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Four Extraordinary College-Bound NYC Students Earn $10,000 Milken Scholars Award

2024 class represents Program's 35th anniversary developing "Lifelong Leaders for a Better World"

July 1, 2024

Santa Monica, Calif., Four outstanding students in New York City have been selected to join the prestigious 2024 class of Milken Scholars! The scholarship Program, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, honors high school seniors in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles County each year with a $10,000 cash prize and lifelong access to college advising, career counseling, internship assistance, community service opportunities, and a fund to help with graduate school applications, unpaid internships, study abroad programs, and other costs associated with their pursuit of a career.

The 2024 New York City Milken Scholars are: 

  • Abigail Ansah, Bard High School Early College, Williams College
  • Amanda Cisse, Stuyvesant High School, Barnard College
  • Eana Shah, The Nightingale-Bamford School, Columbia University
  • Lesley Yupa, Townsend Harris High School, New York University 

Established in 1989 by Mike and Lori Milken, the Milken Scholars Program celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. After completing a rigorous nomination, application and interview process, Milken Scholars are selected based on academic performance, community service, leadership, and their ability to persevere in the face of personal challenges. Past recipients include inaugural poetAmanda Gorman;Ruben Harutunian, treasurer of the board of the Binational Fulbright Commission in Egypt and minister-counselor for public diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo; Dr. Joelle Simpson, chief of emergency medicine at Children's National Hospital; and award-winning entrepreneur Emanuel Yekutiel.

"In its 35th year, as the Milken Scholars Program approaches a total of nearly 600 remarkable young men and women representing more than 80 nations, Lori and I never fail to be amazed and gratified by their achievements," said Mike Milken.

In June, the NYC Milken Scholars were celebrated by the NYC Milken Scholars community at an annual Recognition Ceremony. This month, they will attend a three-day summit in Los Angeles with over 100 Scholars including new Milken Scholars from Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles County, as well as undergraduates and alumni facilitators in fields across all industries. Students gain insight and guidance from speakers, panels and activities while discussing the Summit theme "Shaping a Shared Future" and learning more about the support structure they will receive throughout their college careers and beyond. Access to such resources creates 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."

Mike and Lori Milken founded the Milken Scholars Program to promote and assist exceptional youth as they navigate the transitions from high school to college and from college to graduate school or the world of work. As of 2024, the program reaches over 575 students representing more than 80 countries of origin since its first 1989 class.

Milken Scholars embody a variety of ages, backgrounds, and academic and professional interests, and attend some of the top colleges and universities in the country. Twenty-five percent were born outside the U.S. and 78% have parents originating from over 80 countries. More than half are first generation in their family to attend college, while 46% are the first person in their family to attend college in the U.S. The class of 2024 is one of the most diverse yet, representing 16 countries spanning North America, Central America, West Africa, Northeast Africa, the Middle East, Western Europe, East Asia, and South Asia.


Abigail Ansah
Williams College 

With an unwavering passion for civil rights and social justice, Abigail Ansah works to eliminate barriers in the communities that have impacted her. Cases in point are designing a sustainable city on an international program in Dublin, Ireland, to emphasize the need for community-building, and supporting children with disabilities by volunteering at the Dancing Dreams nonprofit. 

A graduate of Bard High School Early College Manhattan, Abigail's academic prowess paved the way to her earning an associate's degree from Bard College. She received the Council on International Educational Exchange's (CIEE) Global Navigator Scholarship, where she traveled to Ireland to speak with students from across the globe about the American justice system. Abigail furthered her law studies at the New York University High School Law Institute, where she engaged in criminal law and speech and debate courses taught by NYU students. Through the NYC Imagine Youth Council, Abigail joined young student leaders to transform the New York City public school system by voicing their ideas at conferences and summits. Additionally, she participated in the NY Association of Black Journalists' First Take Program and served as co-president of the Black Student Alliance. 

Abigail's calling to improve the world shines in her extracurricular activities and community service. Among them are Bard High School's Early College Smart Scholars, the Dancing Dreams nonprofit, and organizing the Women's and Children's Shelter Donation Drive. Abigail earned Most Valuable Player on her school's step team, whose talents brought them to perform at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also mentored students at her school through the Big Sibs Mentorship Program, which contributed to her own development as an underclassman during COVID. 

Abigail will study political science on the pre-law track at Williams College. 

