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2017 Milken Scholars Announce 13 Exceptional Seniors from Los Angeles County High Schools

The Scholarship Program Provides a $10,000 Cash Prize Plus a Lifetime of Mentoring and Resources

July 7, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., — The Milken Scholars, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, has selected 13 talented students from the Los Angeles area for its 2017 scholarship program after a rigorous nomination, application and interview process. Open to college-bound high school seniors in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., Milken Scholars are selected based on academic performance, community service, leadership and their ability to persevere in the face of personal challenges.

The 2017 Los Angeles Milken Scholars are:

  • Jose Aceves Salvador, New Open World Academy (MIT)
  • Ruben Anguiano, Franklin High School (Stanford)
  • Julianna Avalos, Granada Hills Charter High School (UC San Diego)
  • Jorge Campos, Manual Arts High School (Harvard)
  • Jorge Campos Franco, West Ranch High School (USC)
  • Linda Chan, Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Gabriel Garcia, Paramount High School (UCLA)
  • Daniel Guillen, Granada Hills Charter High School (Stanford)
  • Mohib Jafri, Granada Hills Charter High School (Harvard)
  • Ayanna Neal, Marymount High School (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Mariko Rooks, Culver City High School (Yale)
  • Rebecca Schusterman, Valley Torah High School (Harvard)
  • Evelyn Wong, Schurr High School (Harvard)

"In the nearly three decades since Lori and I cofounded the Milken Scholars program, these leaders of tomorrow have consistently inspired us by their achievements, leadership and dedication to service," said Milken Institute Chairman Mike Milken. "This year's class of outstanding Los Angeles Scholars is no exception. In welcoming them to the Milken Scholars family, we are confident they can change the world."

Mike and Lori Milken founded the Milken Scholars program to promote and assist young people as they navigate the transitions from high school to college and from college to graduate school or the world of work. Recipients receive a $10,000 scholarship, but more importantly, they gain a lifelong support system that includes ongoing career-related counseling, assistance in securing internships, opportunities for community service and a fund to assist their pursuit of post-undergraduate career goals.

The Los Angeles Milken Scholars will attend a three-day summit this summer in L.A. with over 100 Scholars including new recipients, undergraduates and alumni facilitators from Washington, D.C. and New York. The Los Angeles Scholars are:

Aceves Salvador Jose

Jose Aceves Salvador
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jose Aceves Salvador's love for science is contagious. As the founder of NOW STEM, Jose developed weekly lesson plans, created lab procedures, and recruited and trained 15 fellow high school students at New Open World (NOW) Academy in Los Angeles to serve as STEM mentors to fifth- and sixth-graders. NOW STEM's young students have extracted DNA, studied non-Newtonian fluids, created slime, learned about acids and bases, and conducted chromatography experiments. "I hope to support the great thinkers of a new generation," Jose says. "How cool would it be if these students become scientists?" 

At NOW, where he graduated as valedictorian, Jose served as president of Interact NOW, where he organized fundraisers and beach cleanups, volunteered at food banks and nursing homes, and led discussions about social injustice. He helped his peers apply to college as a mentor for GEAR UP 4 LA, founded a book club, and led fundraising and event committees as president of the Class of 2017 Council. A varsity swimmer and water polo player, Jose is a National Hispanic Scholar and has won numerous honors, including the Warren Christopher Scholarship, Children's Defense Fund – CA Beat the Odds Scholarship, QuestBridge College Prep Scholarship, and Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards Engineering Gold Award. He spent last summer studying biochemistry, calculus, physics, humanities and genomics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he conducted experiments on the human microbiome, including gel electrophoresis, PCR reactions, DNA sequencing and phylogeny analysis. 

Jose will study bioengineering at MIT and plans a career in research and education. 

Anguiano Ruben

Ruben Anguiano
Stanford University

Ruben Anguiano, the valedictorian at Franklin High School in Los Angeles, came home highly decorated from the 2016 United States Academic Decathlon championships in Alaska: he won gold medals in science and earned silver medals in math, economics, speech, interview, essay, social science, and art. But competing isn't the only reason Ruben has devoted himself to Franklin's Academic Decathlon team. As a math coach and mentor to other students, Ruben not only taught math skills but also helped team members build their overall confidence, hone their public speaking skills, and develop disciplined study habits. The team includes both high-achieving students and those who have potential but struggle academically; with Ruben's help, several of the students he has mentored are now on track and headed for college. 

