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These South Florida students are tackling book bans and language barriers

Stephanie Balderas (left) and Brooke Simmons (right) are two recipients of the 2023 Silver Knight awards.
Miami Herald
Stephanie Balderas (left) and Brooke Simmons (right) are two recipients of the 2023 Silver Knight awards.

Great ideas like the ones Stephanie Balderas and Brooke Simmons came up with can start small.

They can start with a problem, a challenge or just something that makes you angry. And then those problems can seed something that blossoms into a solution.

Brooke and Stephanie both took problems they saw in the world and turned them into public service projects. For it, they were named among 30 Silver Knight Award winners. The annual awards honor high school seniors who found solutions to problems in South Florida.

Stephanie hated seeing one of her favorite books banned. Books taught her how to read when her family moved here from Mexico. So she set out to put precious, banned books into the hands of anyone who wanted them.

Brooke’s family immigrated from Ethiopia. When she and her grandfather had trouble communicating, she designed a system for English speakers to learn his language — and about their culture.

On the June 8 episode of Sundial, two Silver Knight winners from Miami-Dade and Broward County: Brooke Simmons and Stephanie Balderas, respectively, joined us to talk about their projects.

On Sundial's previous episode, Adam Vargas, also known as Atomik, joined us to talk about the evolution of his signature smiling orange.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Carlos Frías is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is a former associate producer for Sundial.
Helen Acevedo, a freelance producer, is a grad student at Florida International University studying Spanish-language journalism, a bilingual program focused on telling the stories of diverse communities.