Ninth Grader Wows Judges at La Voz Kids


By Andrea Namen
Staff Writer

Vanessa Wong, a ninth grade student at MLA, auditioned for La Voz Kids this season and made it on to one of the teams, allowing her to compete for the final prize, a recording contract and a scholarship.

La Voz Kids is a seasonal show that airs internationally. The show consists of three phases: a blind audition, a battle phase, and the live performance shows. Each season, a large group of talented children and teens send in an audition video with his or her talented voice. A selected few are told to come in and perform in front of three judges.

As this performance begins, all three judges face away from the single contestant on the stage because judging is based solely on hearing his or her voice.

Wong auditioned with a video of her singing “Corre” by Jesse and Joy. When she got in, she sang “Alive” by Sia. In the live auditions, she got all three judges, Daddy Yankee, Pedro Fernandez and Natalia Jimenez, to turn their chairs for her. In the end, she chose Team Natalia.

To view the performance, visit


Chess Club is a Hidden Gem in the Miami Scene

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By Lucas Menvielle
Contributor, Eighth Grade

How many of you knew we had a chess club at our school? Despite no one really knowing about the MLA chess club, it is one of the best chess clubs in all of Miami. Recently, the club placed 2nd in the Sunrise Grand Prix at West-Pines Middle School.

So what makes this club with less than a dozen members so successful? Good teammates, with a great chemistry and an unbelievable coach. Michael Saunders Sr. or “Mr. Mike” as he is known by the club is an Air Force veteran who teaches chess to give back to the community.

Saunders says he’s known how to play chess for a long time.

“I learned how to play chess at the age of 13. I taught myself, my mother came home one day from working two jobs and she said ‘Teach yourself the game’ and gave me a paper board to start playing, and I’ve been playing ever since,” he said.

Saunders says chess has influenced his life so much, that in a way it’s “saved his life”. He stated, “When my mother introduced me to the game, let’s just say I wasn’t making the best decisions and later on I realized how beneficial chess was because it gave me an opportunity to better myself.”

With over 50 years of experience you would be a fool to think he does not know how to play chess. It is because of this that it is such a big deal when he says the MLA Chess is destined for greatness.

In another recent competition, MLA won first place at the Doral Scholastic Tournament in early April.



6th Grader Wins Miami Junior Tennis Open

By Frank Ponce

Valeria Centeno, a 6th grade student at Mater Lakes Academy, put a tremendous accolade on her resume by winning the U12 Miami Open Junior Cup Championship.

With her hopes set on turning professional and joining the big circuit of competition, she has a career full of potential. With a newly formed tennis team at Mater Lakes, Centeno could see tests of leadership and character if she decides to challenge herself and play for the school. Alongside a bright future in athletics, Centeno is just beginning her educational journey, as she is merely a 6th grader.

We wish Valeria the best and hope she chooses to continue
attending Mater Lakes as she continues down her path of
excellent education.

For more information about this story visit:


Bear Family Boasts Star


It’s not every day that your wife is the star of a Kellog’s commercial, but this was the case for testing department chairperson and former mathematics teacher Matthew Bieule (known at MLA as Mr. B).

Natalie Bieule, who also happens to be Principal Rene Rovirosa’s daughter, is a mother of two girls and the only paralympian chosen to be a part of the Kellogg’s Rio 2016 advertising campaign. Kellogg’s has been a sponsor of the Olympics since 1976.

At the age of 18, Bieule became a below the knee amputee after a car accident in 2001. She is currently working harder than ever as she prepares for Rio. Bieule is the two-time United States national discus throw champion, 2015 World championship Bronze Medalist, and currently holds the American and Americas record at 30.57 meters.

In her Kellogg’s commercial, Bieule’s determination is clear.

“When you tell me I can’t, you get me really mad and I’m just going to prove to you that I can,” she said.

Bieule also talks about how her daughters, Ava and Valentina, inspire her. She said, “Ava is my inspiration, Valentina is my drive.”

Bieule’s main goal is not to win a medal, but to show her two daughters that they can achieve anything they want if they keep working hard and never give up.

“I look at them and I don’t want to stop. They’ve given me much more than I think I could ever give them. I’m trying to catch up to them,” said Bieule.

When asked how he felt about his wife’s success, Mr. B said, “No one works harder than Natalie, and all that hard work now is truly paying off. Natalie trains twice a day, six times a week, and not because she has to, but because she is striving for greatness.” He also added, “I get very emotional just thinking how she is not only representing our great nation but representing our entire family on the greatest stage, the Paralympics. She is leaving a legacy for generations to come and I have the best seat in the house, right next to her.”