Ruben, an AP Scholar with Distinction, has organized fundraising and community service events as the treasurer of Franklin's Key Club; participated in community cleanups at school and in the neighborhood with the Environmental Club; and staffed weekend community events through an internship with Hire LA Youth. He played varsity basketball and volleyball, and he delivers food regularly to homebound senior citizens with Meals on Wheels. Ruben won academic excellence awards at Franklin in both AP Calculus and AP Biology. Known for his meticulous lab skills, Ruben began his science experiments in middle school, where he first extracted DNA from a strawberry at his family's kitchen table. 

Ruben will study molecular biology at Stanford and is planning a career in scientific research. 

Avalos Juliana

Juliana Avalos
University of California, San Diego

Juliana Avalos wants to see more women in engineering—and she's first in line. At the Girls Who Code summer immersion program at the USC Marshall School of Business, Juliana studied Python, C++, HTML, CSS and Javascript, then created a website to encourage dog adoptions. She spent two days at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo with the Society of Women Engineers, where she shadowed a female industrial engineer, then worked in a small team to design a rollercoaster that was both functional and affordable to build. A graduate of Granada Hills Charter High School, Juliana served as an assistant teacher for the school's Girls Who Code Club, helping other members learn to code and creating website and phone apps geared toward improving mental health at school and in the community. 

Juliana is a National Hispanic Scholar and an AP Scholar with Distinction. As part of her school's nascent AP Capstone program, she conducted primary research on the value of music therapy for elementary school students with autism and the use of art to counter police brutality. She has worked with special needs children through Fantastic Friends, assembled care packages for first responders with Operation Gratitude, volunteered at the Panorama City public library and served on the Pacoima Library Teen Council. 

Juliana will study computer science at the University of California, San Diego and plans a career in software engineering. 

Campos Jorge

Jorge Campos

Before Jorge Campos started his internship in the public finance division of investment bank Stifel Inc., he thought he was going to be a civil engineer. But his stint at Stifel, where he researched and created municipal bonds for cities all over California, changed his mind. Jorge saw billions of dollars flowing into Los Angeles, even as areas like Skid Row and South Central fought for resources—a juxtaposition of wealth and poverty that inspired his new career plans in urban development. "I want to make sure that the resources circulated through a city have a positive tangible impact on the people in those communities," he says. 

The valedictorian at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, Jorge is a National Hispanic Scholar and an AP Scholar with Distinction. He won the Top Ten Scholar Award and is a Coca-Cola Scholar and Dell Scholar. Jorge won regional medals as captain of the Manual Arts Academic Decathlon team and served as president of the Magnet Student Senate, where he organized fairs, banquets and assemblies. As founder of the Health Justice Council, Jorge organized health fairs and set up the school's first water filtration station to keep students hydrated. He started Science for Change, organizing community-based science fairs to promote STEM majors and careers among elementary and middle school students. He helped other students apply to college and for financial aid through the College Ambassador program and served as the South Los Angeles Representative on the Los Angeles Mayor's Youth Council.

Jorge will study economics at Harvard University. 

Campos Franco Jorge

Jorge Campos Franco
University of Southern California

There's a good reason Jorge Campos Franco has spent so much of his high school career supporting cancer research: more than a decade ago, his sister battled brain cancer (and won). Jorge, a graduate of West Ranch High School in Stevenson Ranch, volunteers for the American Cancer Society (ACS), selling merchandise at school sporting events, taking first place in the Road to Recovery Race, and leading an award-winning team that raised $7,500 in the ACS's Relay for Life. He encourages students to donate their spare change to Share Your Blessings and promotes cancer awareness as president of West Ranch's Wildcats Against Cancer, which makes gift baskets for community members suffering from the disease. Jorge volunteered at the annual Evening Under the Stars silent auction for the Michael Hoefflin Foundation, a nonprofit that supports children with cancer. Like the doctor who saved his sister's life, Jorge plans to become a neurosurgeon. 

