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Four Talented Washington, D.C. High School Seniors Selected as 2016 Milken Scholars

In Addition to a $10,000 cash prize, the Scholarship Provides a Lifetime of Mentoring and Resources

June 20, 2016

Santa Monica, CA – The Milken Scholars, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, has selected four exceptional high school seniors as 2016 Milken Scholars. The Scholars were chosen based on academic performance, community service, leadership and their ability to persevere in the face of challenges.

“We’re honored to welcome these exceptional students to the Scholars family,” said Mike Milken, who cofounded the program with his wife Lori in 1989. “Each has already demonstrated academic excellence, a commitment to community service and the fortitude to overcome adversity.  Many are children of first- and second-generation Americans. We’re pleased to offer them a helping hand and grateful for the opportunity to interact with tomorrow’s leaders.”

Scholars receive a $10,000 scholarship, but what makes the program unique is the access to a lifetime of resources provided to scholarship recipients. The Washington, D.C. Scholars program is also the beneficiary of support from EJF Philanthropies.

The 2016 Washington, D.C. Milken Scholars and the universities they will attend are:

Xiu Chen

Xiu Chen 250w

Throughout her career at Schools Without Walls Senior High School in Washington, D.C., salutatorian Xiu Chen has been fascinated by worms. For her senior capstone thesis, Xiu worked in a lab at Howard University, researching the functions of 16 genes in the reproductive systems of roundworms. Her goal: understanding how similar genes in humans regulate the meiosis cycle and fertilization. Through the EnvironMentors Program, she investigated the effect of metal toxins on human health by looking at the effects of iron on the heart rates of black worms and studied cyanobacteria levels in the Potomac River. One of Xiu’s teachers describes her as “an intensely academically motivated student” with “a fierce passion for science.”

The daughter of Chinese immigrants, Xiu is a National Merit Commended Scholar and Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Scholar who has won numerous EnvironMentors Science Fair awards, including the Ronald Carvalho Memorial Scholarship. She also won the Euro Challenge competition for her region, proposing policies to address weaknesses in the German banking system. Xiu attended a Women’s Technology Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she learned to code in Python, built a direct current motor, and presented on the complexity of NP-Hard games like Candy Crush.

Xiu spends Saturdays at a Chinese community center, where she teaches English, tutors high school students in Mandarin, and helps community members complete applications for affordable housing. As the leader of the community service club, Xiu organized an assembly on homelessness and poverty, then collected necessities for needy families. Xiu will study biology and computer science at Yale.

Daniel Nguyen
George Washington University

Daniel Nguyen 250w

As co-captain of the award-winning robotics club at Capital City Charter High School in Washington, D.C., Daniel Nguyen led the team’s strategic planning and robot design, as well as serving as lead programmer and builder for one of the team’s robots. Juggling factors like battery life and availability of parts makes building a robot like solving a puzzle, says Daniel. He loves the challenge of creating machines to do his bidding, but he sees the bigger picture: “I want to put my passion and drive into engineering to help solve some of the problems the world faces today, such as global warming and clean water.”

As an Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) scholar, Daniel studied mathematics, engineering and writing at both Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, earning college credits. He participated in the National History Day competition for three years in a row, taking home awards each year. The child of Vietnamese immigrants, Daniel is also a varsity athlete in both tennis and track and field.

A respected community leader and his class’s salutatorian, Daniel was president of the student government association, where he planned and led class events, meetings and fundraisers. The student government’s most significant achievement under Daniel’s stewardship: developing and executing a plan to help his classmates fulfill their community service requirements and achieve a 100% on-time graduation rate. Daniel’s counselor describes him as “a consensus-builder” who “strives for excellence at every turn.” He will study mechanical engineering and computer science at George Washington University and is the recipient of the prestigious GWU Trachtenberg Scholarship.

Philip O’Sullivan
University of Chicago

Philip OSullivan 250w

Philip O’Sullivan loves history — and he helps others love it too. As a museum assistant at the National Park Service’s Mary McLeod Bethune historic site, Philip leads tours for visitors, sharing the story of Dr. Bethune, an African American educator who became part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Black Cabinet. He enjoys sharing his passion for the past: “I get to watch kids’ eyes light up as I describe [Bethune’s life],” says Philip.

A graduate of School Without Walls Senior High School in Washington, D.C., Philip is a member of the National Honor Society and an AP Scholar with Honor. He won a gold medal in the National Latin Exam, was named MVP at the D.C. Public Schools’ AP Psychology Quiz Bowl, and won the D.C. Public Libraries’ Teen Book Review Contest. Philip clerks at the global law firm Arnold & Porter, officiates at children’s games as a U.S. Soccer certified referee, and rowed on the varsity crew team. He will study history at the University of Chicago and plans to become a lawyer.

At School Without Walls, Philip wrote his senior thesis on photo ID laws and their effect on voting access for low-income voters. Philip believes strongly in the principles of compassion, helping others, and not being afraid to fight for the greater good: “I want to help fight for the rights of all,” he says. “I want to help those who often get the least help and consideration.”

Najya Williams

Najya Williams 250w

Every morning, six-year-old Najya Williams and her mother watched families welcome new babies on Discovery Health Network’s “A Baby Story.” Seeing the pediatricians listening to the newborns’ heartbeats and testing their reflexes left a strong impression on young Najya, who now plans a career in medical research and public health. As a field trip coordinator for STRIVE Next Step D.C., which works with inner-city youth living with sickle cell disease, Najya has counseled teenagers, helping them overcome social and academic challenges; working with them on public speaking and creative writing; and assisting with homework and college applications.

As Najya worked with STRIVE, she paid close attention to the way her high-needs neighborhood was portrayed in the organization’s publicity materials. Nayja wrote a paper proposing alternative language that would not limit the potential in the youth the organization serves. Her paper was published in Penn State Berk’s Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research, and STRIVE asked Najya to help them revise their materials. Najya is also vice chair of the Mayor’s D.C. Youth Program, a group that advocates for the rights of young people.

Najya, the valedictorian at School Without Walls Senior High School in Washington, D.C., and a member of the National Honor Society, made the Dean’s List as part of the Early College Program at George Washington University and has presented at the George Washington University Albert H. Small Symposium. As leader of the Poetry Club, Najya performed at the group’s annual spoken word events, connected members with contests and publication opportunities, and received the group’s Outstanding Participation award in both 2014 and 2015. She will study public health at Harvard.

Since its founding in 1989 by Lori and Michael Milken, the Milken Scholars Program has supported more than 400 Scholars from diverse backgrounds, and nearly half were the first in their family to attend college.

Throughout their college careers, Milken Scholars are in regular communication with Milken Scholars staff, mentors and with one another.

Every summer, Scholars participate in a three-day Summit in Los Angeles, where Scholars staff and a range of distinguished speakers provide a forum for the participants to discuss issues crucial to their personal, academic and professional success. A Summit highlight for the New York Scholars will be their first encounter with fellow Scholars chosen from Washington, D.C. and Greater Los Angeles. Over the coming years, the Summit will provide opportunities for Scholars to form and renew friendships, reflect on their personal growth, and exchange ideas and aspirations.

Milken Scholars are selected in their senior year of high school through a rigorous nomination, application review and interview process.

For details about the Milken Scholars Program, visit

To schedule interviews, contact Ana Beatriz Cholo,; (310) 570-4773 (work); (312) 927-4845 (cell).


Ana Beatriz Cholo
Media Relations Manager
310-570-4773 (Office)
312-927-4845 (Cell)
Twitter: @AnaBeatriz_MFF