Updated: Nov 13
by Fernando Pascual
Coach Michael Dukes quietly leads.
From his early days at Columbus to his involvement in aquatic sports and clubs, Dukes' story is one of dedication, passion and building a sense of community.
His journey at Christopher Columbus High School began in 2008, but his path to the school was far from conventional. Coach Dukes wrestled for Coach Husk in high school at Miami Southridge Sr. High, where he was extremely successful winning two back-to-back team state titles and a runner-up title. This relationship laid the foundation for his involvement with Columbus.
After college, Dukes returned to Miami and aspired to coach and teach. Dukes reached out to Coach Husk, who had retired from the public school system and joined Columbus as head wrestling coach. A successful interview with Br. Pat who was the principal at the time, landed Coach Dukes a job on the spot. He began as a full-time substitute, teaching various subjects within the PE department. In addition to teaching, he took on the role of assistant wrestling coach for eight years, playing a pivotal role in developing not only great wrestlers but also exceptional individuals.
However, Dukes' journey at Columbus didn't stop there in fact many would say Dukes' imprint on Columbus has been just as present or even more outside of the classroom.
He has been deeply involved with water-oriented teams and clubs.
"I've always low-key loved the water," he said.
He took up lifeguarding during the summer after high school to help pay for college, and slowly he started to explore new hobbies like motorcycle riding, scuba diving, freediving and fishing.
Dukes’ involvement with aquatic activities at Columbus began when a student named Erick Jimenez was contemplating ending his wrestling career. Erick was a junior at a time when he began thinking about quitting; however, Dukes urged him to finish his senior year. Consequently, together they would create a club which would end up being the Anglers Club. Eight years later the club has grown and student interest evolved into different water-orientated activities and given members an amazing extracurricular activity.
Senior Nicholas Fleites stated, “Being able to travel to Louisiana to fish was a surreal experience, and it was truly the opportunity of a lifetime”.
One of his greatest achievements at Columbus is the rebuilding of the swim team, which was not in his plan at all. Following his departure as an assistant coach for the wrestling team, Columbus was in need of a short-term swim coach while they searched for a long-term coach, which had been an ongoing struggle.
Dukes volunteered, as he does often, for this short replacement. However, his ability to reform the program led the Swim team to become a competitive team worthy of Columbus with two district titles and GMAC since being brought in six years ago. Of course, Dukes is still looking to improve while searching for that coveted State title.
Senior Mateo Silva, a Varsity Swimmer since Fresham Year, stated, “Being able to be coached by Dukes never felt like a chore, he was able to make practices, lifts, and meets enjoyable while still pushing us to compete at a high level".
What has kept Coach Dukes at Columbus for so long?
For him, it's the sense of community.
"The diversity in the activities and clubs provided, the ability to do what you want for the boys, and, most importantly, those knuckleheaded kids who can make me smile and laugh regardless of their antics," he says.
It's the joy of working at Columbus that has fueled his passion for teaching and coaching.
Coach Dukes' story is a testament to the impact teachers and coaches can have on their students' lives. He has not only molded successful athletes but has also helped build a strong sense of community.
His Columbus journey, although far from over, is a reminder of the transformative power of education and mentorship.