Six New York City High School Stars Receive Milken Scholars Award
Unique Scholarship Provides a $10,000 Cash Prize Plus a Lifetime of Mentoring and Resources
June 14, 2021
SANTA MONICA, Calif., — The Milken Scholars, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, has chosen six talented students from New York City for its 2021 scholarship program after a rigorous nomination, application and interview process.
Open to college-bound high school seniors in New York City, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles County, 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 poet Amanda Gorman; Ruben Harutunian, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, Belarus; Dr. Joelle Simpson, chief of emergency medicine at Children’s National Hospital; and award-winning entrepreneur and author Ali Kriegsman.
The 2021 New York Milken Scholars are:
- Ashfah Alam, The Chapin School (Columbia University)
- Maria Camila Ceballos Paredes, Bard High School Early College Queens (Columbia University)
- Katerina Corr, Stuyvesant High School (Harvard)
- Rae Seong Jeong, Stuyvesant High School (Georgetown University)
- Jessica Jiang, Stuyvesant High School (Williams College)
- Jahin Rahman, Academy of American Studies (University of Pennsylvania)
"The Milken Scholars Program provides recipients not only scholarship funds for college, but also mentoring and a lifelong community of professional support," said Simone Friedman of EJF Philanthropies, which sponsors the New York Milken Scholars. "We are glad to continue our partnership with this program and the future leaders it nurtures."
Mike Milken and his wife Lori founded the Milken Scholars Program in 1989 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.
"For more than three decades, the Milken Scholars have inspired us with their achievements, leadership and dedication to community service," said Mike Milken. "At this difficult time for our nation, we know that they—like all the Scholars over the years—will be Lifelong Leaders for a Better World. Whether they become doctors, research scientists, educators, entrepreneurs or diplomats, the common denominator of Milken Scholars is a genuine sense of service."
Because of COVID-19, instead of attending an in-person summit in Los Angeles, the New York Milken Scholars will attend a three-day online summit starting July 23, 2021, along with over 100 Scholars including new Scholars from D.C. and Los Angeles County, undergraduates and alumni facilitators.
MEET THE 2021 NEW YORK MILKEN SCHOLARS
When Ashfah Alam entered high school, she and her classmates at The Chapin School had access to a wealth of co-curricular activities that offered opportunities to explore their passions and build self-confidence. Those options, Ashfah realized, were largely out of reach for low-income communities like her own in the Bronx. To change that, she co-founded The REACH Project, offering creative writing workshops for elementary schoolers that helped middle schoolers find their voices and document their lives, writing about everything from video games to mental health. During the pandemic, Ashfah and her volunteers offered online writing and STEM workshops and created new curriculum development and marketing teams to build a foundation for the future. The REACH Project received a Community Service Award from the Mujumder Foundation for its contributions to local youth.
Ashfah has won state-level Silver Key and Honorable Mention Scholastic Writing Awards. She received Chapin’s Haven Bloom Scholarship and served as a senior peer leader, addressing social, emotional and mental health issues with ninth graders. A TEAK Fellow since sixth grade, Ashfah participated in research and enrichment opportunities and earned a Student Empathy Award. She wrote about social justice for Chapin's student newspaper and served as co-president for Asian Affinity, leading workshops celebrating Asian cultures and collaborating with Chapin’s equity council on dialogues about race.
Ashfah is firmly committed to building up her community. She coordinated curriculum development and volunteer training as chief executive of the New York Mock Trial League, which introduced students to the legal field, and spent a summer at the St. Alban’s School of Public Service in Washington, D.C., where she engaged in public policy discourse and congressional debate. As a classroom aide at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, which serves low-income immigrant families in East Harlem, Ashfah helped young students with unstable home lives—an experience that cemented her belief in the link between public assistance, community support from local organizations, and successful educational outcomes.
Ashfah will study political science and international relations at Columbia University and plans a career as a human rights lawyer.
Maria Camila Ceballos Paredes
When 12-year-old Maria Camila Ceballos Paredes arrived in New York from Peru in 2015, everything was new and different—especially the language. The frustration she felt as an English language learner inspired her to create Breaking Inequity Barriers for Academic Success (BIBAS), which fights disparities in education. In BIBAS' first year, Maria Camila guided 10 Latina English learners from I.S. 5, her old middle school, through New York City's complicated public high school application process. This year, she was able to familiarize more than 150 I.S. 5 students with the process.
