Palmetto’s 2022-2023 Silver Knight Nominees: Bethany DeFerrari for Vocational Technical and Diego Espinosa for World Language

Amy-Grace Shapiro and Edie Carneiro


Miami Palmetto Senior High senior, varsity lacrosse player and secretary of Florida Future Educators of America (FFEA), Bethany DeFerrari, has always seen working with children in her future. Recently named MPSH’s Silver Knight nominee for Vocational Technical, DeFerrari has been a central figure of MPSH’s Early Childhood Development Program since the beginning of her high school journey. 

Spending the past three years traveling to neighboring elementary schools as part of the Early Childhood Program, DeFerrari has experienced first-hand a decline in school supplies as the spring seasons and latter half of the school year nears.   

“Working at Palmetto [Elementary], I realized that after the holidays, there is a big decrease in supplies that then the teachers have to take out of their own pocket to buy for the students,” DeFerrari said.

Immediately after noticing this trend, DeFerrari took action and created her service project, “Backpacks in Full Bloom.” Her project, completed as a collection drive, gathers donations from within her community of school supplies such as pencils, crayons, colored pencils and more. 

“It is called Backpacks in Full Bloom and it is a project that works with elementary schools in Overtown and Hialeah to give backpack supplies to elementary school students,” DeFerrari said.

If considerably privileged areas like Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay are affected by the disparity in supplies from the beginning of the year to the spring months, she fears what underprivileged schools may face.

“If people in Pinecrest are having to deal with that, I cannot even imagine [it] in less fortunate communities,” DeFerrari said. “Working with teachers and hearing teachers be completely real with me and sharing the struggle of being a teacher, as an aspiring teacher letting me know the inside information. It is hard to hear that they are having to take out of their own income to provide for their students.”

Not only has MPSH’s Early Childhood Program given DeFerrari an instant sense of community since she started high school, but working as a teacher aide has also provided her with multiple opportunities and certifications.

“So I go for two hours a day and work as an assistant teacher at Palmetto Elementary and I have my CDA (Child Development Associate) and DCF (Child Care Training) which are like education certifications,” DeFerrari said.

Outside of the classroom, DeFerrari dedicates her afternoons to playing lacrosse and travels across the United States for tournaments and matches. As for post-secondary education plans, DeFerrari is unsure of a specific institution but is positive she wants to study education and continue in the sector. 

“I am definitely going to major in education and then I am planning on getting my master’s in speech pathology. That can take me to having my own practice or working in the education system,” DeFerrari said. 

WORLD LANGUAGE: Diego Espinosa 

World Language Silver Knight nominee and Miami Palmetto Senior High senior, Diego Espinosa, grew up all too familiar with the struggle of frequently moving schools. Inspired by this experience, Espinosa founded “The Ambassador Initiative” to make this difficult transition as easy as possible.

“In my old schools, I moved around a lot,” Espinosa said. “I moved to like five different cities. So each time I moved, my schools had an ambassador program that would help me move to that new place, but I saw that Palmetto did not have one. So I created one for people like me that were moving from different countries for different reasons.”

This project’s aim is for students to help make new MPSH students feel at home in the confusing, sometimes scary environment that a new school can be. Most of this effort is in the hands of the ambassadors themselves.

“An ambassador is basically a person that represents Palmetto to help [new students] move. [The new students] have a person to talk to about what classes to take, things to do in the area and stuff like that;  just a familiar face,” Espinosa said. “We take [ambassadors] from all grade levels, but I am guessing right now we would take mostly non-seniors because they are going to be moving [to college]. So if we want to pair somebody, we want someone that is going to be here for a while.”

“The Ambassador Initiative” has been extremely impactful all over the school, helping many international students smoothly transition to MPSH, no matter where they are from or even what language they speak.

“We have one student that moved in but she did not speak very good English. So I was able to find somebody that spoke Spanish, and they were able to talk. Now she has a lot of friends, she has people to talk to during lunch, but it just kind of softened her transition,” Espinosa said.

As for the future of the initiative, Espinosa plans on continuing it at MPSH after his graduation, spreading it to other schools in Miami-Dade County and expanding it to a much larger cause by gaining attention on social media, hence the project’s instagram: @mpshambassadors.

“The best way to grow is to keep putting out the Instagram,” Espinosa said. “We keep making posts about our mission from the sponsor, from us and from a new student. Soon we are going to come out with an interview of an ambassador talking about the new student, so I think just by divulging that information it is gonna grow [the initiative] because people are gonna get more sympathetic to the cause.”

Espinosa’s advice for those starting out on their own philanthropic journeys is simple: keep the cause close to heart. By founding “The Ambassador Initiative,” Espinosa can relate to those he is helping on a personal level, which he claims is the key to a successful and meaningful service project.

“I think one of the best things to do is to think about why you are doing it. So like, maybe if you are just doing something to have a project, you should think about a different project. It is fine to change [it],” Espinosa said. “Because if you want to really give back to the community, then it should be something you are passionate about.”