2023 Milken ScholarsPhoto 1 of 21
Jessica Amaya Torres
Johns Hopkins University
Jessica Amaya Torres understands the power of storytelling to enact change in her community. When her family faced eviction during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jessica learned about "hostile architecture" — deliberate choices to prevent homeless people from finding refuge in public spaces, like slanted benches with extra armrests on which it's impossible to lie down. She wrote an essay combining her research and personal experiences, honed her public speaking skills, and submitted the essay in video form to the One World Education High School Challenge, where she won the top prize. Jessica is the inaugural winner of the One World Education Distinguished Alumni Award.
Jessica graduated from Benjamin Banneker High School, earning an IB (International Baccalaureate) diploma. She is a QuestBridge National College Match Finalist and received the Harvard Book Prize. Jessica is a member of the National Honor Society, French Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta Honor Society for math, through which she tutored fellow students and helped organize the school's Math Day activities. As a ninth grader, Jessica founded Banneker's Mental Health Club to support her peers and serve as a liaison with teachers and counselors. She led Hispanic Heritage Month assemblies and organized Cultural Day events with the LatinX club.
Jessica served her community through work with the Latin American Youth Center. She led interns in packing and distributing food, birth control and hygiene products, and used social media to promote healthy relationships and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Jessica educated the community on the effects of drug use, shared recovery resources, and helped with naloxone training; promoted the importance of the U.S. census; and led discussions of racism and classism. Working with a chef, Jessica shared recipes for nutritious meals made with staples from Latin American Youth Center's (LAYC) food pantry and created handouts offering solutions for eliminating food deserts.
Jessica will study biology and public health at Johns Hopkins University and plans a career in scientific research.
All photos should be credited to "Milken Family Foundation" unless otherwise noted.