An AP Scholar with Honor, Jorge won several entrepreneurship awards at the Future Business Leaders of America Gold Coast Section Leadership Conference. He is a member of the National Honor Society, the California Scholarship Federation, and the Key Club. As chairman of outreach for the West Ranch Coding Club, Jorge organized trips to coding competitions and introduced programming applications to the local Boys and Girls Club, where he is in charge of the learning center and teaches chess. 

Jorge will study human biology at the University of Southern California. 

Chan Linda

Linda Chan
University of Pennsylvania

On Sunday afternoons after church services, Linda Chan huddles with elementary school students from Los Angeles' Chinese immigrant community. She helps them with homework, builds their confidence, and challenges them to dedicate themselves to their studies, reminding the children that education is the gateway to escape their parents' difficult, low-income jobs in the restaurant and garment industries. "I help them realize that receiving a solid education will help them get into college and open doors to a brighter future, while making their parents proud," she says. Linda spends much of her time as a translator, interpreter and advisor to her community. Her parents speak little English, so for her own family Linda handles the finances, does the banking and makes important family decisions. No matter the obstacles in her path, Linda is known for handling them with grace and a positive attitude. 

The valedictorian at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School in Los Angeles, Linda was a member of the National Honor Society, a QuestBridge finalist, and a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship. In addition to department awards in world languages and social studies at her school, Linda won the Harvard Book Award and spent a summer at Harvard studying computer science and American government. She was a volunteer coordinator for Chinatown's Business Improvement District, served as secretary and grade representative for the Los Angeles Chinatown Youth Council, and worked as a mentor for Minds Matter of Los Angeles. 

Linda will study biology at the University of Pennsylvania and plans a career in pediatrics.

Garcia Gabriel

Gabriel Garcia

Gabriel Garcia is known as a cool-headed leader—in fact, the more stressful the situation, the calmer he stays. The Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) unit Gabriel led as Company Commander qualified for nationals two years in a row and is ranked 13th in the U.S. Gabriel served as head tutor and commander of Color Guard regulation and was commissioned as a JROTC officer in 10th grade, the first cadet to achieve that level as a sophomore. He won the JROTC Academic Excellence Award and Tutoring/Mentoring Award and was a national finalist for the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl. 

In addition to his academics and leadership activities, Gabriel has devoted hundreds of hours to his community. At Paramount High School, he served as vice president of the student government, planned college trips as president of the California Scholarship Federation, helped a church provide free health screenings and vaccines with the Paramount Leos Club, and served as president of the Paramount Youth Commission, which helps local youth make their voices heard with city officials. Gabriel is an AP Scholar with Distinction and a National PSAT Commended Scholar. He received a commendation from California State Senator Ricardo Lara for helping to found the Paramount-Tepic Sister Cities Xican@ Club and won the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. essay contest. During his high school summers, Gabriel studied college-level math, science, engineering and computer science at UCLA's Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academy. 

Gabriel will study biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles and plans a career in medicine. 

Guillen Daniel

Daniel Guillen
Stanford University

For Daniel Guillen, a graduate of Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) in Granada Hills, running is a team sport. As a youth coach for Student Run Los Angeles, Daniel led training for middle school students as they prepared to run the Los Angeles Marathon and other long-distance races, setting the pace and pushing each student to run his or her personal best during every practice. An accomplished distance runner, Daniel completed the LA Marathon three times. 

Daniel, a National Hispanic Scholar and AP Scholar with Distinction who is part of GHCHS' first AP Capstone cohort, earned the QuestBridge College Match Scholarship and a National Merit Scholarship letter of commendation. A self-taught coder who works in more than five different programming languages, Daniel created a website for his father's carpet-cleaning business. He helped lead practice conferences as a delegate for the GHCHS Model UN, led discussions of emerging science and technology topics for the STEM Club, and volunteered at Discovery Cube Los Angeles, leading visitors through the science exhibits and helping with a Scratch coding workshop for kids. A youth leader at his local church, Daniel is the first in his family to go to college and sees the long-term value of working with kids. He spent a good deal of time tutoring his younger brother to improve his writing: "Each moment I spent with my brother became an investment into his opportunity to learn and succeed independently," says Daniel. 

Daniel will study computer science and engineering at Stanford and plans to become an entrepreneur. 

