Gulliver Prep senior Maxwell Dietz is the school’s nominee for the Silver Knight in the English and Literature category. He is not the first person in his family to be nominated for Silver Knight – his mom, Deborah Langer Dietz, was the nominee for General Scholarship in the ‘80s. She attended Coral Gables High.
Silver Knight nominees are not only tops in their school in their category, but they are committed to community service, often racking up a thousand or more hours. Dietz is no exception, recording 1,100 volunteer hours. He earned many of those hours volunteering for the Disability Independence Group. He worked for the group after school and on many weekends.
“It’s a gold star-rated non-profit,” he says. “I’ve been working with them since their inception. I was introduced through my family.”
His volunteer work includes writing a picture book called The Parcel of Penguins.
“It’s a counting book,” he says, adding that the book also teaches children the names for groups of animals. “I picked some of the cuter ones, some of the happier ones.”
For example, a group of kangaroos is called a troop.
“My illustrator has them marching in Boy Scout uniforms,” he says. The illustrator is a friend who is a pre-med student at the University of Miami.
Dietz ran a fundraising campaign through Custom, Inc. to pay for publication. The campaign ended in the first week of March.
“I will probably print a little over a hundred copies, depending on the funding,” he says. “I have already raised over a thousand dollars and that was the minimum I needed. Any money I made over that mark allows me to increase the number of books I can print!”
The next step is to self-publish using the company Bookbaby. He hopes to have the book traditionally published as well.
“I am going to work on finding a publisher during the summer so that I can edit the book in response to the initial reactions from the short run,” he says.
The first set of books will be donated to needy children.
“I’m giving a portion to Broward Children’s Center; the rest I’m shipping to kids who have been recently let out of bad (foster) homes,” he says.
Dietz wrote the book last summer while camping in Grand Teton National Park. He would write at night after hiking for 10 hours during the day.
“The only thing I had to distract myself was a journal and two pens,” he says. “I wrote it in the mountains at night.”
Along with his writing skills, Dietz is also skilled at acting. He has been in drama since he was in the sixth grade. This year he had the title role in two shows at Gulliver. He played Snoopy in Charlie Brown and the lead role in the play, The Importance of Being Earnest.
“I’m involved in all visual or performing arts.” he says. “I like to be involved in stuff. I can’t be bored.”
Dietz is president of the Chinese club at school, as well as treasurer of the National Honor Society and the drama club.
“Every Sunday I work at my temple,” he says. “I teach Hebrew to first and second graders. Over the summer I work there also with three- and four-year-olds.”
Dietz will attend the Florida State University Honors program next year. He intends to go into English education because he enjoys English, including grammar.
“I might be going into linguistics as a double major; I like to call myself a wordsmith,” Dietz says.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld