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Milken Scholars Select Six Extraordinary New York High School Seniors for 2017 Class

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

May 31, 2017

SANTA MONICA, Calif., —The Milken Scholars, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, has chosen six talented students from the New York area for its 2017 scholarship program after a rigorous nomination, application and interview process. Open to college-bound high school seniors in New York, Los Angeles 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 New York Milken Scholars are:

  • Daniella Gonzalez, Cristo Rey New York High School (Princeton)
  • Melissa Hynds, Central Park East High School (Johns Hopkins University)
  • David Mardakhayev, Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School (New York University)
  • Noreen Mohsin, Townsend Harris High School (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Michael Williams, Millennium Brooklyn High School (University of Pennsylvania)
  • Namra Zulfiqar, Stuyvesant High School (Yale University)

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

Daniella Gonzalez

Daniela Gonzalez
Princeton University

"If you want to be someone in this world, do your best in school." Aspiring engineer Daniella Gonzalez has taken these wise words from her mother to heart. A native of Colombia who came to New York in sixth grade as an English Language Learner, Daniella will graduate from Cristo Rey New York High School in New York City with some of the highest test scores in the school’s history. She is known as a strong speaker and an even stronger writer with an impressive work ethic and abundant intellectual curiosity.

A QuestBridge Finalist, QuestBridge Scholar, and recipient of the Quest for Excellence New York City Award, Daniella took first place at the Microsoft Hackathon and has studied programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, JQuery and Python through ScriptEd, including classes at Google’s New York offices. She dedicated her time to singing in the school choir, and playing basketball and varsity softball. Daniella has spent several summers studying urban design in Madrid.

For four years, Daniella has interned at Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB) through Cristo Rey’s work-study program. Her time at CMMB has taught her not only about the various roles within the organization, but also about important life skills like teamwork, relationship-building, communication and judgment, qualities that she says “made me a better person and worker.”

Daniella will attend Princeton University and plans to study computer science and electrical engineering.

Melissa Hynds

Melissa Hynds
Johns Hopkins University

Melissa Hynds, who will soon graduate from New York City’s Central Park East High School, doesn’t spend much time in her comfort zone. For her internship at Columbia University, Melissa partnered with a mentor who was researching cancer and cell division. She ended up conducting parts of the experiment on her own and pushed past her reservations about public speaking to present her findings to the coordinators of the program. Melissa has also spoken at fundraising events for Minds Matter, the academic support and mentoring network she credits with building both her skills and her confidence.

An AP Scholar who has taken the most challenging courses offered at Central Park East, Melissa is a member of the National Honor Society and the College Board’s National Hispanic Recognition Program. At the Academic Leadership Development Academy, Melissa honed her critical thinking skills and learned to examine important issues from multiple perspectives. She spent last summer studying literature at Harvard University, where she met students from around the world.

Alarmed by the poor eating and exercise habits of her peers at Central Park East, Melissa co-founded the Fit Club, which teaches students how to make healthy choices on a budget. Melissa belongs to her school’s running club and tutors elementary students in her neighborhood. She also co-founded Operation Lady Business, raising money to buy personal hygiene products for homeless women.

Melissa will attend Johns Hopkins University and plans a career in medicine.

David Mardakhayev

David Mardakhayev
New York University

At Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, New York, aspiring engineer David Mardakhayev is known as a true Renaissance man. A Cloud Peak Project Fellow, New York State Scholarship for Academic Excellence recipient and National Honor Society member, David is just as happy digging into calculus and linear algebra in citywide competitions with the school’s math team as he is working out a Megadeth song on his guitar or handling master of ceremonies duties for Roosevelt’s fashion, multicultural and talent shows.

As vice president of Roosevelt’s robotics club, David organizes meetings where the group learns about circuitry, designs and builds robots, and events like high school fairs where club members show off their creations. A section editor for Roosevelt’s school paper, David also writes music reviews and research-intensive articles about conservation.

David serves as a Roosevelt student ambassador and is constantly talking to parents and prospective students, giving tours to incoming freshmen, representing the school at high school fairs and training new ambassadors. David volunteers at New York Methodist Hospital, helping the nurses feed, clean and entertain patients. The Azerbaijan native is generous with his time and knowledge, particularly with respect to the college selection and application process, and can often be found at a school computer helping other students narrow their college lists and fill out applications.

David will study electrical engineering at New York University.

Noreen Mohsin

Noreen Mohsin
University of Pennsylvania

It’s hard to keep up with Noreen Mohsin—literally. An accomplished distance runner, Noreen is captain and MVP of the varsity cross country and track and field teams at Townsend Harris High School in Queens, New York, has finished in the top 20 at citywide track meets, and has twice qualified for New York’s cross country state championship. She leads team workouts, organizes fundraisers and events, and coordinates transportation to competitions for more than 50 athletes.

Noreen is a National Merit Scholarship Commended Student, president of the ARCHON National Honor Society, and a member of the ARISTA National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta National Honor Society. An AP Scholar with Honor, Noreen earned gold medals on the National Latin Exam two years in a row and was a finalist in the 13th annual New York City Bar Association essay contest. Noreen was featured as a trumpet soloist with her school orchestra, served as first chair trumpet and section leader of the Townsend Harris band, and won a soloist medal from the New York State School Music Association. She also performs in Townsend Harris’ “Festival of Nations” world cultures dance productions to embrace and celebrate her Pakistani-American heritage.

As a freshman peer mentor, Noreen counsels new Townsend Harris students about academics and extracurricular activities. She has organized recreational activities at a local nursing home, phone-banked and canvassed for the campaign of Congressional candidate Jon Kaiman, and volunteered at the Fort Hamilton Post Library. Noreen has also interned at the Queens County Supreme Court and Deloitte Consulting.

Noreen will study business at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams
University of Pennsylvania

Michael Williams hopes to change the world through storytelling. On his website,, he has explored the Rastafari religion of his mother’s native Jamaica, conducted research and made commentary on various social issues. He is currently working on exposing the shortcomings of the criminal justice system. As a youth advisory board member for Cyphers for Justice, a program at Columbia University for spoken word poetry, digital media and creative writing, Michael has made presentations about government corruption and facilitated workshops for youth incarcerated at Rikers Island, New York’s primary jail complex. With BRIC Arts Media, Michael helped plan and facilitate Concrete Stories, a youth-produced media festival. He spent last summer studying film production at Stanford University and journalism at Princeton University.

Michael has served as class president for the 11th and 12th grades at Millennium Brooklyn High School in New York City. He belongs to the National Honor Society and is on the school’s High Honor Roll. Michael started Millennium’s first peer mediation program, has performed with the school drama club, and served as vice president of the Black Student Union, where he planned activities and advocacy to increase knowledge about the black diaspora.

Michael serves as an admissions ambassador and student board of directors representative for The Opportunity Network and has volunteered with the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, where he facilitated weekly discussions, outreach and advocacy for the LGBT community. A compelling writer, Michael wrote an essay that earned him the New York City Police Department’s Commissioner for a Day Award.

Michael will attend the University of Pennsylvania and plans a career in journalism, law or politics.

Namra Zulfiqar

Namra Zulfiqar
Yale University

As class president at Stuyvesant High School in New York City, Namra Zulfiqar has made her mark. In addition to planning school spirit events, college trips, and social events like the junior prom, she successfully advocated for the addition of new AP classes, including AP Art History and 3-D Art and Technology. Namra has also advocated for homeless youth, developing policy recommendations for local government officials as a member of the Youth Justice Board at the Center for Court Innovation. Namra has volunteered at soup kitchens and homeless shelters as a project captain for Stuyvesant’s Key Club and Red Cross Club.

A member of the ARISTA Honor Society, Namra has won awards for web design from the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese, honors for improvisational speaking and original oratory at the Muslim Interscholastic Tournament, and a medal in the National Spanish Exam. As president of StuySquad, the school’s annual dance showcase, Namra led more than 500 dancers on 20 different dance crews in performances that raised more than $4,000 for charity. At the New York Hall of Science, Namra worked as an “explainer,” providing details on exhibits to guests and working in the museum’s design labs with children. She attended the Scales of Justice Academy at Fordham Law School and was a DesignPrep Scholar at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum. She has worked on campaigns for U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez and Hillary Clinton through the New York Immigration Fund, participated in Globalgirl Media’s Girls Govern program, and learned about nonprofit management as a fellow with Girls IGNITE!

Namra will attend Yale University and is planning a career as a human rights activist, lawyer or politician.

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