Amanda Cisse 
Barnard College

Amanda Cisse is passionate about exploring different cultures and highlighting the uniting power of people's diverse backgrounds. Determined to learn more about the culture and language of her peers, Amanda applied to and won the U.S. Department of State National Security Language Initiative for Youth to study Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan. Amanda's passion for bridging cultural gaps and maintaining a global awareness prompted her to take on leadership roles within her school and community, such as becoming the student government president and a student equity leader for the New York City Department of Education Stuyvesant Diversity and Inclusion Team. 

Personifying the multicultural student experience, Amanda won the national Princeton Prize in Race Relations and was a National French Exam Silver Medalist. Mayor Eric Adams recognized Amanda for her 10-minute civil rights documentary that earned first place In New York City's National History Day competition and took third in the state. In addition, she received honors for serving as team access and inclusion lead at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Youth Preparedness Council from Deanne Criswell, a FEMA administrator. 

Beyond serving as Stuyvesant High School’s student government president, Amanda extended her leadership as the Black Student League president, student newspaper opinion writer, and as a representative of Stuyvesant at the NYC Department of Education student leadership team. She excelled academically and was a College Board National African American scholar. Amanda’s community impact shines brightly through her internships with New York City government officials, including for her state assemblywoman. This summer, she will continue her local involvement by working at the Manhattan District Attorney's office. 

Amanda will study economics and social history at Barnard College and plans a career in government. 

Eana Shah
Columbia University 

Inspired by her family's stories from Bangladesh and the TEAK Fellowship, Eana Shah is a strong advocate for educational access locally and across the globe. As a leader in advocacy work, Eana tutors children in Bangladesh and manages many worldwide volunteers. To date, her service has led to the launch of local schools and has been recognized through The Diana Award and The Daily Point of Light Award for positively impacting the lives of others. 

Ever aware of the needs of her community, Eana continues to seek change in the healthcare and education fields. Through the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Eana worked with physicians to launch a medical clinic in New York designed to treat patients unable to access healthcare otherwise. Eana's efforts to shine a light on medical disparities were recognized by Congresswoman Grace Meng at the Young Leaders Conference. Eana believes that science holds the key to solving real-world problems; her independent research was published in the International Journal for High School Research, and she won first place in the 2021 Girls Computing League Healthcare Summit for innovation at the intersection of artificial intelligence and healthcare. 

A consummate leader, Eana has left her mark at The Nightingale-Bamford School as a leader in affinity spaces designed to uplift student voices in the South Asian, Muslim, and first-generation communities. A Math Team competitor and Robotics captain, Eana encouraged gender diversity in STEM through LadiesinFIRST. She often spearheaded initiatives to celebrate the arts on campus and collaborated with independent schools across the world as chair of the Round Square and Global Connections Committee. 

Eana will study data science on a premed track at Columbia University.

Lesley Yupa
New York University 

Lesley Yupa sees the world through a lens of curiosity and compassion. Guided by a love for healthcare and science, Lesley embarked on a student research internship at the Nadrian Seeman DNA Structural Nanotechnology Laboratory within NYU's chemistry department, where she conducted research and presented to faculty. She participated in NYU's Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP), earning an award for her presentation at the program's research exposition. Additionally, Lesley worked as an NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene intern, volunteered at NYU's Langone Medical Center Outpatient Surgery Center, and engaged in CUNY's Health Professions Mentorship Program. 

A graduate of Townsend Harris High School, Lesley is an AP Scholar with Distinction; recipient of the Coca-Cola Scholarship, the New York State Seal of Biliteracy Award, and the College Board National Hispanic Recognition Award; and finalist of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. She served as president of her school's Get Your Life Together Club, where she provided peers with networking opportunities, guest speakers, resume workshops, and internship connections. Lesley also co-led La Herencia Hispana Club, played varsity soccer, and served as student union class senator, member of the Red Cross Club, and member of the student newspaper. 

A fierce advocate for her community, Lesley volunteered at the Luv Michael nonprofit to drive autism awareness. At Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, she provided interpretation and emotional support to patients, trained new volunteers, and even organized dog therapy events. Through the DOROT Teens Internship Program, Lesley supported senior citizens with weekly home visits. In her Corona, Queens, neighborhood, she worked as a tutor, mentor and camp counselor at the Father Billini Association Summer Camp. 

Lesley will study global public health and chemistry at NYU and plans to pursue an MBA and a career in the medical field. 

About the Milken Scholars
Michael and Lori Milken founded the Milken Scholars in 1989 to honor exceptional young individuals 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, financial, and/or social obstacles. Milken Scholars receive financial assistance plus a strong support system of resources and networks during their academic and professional careers. For more information,