Jafri Mohib

Mohib Jafri

Mohib Jafri, a valedictorian at Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) in Granada Hills, has filled many roles in GHCHS's student government, including fundraising, public relations and treasurer. To prepare to be treasurer, a role in which he would be managing a budget of $180,000 and a 40-student team, Mohib ran for County Treasurer at California Boys' State, a simulated government summer program in which he oversaw taxes, pensions, salaries and public works projects. In student government, some were initially upset by Mohib's frank talk about the reasoning for annual budget allotments for school clubs, but his continual push for transparency and accountability ultimately earned him the trust of the GHCHS community. 

Mohib received the GHCHS IB Program Highest Honors Award, was a semi-finalist for the Posse Foundation Scholarship, and won the UCLA Global Leadership Connection's Rising Male Leader Award. He earned multiple honors for the varsity debate team and served as co-captain and treasurer for the Science Bowl team, which placed in the top five at the Los Angeles regional National Science Bowl. As captain of the Model UN team, Mohib developed training resources for research and position papers; the team won Best Small School Delegation at UCLA's "Bruin-MUN" conference and Best Large School Delegation at the USC Conference. Mohib also co-founded Project Speak-Up, an organization focusing on youth empowerment through speech. As GHCHS' Operations Committee Student Representative, Mohib worked with the school's administrative staff on a $370,000 clean energy project to convert every light fixture on campus from fluorescent to LED bulbs. 

Mohib will focus on environmental studies at Harvard and plans a career in public service. 

Neal Ayanna

Ayanna Neal
University of Pennsylvania

Ayanna Neal, a graduate of Marymount High School in Los Angeles, has already made a lasting mark on her city. As founder of Friends of the LAX Dunes, Ayanna led the restoration of a section of the LAX Coastal Dunes near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The effort, which involved 600 volunteers and more than $142,000 in grants, earned Ayanna her Girl Scout Gold Award and a Los Angeles World Airports Award; it also led to her being featured by ABC7 News in its "Cool Kid" series, which profiles teen community service leaders.

Ayanna, a Marymount Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary Scholar throughout her high school years and a student admissions ambassador, has won year-end academic awards in English, math, history and French. During a seminar on social justice at Northwestern University, Ayanna's personal experiences with some of the other attendees heightened her awareness of the struggles other races and ethnicities face. Back at Marymount, Ayanna served as one of the coordinators of her school's Diversity Council, where she planned the 2017 Mission in Action Celebration for 400 students around the school's goal of "Unity in Diversity." Ayanna co-chaired a food drive for A Place Called Home, sang in the Marymount choir, belonged to the Tri-M Music Honor Society and played varsity softball. She has been a Girl Scout for 10 years and was recognized as an Emerging Leader. She has worked as a marketing representative for Go Marketing and interned at Inspire Entertainment. Ayanna is a Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Scholar and was featured in an ad campaign for the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward program. 

Ayanna will study philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Pennsylvania and plans a career in law and politics. 

Rooks Mariko

Mariko Rooks

Culver City High School graduate Mariko Rooks has found multiple opportunities to fuel her interest in health care and public health policy. She was a medical scholar at the Osborne Head & Neck Institute (OHNI) in Los Angeles, observing surgeries, helping with labs and patient exams, and compiling case studies. Working with an OHNI physician, Mariko published "Surgery and Your Voice," an article for OHNI's medical journal about how medical procedures and conditions affect the vocal cords. She also worked as a dental assistant, supervising x-rays, scheduling procedures, and providing chairside assistance for dental exams and minor oral surgeries. 

Mariko, an AP Scholar with Distinction and a member of the California Scholarship Federation, earned a National Merit Scholarship Commendation and ACT Perfect Score Recognition. She was nominated for the California Interscholastic Federation's Student-Athlete of the Year Scholarship, captained her school's varsity water polo team, played varsity softball, and successfully convinced the administration to build a new softball field and swimming pool. Through the Youth CAN Japanese American Leadership Program, Mariko was a panelist for the Smithsonian's National Youth Summit on Japanese-American incarceration and spoke at the Day of Remembrance with then-U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (now California's attorney general). She created interactive education materials for Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches to encourage bone marrow registry, reviewed young adult books as part of the Children's Book World Teen Readers' Council, and discussed the bestselling young adult novel The Fault in Our Stars on National Public Radio. 