Maria Camila is a QuestBridge National College Match finalist and Gates Scholarship semifinalist. She received the Quest for Excellence NYC Award and is a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar and Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Scholar. After four years at Bard High School Early College Queens (BHSECQ), she is graduating with both a New York State Regents diploma and an associate's degree from Bard College. Maria Camila was co-president of the Future Medical Leaders Club, developing workshops to help members prepare for STEM careers and connecting them with virtual STEM internships during the pandemic. During a Rockefeller University summer program, she created COVID-related educational materials and researched wild yeast cultures.
As her English language skills improved, Maria Camila turned to writing, enjoying both the academic and personal self-expression it offered. She co-founded The Scribble Society, a supportive writing community, recruiting 24 members who meet regularly for writing warmups, workshops and "circle story" exercises, where each person contributes one sentence to build a collaborative story as a group. The Scribble Society hosted a symposium during the pandemic called "Writing: A Form of Self-Care in 2020" and organized a program that was offered as part of the school's official summer enrichment. As co-president of The Hype, BHSECQ's literary magazine, Maria Camila helped organize an annual writers' forum and raised funds to cover publication costs.
Maria Camila will study biology at Columbia University and plans a career in medicine.
Katerina Corr is committed to civic engagement and inspires her peers to join her. As co-chair of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Youth Council, Katerina promoted a new response to severe trauma training, developed a youth civic engagement guide, and proposed a new online financial preparedness program. She creates opportunities to boost her community's resilience, coordinating emergency preparedness presentations for more than 2,000 fellow students at Stuyvesant High School. In addition to expanding emergency response training at her school, Katerina led the Youth Preparedness Council's Citizen Responder Team, creating a guide to help students around the country lead their own emergency preparedness projects.
Katerina is a National Merit Commended Student and an AP Scholar with Distinction. She is a member of Stuyvesant's National Chinese Honors Society, was elected Class Caucus President every year, and performed in choir and theater productions. As a Stuyvesant Big Sib, Katerina mentored incoming ninth graders and talked with prospective families. She was New York State's delegate to the U.S. Senate Youth Program (USSYP) and received the William Randolph Hearst Foundation's USSYP scholarship. Katerina attended the Disney Dreamers Academy and the 2021 National Security Language Initiative for Youth. She was a HERlead Fellow and a finalist for the FBI National Academy Associates Youth Leadership Program, served as New York City's delegate to the American Legion Auxiliary Empire Girls State, and became the New York City Emergency Management Commissioner for a Day.
As the Greater New York regional coordinator for the American Red Cross International Humanitarian Law Youth Action Campaign, Katerina trained more than 40 high school students in the pillars of humanitarian law. She researched environmental policy and developed promotional materials to inform peers about voting and registration as a WePowerNYC ambassador for New York City Votes. Katerina coordinated a school sustainability proposal as an intern on Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer's youth advisory board and served on the city's Department of Education District 2 Community Education Council. Katerina facilitated intergenerational discussions and one-to-one home visits as an intern at DOROT, a Jewish organization that combats social isolation for seniors.
Katerina will study government at Harvard and plans a career in public service.
Rae Seong Jeong
Rae Seong Jeong spends as much time helping others find their voices as he does crafting his own arguments. The captain of Congressional debate for Stuyvesant High School's Speech and Debate team, Rae has posted top 10 finishes in many national competitions, including the Princeton Classic, New York City Invitational, John Edie Holiday Debates, and Yale Invitational. As a guest speaker at the Institute of General Semantics, Rae has discussed hate speech with the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union in front of an audience. But he also prioritizes helping others learn the fundamentals of debate, coaching more than 100 teammates and founding Young Debaters, a nonprofit that teaches public speaking skills to underprivileged youth in New York City.
Ironically, Rae's devotion to helping others find their voices was sparked by a frightening moment of silence 60 feet underwater. Certified in scuba, Rae was cleaning up ocean trash with Dive Against Debris' Project AWARE when he momentarily lost his oxygen source and realized no one could hear his cries. It took a few long moments for Rae's dive partners to see him gesturing for help. From that moment forward, Rae resolved to do everything he could to help others be heard.
