Columbus HS senior on quest to empower other students


By Cristina Cruz….

Philip Koenig (rear center) is pictured with Leading Miami participants from West Miami Middle School.

Christopher Columbus High School student, Philip Koenig, is no ordinary high school senior.

Koenig’s main mission is to help ensure that local youth achieve success in their lives. He formed the non-profit organization Leading Miami in 2009 through which he helps children at the middle school level, where he believes they are most impressionable. In just over a year his organization has partnered with seven schools, held 43 workshops, and helped more than 150 children.

He already has purchased the website domains for “Leading Boston” and “Leading New York” because of his future plans of taking the program nationally. He lives and breathes his organization’s mission and has taken it on with great zeal, focus and determination.

This passionate and caring 17-year-old carries a to-do list in his shirt pocket, visits members of the school’s administration regularly to generate ideas, and has been able to instill his mission in other students who have become committed to the organization.  Dubbed “Harry Potter” when he first arrived at Columbus from England due to his British accent and resemblance to the young on screen wizard, Koenig does seem to have worked magic in getting such an important program up and running so quickly.

The mission of Leading Miami is to empower middle school students in Miami to become leaders in society. The diverse team accomplishes its mission by regularly offering workshops for students at their schools and also providing hands-on experiences for them. Koenig created the curriculum for the workshops himself.

They are focused on five subject areas:

• Self-Realization (includes the identification of strengths and weaknesses);

• Team Leadership;

• Social Responsibility and Community Involvement;

• Professional Development (includes communication skills/professional attire advice, etc.), and

• Igniting Your Passion.

In the last workshop students use all the skills and tools that they learned to create their own projects and clubs. Whether they enjoy running, acting or playing guitar, students are given the support and funding necessary to share their passion with the community.

“As long as our students have an interest in pursuing their passion, Leading Miami will work vigorously to guide them,” Koenig said.

Leading Miami’s first partnership was initiated in 2010 with South Miami Middle School, triggering the team to expand and involve more schools such as Ponce de Leon, W.R. Thomas, Glades, West Miami, Riviera, and Everglades K-8.

Recently the program has branched out into different areas. Under team member and Columbus senior Giancarlo Ghinatti, Leading Miami is working on a middle school debate league with aims to improve academic performance and critical thinking skills. A tournament to take place in March will include some 100 competitors. Recently, Koenig learned that Leading Miami was chosen by the Children’s Trust Youth Advisory Committee to participate in the Combat Youth Violence Program.

Koenig said that he decided to start Leading Miami when he learned of the high dropout rates in some areas of the country. He thought the problem could be helped if students were addressed in middle school by successful high school students to whom they could relate.

“Philip is a truly exceptional and enterprisingly gifted young man,” said Pedro Garcia-Casals, Columbus’ assistant principal. “He is one of those rare individuals who can muster personal talents and resources in bringing to fruition the stuff of imagination. In creating Leading Miami, he saw a need, explored ways of addressing it, and set to it with passion. I expect much from Philip.”

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