Palmetto’s 2022-2023 Silver Knight Nominees: Valentina Nicolini for Athletics and Jacob Albert for Business

ATHLETICS: Valentina Nicolini

Miami Palmetto Senior High senior and Silver Knight athletics nominee, Valentina Nicolini, knew she wanted to change lives and improve her community after noticing a prominent issue in her time volunteering: the inaccessibility of female hygiene products to homeless women.

Nicolini initially recognized the lack of access to hygiene products during her time volunteering at “Choose Love,” a nonprofit that provided meals and clothing to homeless people. If a homeless woman asked for feminine hygiene products like tampons or pads, the nonprofit would not have any to provide. This inspired Nicolini to create her own nonprofit, called “ISeeHer,” a female hygiene product drive in partnership with local Miami hospitals for homeless women.

In cultivating her idea, Nicolini’s passion for her project grew from her love of helping her community and wanting to make a difference. Since the startup of ISeeHer in the past year, Nicolini has been successful in providing women with hundreds of necessary health products, continuing to help homeless women not feel alone or embarrassed by their menstrual cycles.. 

“[My favorite memory is] seeing a smile on [women’s] faces…I remember a woman saying [to me] ‘oh, I know sometimes you say no, I was just wondering if you had [menstrual products]’ and I [said] ‘oh now we do’ and she…was so relieved. [It] almost made me kind of sad because I was like, she shouldn’t have to feel relieved…it’s a basic human need. It felt like the goal that I’m trying to achieve [has] been achieved,” Nicolini said.

Through her journey of helping fellow women receive basic, necessary and commonly overlooked health products, ISeeHer gathers women from various backgrounds and perspectives for the core purpose of aiding and supporting one another.

“It kind of puts you into a perspective that, even the slightest things that you have access to, not everybody has access to… I think that everybody should have access to basic things,” Nicolini said.

Nicolini plans to grow ISeeHer in collaboration with women-affiliated clubs at MPSH, such as Palmetto’s Women’s Union, in which feminine hygiene product drives can be held every year to donate to homeless shelters.

Additionally, Nicolini plans to maintain and expand her project throughout her college years and in Miami through local hospitals or doctor’s offices.

‘I definitely think that it’s an ongoing issue, no matter where you go, even if I go [away] for college out of state or even stay in state, no matter where I go. I definitely think that this problem is relevant. So I will definitely bring it with me… I plan to keep it in the doctor’s offices or in the hospitals wherever I have them. I plan to continue having them there,” Nicolini said

Beyond ISeeHer and serving as Vice President of I Choose Love, Nicolini is the captain of the MPSH women’s golf team, plays tennis both inside and outside of MPSH, and has won the Palmetto Bay Youth Leadership award, PTSA Youth Leadership award and was a finalist for the Voice of Democracy essay competition. 

In college, Nicolini plans to study political science or pre-law, a product of her passion for helping create change in her environment.

“I find [political science and pre-law] because…you’re helping the community directly with choices that you’re making. So bringing along the project with me whenever I go to college…is a reminder [that] even if it’s something small, you’re still helping each other’s lives,” Nicolini said.

Through her experiences building up ISeeHer, Nicolini learned the importance of pursuing an ambitious project, even through obstacles and hardships, and staying motivated — a lesson she hopes can serve as a piece of advice for future Silver Knight nominees.

“Just keep going…Even if you think ‘no, my project is not good enough,’ just keep going because you never know what’s gonna happen,” Nicolini said.

BUSINESS: Jacob Albert

For Miami Palmetto Senior High’s Silver Knight business nominee, Jacob Albert, foster kids have always held a special place in his heart. 

Having had exposure at a young age to the struggle that foster kids faced due to his mother’s volunteer work at Educate Tomorrow, an organization focused on aiding foster children through the college admissions process, Albert grew up and began volunteering at Achieve Miami, spending his time reading to disadvantaged children. After spending the majority of his childhood surrounded by and volunteering with underprivileged youth, Albert decided to take it a step further and dedicate his life to this highly neglected demographic by starting his own organization, Geared for Greatness.

With Geared for Greatness, foster kids are able to receive tutoring; an opportunity that otherwise would be unavailable to them. Turnout grew substantially since the organization’s start, allowing more foster kids to get the academic help they need. Tutoring sessions are held at the University of Miami. Since some foster youth are unable to attend in-person tutoring, Albert opened up a zoom option, ensuring that the at-risk children remain the top priority, regardless of the circumstances. 

“At first we were just tutoring probably 20 kids and we had maybe three tutors and now we do over 60 [kids] and we have a full board of six kids and 12 tutors,” Albert said.

Apart from tutoring, Geared for Greatness goes the extra mile and provides supplies and mentorship to their pupils. Tutors and tutees are matched based on shared interests, and the creation of personal bonds is highly encouraged. These bonds allow the foster children to have not only a tutor, but a mentor, being the first time many of them have had a role model, or even simply just someone to talk to in their lives. The organization also arranges drives to provide children with items to fulfill their needs. In the past, they have held holiday gift drives, bedding drives and toiletry drives.

“We try to provide them with everything that they [need], so that they have an equal opportunity as everyone else does,” Albert said.

Albert is the President of MPSH’s Finance Club. He has completed a Brown summer program in finance and economics; just this past summer, he interned at a finance firm specializing in data analytics. Albert also received the top scholar award in a computer science program at the University of California Berkeley for an app he created.

After MPSH, Albert plans to double major in computer science and business. His top choices for university include the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, the University of Virginia, the University of California Los Angeles, and the University of California Berkeley.

Albert is grateful to get the chance to represent MPSH. However, to him, it is more gratifying to see the positive influence his organization makes on the lives of foster youth.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to represent Palmetto and give back… I want to continue giving back, it’s been eye-opening,” Albert said.