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Three Talented Washington, D.C. High Schoolers Enter 2017 Milken Scholars Program

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

June 1, 2017

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

The Washington, D.C. Scholars program benefits from the partnership and support from EJF Philanthropies.

The 2017 Washington, D.C. Milken Scholars are:

  • Benjamin Dormus, School Without Walls Senior High School (Yale University)
  • Jenesis Duran, Washington Latin Public Charter School (Yale University)
  • Shu (Sue) Phua, Wilson W. Senior High School (University of Virginia)

"This year's Milken Scholars class of high school seniors are forward-thinking, innovative and charismatic. We couldn't be more pleased to welcome them into the Milken Scholars family," said Mike Milken, who cofounded the program with his wife Lori in 1989. "These D.C. students strengthen our belief that America's youth can change the world, because they already have. Their intelligence and determination to create positive change in their schools and communities demonstrate their immense potential."

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

Benjamin Dormus

Benjamin Dormus
Yale University

Benjamin Dormus' home life is anything but typical. For two years, Ben has lived with his parents at Monument Academy, a public charter elementary boarding school in Washington, D.C. for at-risk youth from the foster care system. When his parents became the house parents at Monument, Ben instantly gained eight impressionable little brothers who observed his every move and hung on his every word. Ben quickly realized he had a unique opportunity and responsibility to shape their futures by modeling academic success and sharing his extracurricular interests and achievements. Living at Monument, where the young students' families have struggled with drug abuse, violence and poverty, has cemented Ben's desire to pursue a career in public service.

Ben has been active in the YMCA Youth and Government Club, an organization that models state and national assemblies, both at School Without Walls Senior High School and at his previous school in Pennsylvania. He was chosen Outstanding Representative for the Pennsylvania Youth House of Representatives, Outstanding Senator for the Pennsylvania Youth Senate, and Youth Mayor of D.C., and his work produced five pieces of legislation. Ben also co-founded and directs Young Democrats, an activism club that promotes civic engagement at local, national and international levels. He has campaigned for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Hillary Clinton, hosted voter registration drives in Washington, D.C. and Virginia, lobbied for the District's statehood movement, and participated in the search for the District's new chancellor of public schools.

Benjamin will attend Yale University and plans a career as a lawyer and public servant.

Jenesis Duran

Jenesis Duran
Yale University

Jenesis Duran isn't yet sure whether she wants to practice medicine or law, but she knows two things: She plans to focus on public health, and she wants to live "a meaningful life." And she's off to a good start. Her science fair project on water quality in Washington, D.C. won her top honors at D.C.'s Washington Latin Public Charter School and the DC STEM Fair, where she won the Stockholm Junior Water Prize, Commissioned Officers Association U.S. Public Health Service Meritorious Award, Federal Water Quality Association First Place Team Environmental Award, and U.S. Public Health Service Medal. An essay about the project earned her a week in Switzerland, sponsored by the Swiss Embassy.

As Youth Vice President for the League of United Latin American Citizens, Jenesis has lobbied on Capitol Hill and attended national conventions focused on diversity and inclusion. An accomplished debater, she took fourth place in the Qatar Foundation International's Model UN, the highest-ranking American in the competition. Jenesis participated in a panel on D.C. education with journalist Soledad O'Brien, plunged into computer languages with the Lockheed Martin Girls Who Code summer program at Georgetown University, observed surgeries and shadowed physicians through a summer medical externship at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and led Washington Latin's varsity soccer team to two consecutive championships as captain. She is a youth leader at her church, where her father serves as pastor.

Jenesis will attend Yale University.

Shu Phua

Shu (Sue) Phua
University of Virginia

Early each morning, Shu (Sue) Phua heads down to the Potomac River. As head coxswain for the women's crew team at Washington, D.C.'s Wilson W. Senior High School, Sue coaches a boat of accomplished rowers through their morning practices, navigating around traffic and debris, pushing each individual athlete to give her all as the team pushes and pulls its oars through the water in rhythm. Known for her cool, calm manner under pressure, Sue has received both the Newcomer of the Year Award and the Coach's Award.

An aspiring pediatrician, Sue spends much of her time working with young children. As treasurer of Wilson's Literacy Club, she tutors children in the District's public elementary schools and raises money for early literacy efforts. Sue cares for and tutors young children both at the Chevy Chase Children's Center and for a local family. She is an AP Scholar with Distinction, belongs to the National Honor Society, and received a Letter of Commendation from the National Merit Scholarship program. Sue coordinates tutoring at Wilson as secretary of the National Honor Society, is a member of the school's chapter of National Organization for Women (NOW), and assists teachers and administrators at John Eaton Middle School as an office aide. She also belongs to the school's bridge club and is working toward participating in citywide bridge competitions.

Sue will study psychology at the University of Virginia and plans a career in medicine.

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
310-570-4773 Office 310-989-5875 Cell