To check out the commercial visit v=8QzJf13nxnk&




Arts Program Developing at MLA

By Elisa Diaz

Staff Writer

At Mater Lakes Academy, the arts programs have unified their efforts to make the subjects more prominent via recent school activities such as the Glee Club Concert, Gallery Night, Art Basel, and school plays.

These events were made possible by the Glee Club, Photography Club, the Art Department, and the Drama Department, who all bring a sense of self-expression as well as a chance for students to share their passions.

Unlike past years, the art programs have gotten so much more attention this year.  For example, Juliette Martin, a sophomore, said she feels she can share her passions in a positive environment with others with similar interests.

To make these art programs a reality, drama teacher Krista Flores, Photography Club sponsor Jacqueline Taylor, Art Club sponsors Mack Jackson, Alejandro Rodriguez and Xierra Itayem and Glee Club sponsor Kathleen Wile have organized events showcasing student talent.

As stated by Flores, “I work to create more theatrical performances for the students’ enthusiasm and passion towards drama. Students from all grades have participated in these programs and have found a way of expressiveness through the things they love.”

Michael Martin-Carreras, a sophomore said, “My passion for photography is what encourages me to participate in the club. I like being able to share my passion with other people who feel the same way about photography.”

“The idea is that events like Gallery Night will get students motivated to participate and develop their creativity, which will also be beneficial to them in other academic areas because it stimulates critical thinking,” said Photography Club Sponsor Jacqueline Taylor.


Get to Know One of MLA’s Originals

By Victoria Gayarre
Staff Writer

Ten years ago, the seeds of Mater Lakes Academy were planted, and as school began to grow, administration recruited faculty who would be able to grow along with it. Among the original members was the first science teacher of Mater Lakes, John Brañas.

When Brañas, initially joined MLA, he hated it. He had never taught, never even planned on becoming a teacher, but as he explained, “under the circumstances, I kinda just fell into it.”

Born and raised in Miami, Brañas was just not much different from the students he teaches everyday. He stated, “I liked high school, I was one of those kids that was able to navigate it really well.” Throughout his high school years, Branñs participated in a little bit of everything: from sports to SGA (Student Government association), even participating in the school band.

When asked about his favorite childhood memories, Brañas runs his hand through his dark hair and smiles, mumbling a “hmm” before saying, “I don’t know if I could pinpoint one. I enjoyed my childhood.”

As Brañas continued to grow older, he went on to get a major in science at Florida International University. Initially, he planned on going into Environmental Law, which works to improve the natural environment by creating laws to prevent damaging human activity from negatively affecting the surrounding areas. However as time continued, “the necessity for a job” led Brañas to find a career elsewhere.

As Brañas began his search for a job, a friend contacted him, informing him that a position was opening up at a new school, named Mater Lakes Academy. He was there for the first meeting and each change in buildings the charter school had as they hoped to grow.

When he first began teaching, John Brañas was miserable. He laughed, adjusting himself in his blue chair before explaining, “Franco was the only person that thought I would make it, and they started a bet in the office because everyday I would go and whine about it. I was so crazy! Franco was the only one that thought I would make it- he’s so sweet.” As time continued, it was clear Brañas was there to stay and math teacher Rogelio Franco quickly won the money.

Over the last ten years, Brañas has taught nearly every science course including biology, physics, and earth space science. Today, he teaches environmental science and comprehensive science two for seventh graders.

Junior Christopher Aguilar said, “His stories and the way his examples were jokes were my favorite thing.”

Brañas goes on to explain that teaching became easier as time went on, and the slowly he grew to love it. He grins, “it makes a difference if you really care about teaching, it makes the time worth while, ‘cause of the influence you might potentially have.”

He hopes to be remembered by his students as “someone that was actually working to help them.”

Although Brañas has grown to enjoy his job, he hopes to eventually leave the profession. Brañas’ true passion is art. He said in reference to his goals for the future, “um to become a surviving artist.”

He paints abstract art with a variety of shapes and colors but tends to “sprinkle” his favorite color red wherever he can.

Although he hopes to someday become an artist, and tries to spend a couple times a week on his painting, he will continue to teach for financial reasons.

He explains one of his hardest moments  in his life was taking care of his family and their dry cleaners business. “They got old so it fell to me, so I guess I would say that was my biggest struggle.”

He hopes to one day travel to the “holy land,” Egypt, and one of the poles. He stated that he enjoys summers the most and tries to travel as much as he can, “any place that gets you out of home is good, not that home is bad, but you get to experience new things.”

After being asked what one lesson he would like his students to forever remember he stopped mumbling a “wow” and finally continuing with a “um- educate yourself because it will prepare you for whatever comes ahead.”

Former student, tenth grader Simon Volasco stated, “He is pretty much open to any discussion, any topic, and he always asked questions and was truly interested in what we had to say.”

Eventually the time will come when he will finally be able to move on from teaching but for now, Brañas is here to stay.