Myrthil will be named this year's recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. She will receive a $1,000 cash prize on Wednesday -- and next month will fly to the New Jersey campus of Princeton University for a student symposium on race.
''I'm really proud,'' said Myrthil, 18, who will attend the University of North Florida this fall. ``I'm glad something good came out of that whole situation.''
The Princeton Prize is awarded by the Princeton University Club of South Florida. It honors high school students who have worked to further racial harmony in their communities.
Myrthil was selected for her efforts to build bridges between students and teachers, said Princeton Prize committee member Jonathan Colan.
''The more understanding there is between those two groups, the better schools can be in improving the school community,'' said Colan, an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami.
Nikisha Valdez, an American History teacher at Edison and Myrthil's mentor, applauded Myrthil's efforts.
''She's going to have a great career in advocacy, or maybe even education reform,'' Valdez said.
Myrthil was enrolled in Valdez's American History class. She and her classmates were working on a project to better the lines of communication between students and teachers.
Valdez encouraged Myrthil to seize the opportunity and make positive changes in the community.
''She helped me to realize that I could do more positive things than just sitting around here and being negative,'' Myrthil said.
Myrthil and her classmates spoke directly to teachers-in-training at Florida International University. The teens made suggestions about how to engage students -- and how to make them feel part of the school community.
''After the presentation, some of the teachers said they didn't know students from a school like Edison could be intelligent,'' Myrthil said. ``We changed their mind-set. We broke down the stereotype they had of us.''
The Princeton Prize committee's Colan said the group was happy to see this year's winner come from Edison.
Myrthil has not slowed in her efforts to help the Edison community.
This year, Myrthil and her peers on the Mayor's Youth Council have been working to eradicate hopelessness among students.
As part of the project, Myrthil has helped bring Edison students to college fairs and teen leadership conferences, she said.
Myrthil isn't sure what her future will hold, but she hopes to one day start a foundation to aid homeless children.
''Whatever I end up doing, I just want to make sure I help people,'' she said.
BY KATHLEEN McGRORY
Posted on Wed, Apr. 22, 2009