It’s hard to stand out at the School for Advanced Studies. SAS is a public high school in which all students simultaneously take college and high school classes. Students graduate with both an AA degree and a high school diploma. It’s a haven for academically driven kids.
Alyson Diaz, a Mexican immigrant, managed to stand out by not only graduating Summa Cum Laude but also by taking on an activist role after school.
“She doesn’t just talk it, she actually takes action in getting things done,” said counselor Jose Fraga. “She inspires people because of her involvement and her desire to improve a situation.”
Alyson created a project called Behind the Badge. Her goal is to improve relations between police officers and teenagers, especially minority teens.
“So I want to mesh my respect for law enforcement and my initiative to unite them with the community to try to prevent some of those incidents that happened in Ferguson and Baton Rouge,” Alyson said.
Behind the Badge was recognized by Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez, who saw its potential for success. The idea came to her after Alyson started volunteering as an advocate at Teen Court, which tries to straighten out non-violent, misdemeanor juvenile offenders.
“Get on to the right path and also unite them with the officers because a lot of the things that I heard while interviewing the kids at teen court was that they don’t trust law enforcement,” Alyson said.
Her teenage peers see Alyson’s work as inspiring and groundbreaking, totally different from the usual high school service projects.
“Her project made us more comfortable getting involved in our community in subjects that a lot of people don’t want to broach, I have a lot more respect for law enforcement in my community after seeing the work that Alyson has done,” said Maria Pita, who will be rooming with Alyson at Duke University in the fall.
“Doing extracurricular activities like hers and still be on top of the game, to me it’s an inspiration,” said Augustin Biancardi, a fellow senior at SAS.
Alyson learned something about human nature. She says it wasn’t easy to recruit classmates to get involved in what some see as a controversial cause.
“Because it was easier to stand back and you know, kind of ignore the issue that’s happening today and I didn’t want to do that,” Alyson explained.
She’s not stopping now. Eventually Alyson wants to be a lawyer, but first things first: when she gets to college, she wants to open a chapter of Behind the Badge.