Palmetto’s 2022-2023 Silver Knight Nominees: Christina Perez for Music and Dance and Luke Yang for Science

MUSIC AND DANCE: Christina Perez

Miami Palmetto Senior High senior Christina Perez was exposed to music at a young age. At seven years old, Perez began violin lessons at the Greater Miami Youth Symphony beginner’s camp at the Deering Estate. This experience exposed her to the different ways one can access music education, leading her to develop a growing love for music. On a scholarship that provided her with instruments and lessons, Perez was inspired to create her own project to help young musicians.

Play it Forward began as a small project, where Perez gathered damaged or forgotten violins and violas. As more contributions came in, Perez knew that Play it Forward had greater potential. From there, she reached out to artists who were willing to repurpose their damaged instruments into collectible art pieces. 

Artists such as Leah Guzman (, ATOMIK (, Kanarie Townsend and Bayunga Kial help with the transformations of these instruments. All of the instruments are then sold through an auction where the artists determine the appraisal and start a bid for each item. The proceeds are donated to Greater Miami Youth Symphony and African Heritage Cultural Arts Center and are used to purchase new instruments for students or provide scholarships for students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to take music classes.

“Play it Forward has accidentally become one of my primary life missions — [providing] access to learn how to play a musical instrument regardless of financial ability,” Perez said.

Prior to creating Play it Forward, Perez grew as a musician as she became more passionate about her craft. She worked hard moving up ensembles until she landed a role in GMYS’s flagship ensemble, “Symphony Orchestra.” 

“I was so committed, that I even auditioned for the Southwood Middle School orchestra magnet program, which is a Miami-Dade County Public School that offers intensive musical training to students free of charge,” Perez said.

Her experiences at Southwood carried with her moving into high school, leading to the jumpstart of Play it Forward. This year, Perez is President of MPSH’s Tri-M Music Honor Society, where she is able to guide the passions of other fellow high school musicians. Experiencing mentorship by teenagers when she was a child, Perez was encouraged to help others taking classes, and she continues to give back to younger musicians.

Perez spends her summers volunteering at camps, helping younger musicians and joining chamber orchestras so she can play music for her community. Performing at charity events such as Live Like Bella Foundation and at senior citizen centers, Perez felt motivated to give back to her community.

The founder of a Youth Arts Organization, Pinecrest City Music Project noticed her commitment, earning her the role of Artistic Director. Perez accepted the role and has been leading an organization providing free music lessons to students in Miami-Dade County since.

Perez’s journey to becoming the musician she is now and helping other young musicians stems from her experience as a beginner. Provided the chance to continue playing violin for 12 years, Perez knew she was meant to “Play it Forward” and help future generations of musicians.

SCIENCE: Luke Yang

Since elementary school, Miami Palmetto Senior High senior, President of National Science Honor Society and Founder of Limitless, Luke Yang, has been exposed to the field of STEM. Yang started participating in STEM-like clubs in elementary school and was inspired to do something alike. Yang has led clubs in elementary and middle schools, such as Dr. Henry E. Perrine Academy of the Arts and Palmetto Middle School, where his love for teaching STEM culminated into creating his project: Limitless.

“I had these clubs when I was in elementary and middle school. I thought they were awesome. I love them. They were like my favorite part of the week. I thought if I can do this, I mean, I feel like other people would maybe like to do it. So my friends were interested and we started. Then we got more people. It was awesome,” Yang said. 

Limitless pairs high schoolers with students at a local middle or elementary school and holds clubs after school based on STEM-related activities. Limitless has a variety of clubs, from Robotics clubs to Environmental clubs. The clubs mainly work with students in grades four through eight, helping build the next generation of STEM. 

“I started working at the schools in ninth grade and I formally made the project in 10th grade,” Yang said. “It is basically an association of high schoolers, like myself, going to middle and elementary schools to work on their after-school programs like clubs that they have. So we currently have a stem club, a math club, a robotics club and we are looking to add an environmental club. So we go around once a week, and work with the kids. They have a good time.”

Apart from Limitless, Yang wrote a textbook called “Getting Started with Competition Math” from around March 2021 to January 2022. The textbook includes mathematical subjects varying from algebra and geometry to number theory. The textbook serves as a guide to help math competitors become experienced and learn the foundation of what they should know for competitions. 

Yang hopes to spread and create a new generation of students in STEM, helping others encounter their own passion in the field. 

“Just find something that is important to you. And if there is an existing organization, see what work you can do with them because you do not always need to start something new. I only did because there was nothing really in my area. I really wanted to do this. If there is something existing, try and work with them. See what changes you can make and if not start your own. It will be awesome,” Yang said.