade county commissioner. You can’t lose with the Role Models.”
The Wilson Scholars
The 37 Wilson Scholarship winners (by alphabetical order of names and their high school):
Tedley Alabre, North Miami; Marlon Bello, G. Holmes Braddock; Wilder Boucher, North Miami; Robert Brooks III, North Miami; Jean-Rody Dangervil, North Miami; Christopher Dessources, North Miami; Steve Dessources, North Miami; Ethan Diaz, Alonzo and Tracy Mourning; Snailey Dol, North Miami; Amos Fontil, North Miami; Fermin Hornechea, Palmetto; Andrew Jackson, Northwestern; PhelKelly Jean, North Miami; Staf Harley Jean-Gilles, William H. Turner Technical; Cedric Jenkins, Miami Beach; Joshua Johnson, Coral Gables; Laurent Joseph, Miami High; and Sonder Josue, North Miami.
Adam Lee, Palmetto; Matthew Louis-Charles, North Miami; Kervin Lundy, William H. Turner Technical; Samy Maxime, North Miami; Frank Menjivar, Palmetto; Jamesly Mezime, North Miami; Brian Moss II, William H. Turner Technical; Nick Pierre, North Miami; Ethan Pierre-Louis, Mourning; Jimmy Pierre-Louis, North Miami; Christian Rivero, G. Holmes Braddock; Jaiko Rodriguez, Miami Beach; Luciano Scarsi, Palmetto; Lawrence Stampino-Strain, Coral Gables; Joseph Thomas, Northwestern; Jonathan Villalta, South Dade; Jerome Wallace, Killian; Shalin Williams, Coral Reef; and Joseph Wood, North Miami.
Adults honored as national and community leaders
Also speaking at the ceremony via live or prerecorded remarks were longtime civil rights activists the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton; CNN anchor Don Lemon; Doug Emhoff, husband of Kamala Harris, the vice president of the United States, who spoke at last year’s event; and 5000 Role Models mentors NBC6 news anchor Jawan Strader and PortMiami assistant director for business development Basil Binns II.
“Young leaders like you are the people who are going to shape our future and tackle the big challenges that are facing our world,” Emhoff said. “So, as you prepare to head off to college, it’s time to dream big. There are no boundaries to what you can accomplish. It’s also time to study hard and make sure you can turn those dreams into reality.”
Receiving the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Breaking the Glass Ceiling Awards were the first Black Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald Executive Editor, Monica Richardson; Michael Finney, the Miami-Dade Beacon Council’s first Black president; and Gen. William Walker, the first Black Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Many more have come before me to make the path for me to be where I am today,” Richardson said. “While I am the first African American to be the executive editor of the Miami Herald, my being here ensures that I won’t be the last. I won’t be the last to represent many generations of African Americans and other diverse communities. I receive this award in the name of those who have made a way for me. I also receive this award in recognition of the work that still needs to be done in the generations to come.”
Being honored with the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom and Justice Awards were NFL executive vice president for football operations and former Miami Dolphins cornerback Troy Vincent, the NFL’s first Black executive vice president; and Miami Herald Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.
“My mentors taught me to be a good listener, a bridge builder, making sure everyone is represented and being intentional about diversity of thought,” Vincent said. “All part of leading and succeeding by serving others.
“Congratulations to the 2022 Wilson Scholars,” he continued. “You’re about to begin the journey that can lead to fulfilling your dreams. As the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration, but worthy objectives on which to concentrate.’
“May your worthy objectives be world changers.”
The Miami Herald is a sponsor of this event.