A real sense of family prevailed in the Con Ed auditorium on the evening of June 18th as an eager crowd gathered for the annual Children's Aid Society E.X.C.E.L. ceremony honoring high school and college graduates. Students' families were in attendance, in addition to the families formed at Children's Aid community centers and schools across the city - support networks of peers and staff that have proven invaluable in the lives of many teens.
Quenniqua Martinez, 17, Children's Aid's Youth of the Year and a member of the Frederick Douglass Center since age 6, said, "There is always someone there to talk to and someone to support me when my family can't."
The Children's Aid Society's E.X.C.E.L. (Educational Excellence Creating Empowered Leaders) is a comprehensive educational and life skills program designed to engage students, ages 14-21, in a breadth of services geared towards preparing them for college and promoting their future success.
In an emotional ceremony, 48 exceptional graduates were recognized for their achievements, ranging from academic excellence to overcoming obstacles to demonstrating leadership and community service. The young peoples' hard work and perseverance were lauded and accomplishments celebrated. Children's Aid's CEO, C. Warren Moses, praised the "beautiful, smart articulate young people" gathered for the ceremony.
As college costs rise and aid to low-income students declines, higher education is increasingly out of reach for many youth. To help ease the burden of these escalating costs, fifteen graduating high school seniors received scholarships provided by Children's Aid, individual donors and corporate sponsors.
As he presented a scholarship named in honor of his father to the college graduate with the highest grade point average (Wendy Flores), former mayor David N. Dinkins told tales from his own college days and emphasized the importance of education.
At the end of the evening, the graduates were excited for the new adventures and challenges that lay ahead. The Children's Aid Society wishes them the best of luck!
Photo Caption: Bob Stern congratulates Quenniqua Martinez, winner of the first Jean L. Stern Memorial Scholarship.