Northwestern grads keep the tradition of excellence

The Miami Northwestern Senior High School Class of 2017 has earned $6.6 million in scholarships and received 641 acceptance letters.

The amount of the acceptance letters are more than any other school in the county, which includes full rides to Howard University and Florida State University.

“You can supersede what anyone tells you can’t,” Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, District 2 board member of the Miami-Dade County Public School, said to more than 300 graduates at the school’s commencement ceremony last Thursday.  Bendross-Mindingall, also a Northwestern alumna, told the graduates she knew exactly how it was to be in their shoes, at times being judged because of the school’s ZIP code.

The school is located in Miami’s Liberty City, walking distance from four housing projects: Victory Homes, Liberty Square, Lincoln Field and Model Cities. Despite, its location, the alumni, faculty and students stick to the school’s motto—“Pride, Tradition and Excellence.”

“It’s OK to have grown up in Liberty Square housing projects,” Bendross-Mindingall said. “Everyone knows you deserve to be in this seat. I always say to any child, ‘if you are in the room, you deserve to be in the room.’ I don’t care what their title is. I don’t care what their zip code is.”

One of the graduates, Kaylah Clark, said many of her parents’ friends questioned their decision to enroll her at Northwestern four years ago.

Clark, who is the president of the student government association, said she uses the negative perception as motivation.

“I’ve learned the importance of hard work,” she said. “As long as you stay diligent in your work, you will achieve greatness.”

She has done so quite well.

Clark has been accepted into five universities and a college: Duke, Florida State, Howard, Northwest and Tuskegee and Spelman College. Her choice was Howard University, who offered a four-year $152,000 academic scholarship.

With a 4.8 GPA, Clark has been offered nearly $400,000 in scholarships including full rides to Florida A&M and Tuskegee universities.

Clark said she was awarded scholarships from alumni, church, other local organizations and found others through the school, which has a college resource center.

Northwestern also has a Performing and Visual Arts Center, which offers a magnet program for dance, music, theater and visual arts. The 2017 PAVAC graduates have earned  $3.4 million in scholarships and not just for the arts alone.

Diaunte Jenkins, a PAVAC dance graduate, has a 4.3 GPA and received more than $250,000 in academic scholarships. He will be attending the University of Florida in less than a week. Jenkins said that his four years at Northwestern has prepared him for his new journey.

“Being in the PAVAC program did not only mold me for dance but also for the real world,” he said. “My dance teacher, Mrs. Young-Bryon, is not just hard on us about our technique. She is always hard on us about being on time and being responsible.”

Traci Young-Bryon is a veteran jazz dance instructor with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and also the founder of The Young Contemporary Dance Theatre.

Keeping with tradition, Young-Bryon is also a graduate of Northwestern’s PAVAC. The program’s head, Natalie Baldie, is a former Miss Northwestern, who received a full ride to Bethune-Cookman University in 2001.

“Because of the pride, tradition and excellence that was instilled in us, we will never forget ‘Northwestern, our own,” said Baldie, quoting the last line of the school’s alma mater.

This story was published in the Miami Times.

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