DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. -- Salutatorian Megan Candelaria and valedictorian Juergen Uraga led the way as the Kenneth Clark Academy in Dobbs Ferry graduated the Class of 2014 on Friday, June 27.
Candelaria and Uraga, both residents at St. Christopher Inc. in Dobbs Ferry, have excelled at the school, which is an organization that helps teens with emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities.
Uraga said he came to St. Christopher's four years ago as a troubled kid but allowed the staff and teachers support him through his education.
"It's a wonderful experience for me (being valedictorian) and knowing I have accomplished so much here," Uraga said. "It's important that young people take responsibility for their lives and work hard. I look back four years ago and think, ‘Wow, I could have studied more,’ but in the present time I realized that no matter what, things are always hard, and at the end of the day you’re still growing,"
Uraga was a member of the chess team and basketball team and took part in several internships, including one with MSG Varsity in sports television programming.
Candelaria is already working part-time at a Fairway food store in Manhattan and plans to attend Monroe College in the Bronx to study criminal justice, She has earned six college credits through St. Christopher's in Advanced Placement courses.
"I've learned so much through the counseling (at St. Christopher's) programs and school (Clark Academy) and I know I have a future that I am building for myself," Candaleria said. "
Candaleria said she struggled with anger through her childhood and early teens, which led her to St. Christopher's, where over time she began to change and opened herself up to the staff and faculty.
A member of the school's chess team and a participant in numerous community activities, including Garden Growing programs and the Midnight Run in New York City, she is proudest of her role on the girls basketball team – where she holds a school records for most points in one game.
"I would tell young kids who are struggling that it's important to reach out and get the help you need," Candaleria said. "Life is not easy, but you have to focus on getting an education and being prepared for the future."