Mariko will study public health policy at Yale. 

Schusterman Rebecca

Rebecca Schusterman

As a volunteer at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Rebecca Schusterman has experienced both the joy and the heartbreak of health care. In the maternity ward, she delivered meals to new mothers, admitted excited visitors and wheeled mothers and babies to their cars to take their babies home. She found stints in the ICU and oncology more challenging: "My heart [sank] like a stone every time a patient died during my shift," she says. Inspired by the positivity and compassion of the nursing staff, and by the doctors who helped her deaf sister regain her hearing, Rebecca now plans a career in medicine. 

The valedictorian at Valley Torah High School in Valley Village, Rebecca is an AP Scholar with Honor, QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, QuestBridge Finalist and a member of the California Scholarship Federation. On a volunteering trip to Israel, Rebecca trained as a "medical clown" and entertained patients of all ages at foster homes, orphanages and hospitals. She has shadowed physicians at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, interned at Builders of Jewish Education through the Jewish Federation's Teen Initiative Program, and studied genetics, bioethics and world religions at Brandeis University. With Friendship Circle, a Jewish organization that partners volunteers with special needs children, Rebecca worked with a young boy with autism; learning to calm him taught her countless lessons in patience and perseverance. She founded Valley Torah's Recycling Club, which collected bottles and cans and donated the proceeds to Chai Lifeline, a Jewish organization that assists children with life-threatening illnesses. 

After a gap year in Israel, Rebecca will study human developmental and regenerative biology at Harvard. 

Wong Evelyn

Evelyn Wong

Aspiring medical researcher Evelyn Wong has gotten a running start on her STEM career. The valedictorian at Schurr High School in Montebello, Evelyn interned at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC, conducting gene targeting using CRISPR/Cas9 technology and studying cardiomyocyte differentiation. A childhood friend's death from brain cancer inspired Evelyn to pursue science and medicine. She volunteered in the neuroscience, oncology and intensive care units at Keck Hospital of USC, taking vital signs, stocking supplies and shadowing nurses. Spending time with patients during her shifts, she says, "helped me embrace the human face behind medical research." 

A National Merit Finalist and AP Scholar with Distinction, Evelyn was president of the National Honor Society, a California Girls' State delegate and vice president of the California Scholarship Federation. The editor-in-chief of the Spartan Scroll, Schurr's award-winning school newspaper, Evelyn received regional, state and national awards for her sports writing. She competed on several varsity teams, including basketball, cross country, and track and field. Evelyn won the Scholar Athlete Award, coached at Schurr's youth summer camp, and led a Special Olympics basketball team. As founder and president of The Montebello Project, a STEM-based community service club, Evelyn tutored peers in science and math, led robotics projects, and ran a book and supply drive for foster and homeless youth. The vice president of the Youth Community Service Club, Evelyn managed funds, hosted park cleanups, and participated in local service and Heart of Compassion events. She received the Silver Presidential Volunteer Service Award, marking more 196 hours of community service. 

Evelyn will study human development and regenerative biology at Harvard. 

About the Milken Scholars
Michael and Lori Milken founded the Milken Scholars in 1989 to honor exceptional young men and women who have demonstrated the potential to make a profound difference in the world. Scholars are chosen while high school seniors on the basis of distinguished academic performance, school and community service, leadership, and evidence of having overcome personal and social obstacles. Milken Scholars receive financial assistance plus a strong support system of resources and networks during their academic and professional careers. 

As of 2017, more than 400 Milken Scholars have been selected from over 175 high schools in Los Angeles County, New York City and Washington, D.C. Milken Scholars embody a variety of ages, backgrounds, and academic and professional interests, and represent elite colleges and universities in the country. Nearly one-third were born outside the United States and three-quarters have parents originating from 66 countries. Nearly half were the first in their family to attend college. 

Throughout their college careers, Scholars are in regular communication with Scholars staff and each other. They meet with Foundation staff and mentors during campus visits and special events, including an annual Summit that provides guidance and insights through speakers, panels and activities. These resources create a setting that propels these exceptional youth into a position where they can achieve their personal, academic and professional goals and, in the process, become lifelong leaders for a better world.

For more information about the Milken Scholars program, visit

Sabrina Skacan
Media Relations Manager
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