Rae is an AP Scholar, National Merit Scholarship finalist and Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship semifinalist. He earned a silver medal in Le Grand Concours French competition and was nominated as Presidential Scholar. Rae contributed political commentary to the Stuyvesant Spectator and is writing a book about socioeconomic inequality in secondary education. As a Bank of America Student Leader, Rae learned about civic engagement, financial literacy and nonprofit management. He helped create guidelines for pandemic-related shutdowns and reopening plans for the YMCA of Greater New York. When the pandemic began in New York City, Rae realized that elderly and immunocompromised members of his community were having difficulty getting food. He founded MouthPeas, a volunteer-driven grocery delivery service, which is now planning future food drives to keep the community well fed.
Rae will study international relations at Georgetown University as a Georgetown Scholar and Community Scholar, and plans a career in law, government or foreign service.
For Jessica Jiang, writing is a creative outlet, a tool for self-reflection, and a way to inspire change. She writes daily and consistently in multiple genres and forms, including short fiction, poetry and memoir. Jessica has worked with a mentor through Girls Write Now for several years, and her work appears in the group’s 2020 anthology and The Apprentice Writer. "How We Grow," a short film Jessica created about her reaction to a challenging medical diagnosis, was accepted into the UNO Port Art Film Festival in Japan. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have inspired Jessica's recent work. One of her essays for Youth Communications' magazine YCteen, "Seeing My Teachers as Human Beings During Quarantine," was featured in the New York Times. Jessica is currently editing "The Twizzler Project," a 100,000-word novel that examines the authentic friendships and deep bonds patients form in a residential mental health facility. To deepen her insight into the characters, Jessica interviewed peers who deal with issues like eating disorders, borderline personality disorder and depression.
A graduate of Stuyvesant High School, Jessica received the QuestBridge National College Match scholarship. She is a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, and Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship semifinalist. Jessica received a silver key for poetry in the Scholastic Writing Contest and an honorable mention in the Ned Vizzini Teen Writing Contest. She was president of The Moonlight, Stuyvesant's quarterly art and writing publication, and served as editor for the literary department of Indicator, the school yearbook.
Jessica spent a summer tutoring first graders at the Angel Advantage Center and logged 800 miles for Charity Miles during the quarantine. She has led many Key Club events, including picking up trash in Chinatown, raising funds for community organizations, and publicizing the group's work by writing articles for the Locksmith Committee's monthly publication. Jessica has received several Key Club commendations, including the Certificate of Excellence.
Jessica will study English literature at Williams College and plans a career as a writer.
University of Pennsylvania
Jahin Rahman is changing the lives of children and women in their native Bangladesh. Efforts in Youth Development of Bangladesh (EYDB), which Jahin founded several years ago, provides education to nearly 5,000 Bangladeshi street children, with 300 volunteers from eight countries and a dozen corporate partnerships. EYDB is creating libraries and literacy programs, as well as a day care center, computer lab, drug rehabilitation center, and stipend-based educational program for child servants. During the pandemic, EYDB has provided educational materials for street children forced to leave school because of COVID-19. When Jahin learned how many opportunities rural Bangladeshi women miss because of menstruation, they worked with Days for Girls International to install a local sewing business that makes sustainable menstrual kits.
The salutatorian at New York's Academy of American Studies, Jahin is an AP Scholar with Distinction and Coca-Cola Scholar. They received the George H.W. Bush Points of Light Award, Presidential Volunteer Service Gold Award, U.S. Congressional Medal of Recognition, New York State Senate Youth Leadership Award, National Power of Children Award, Children Have the Power to Empower Award, and scholarships from Pioneer Academics, the Knowledge Society, and the Junior State of America Burd Institute. Jahin founded Global Awareness for Primary Education, which funds literacy projects in the developing world and now exists at more than 50 schools across the U.S., and represented youth and minority issues during New York City's participatory budgeting process. Inspired by their own experience as an English language learner (ELL), Jahin created the New York City Youth Activism Coalition, which advocates for increased activism and enrichment programs.
Jahin founded the New York Youth Journalism Association, helping more than 100 students secure internships with major news organizations and building a journalism master class with 125 video lessons. They interned at NBC News, Poynter Institute, Paley Center, YCTeen and City Limits. Jahin also created content around sexual harassment, racial equity, educational equality and refugee crises for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.
Jahin will study economics and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania and plans a career in international economics.
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 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 2021, more than 500 Milken Scholars have been selected from nearly 200 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 attend some of the top colleges and universities in the country. Twenty-five percent were born outside the United States and 75 percent have parents originating from 74 countries. Over half were the first in their family to attend college. The class of 2021 is one of the most diverse yet, representing 18 countries spanning North America, Central America, South America, East Africa, Western Europe, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.
Throughout their college careers, Scholars are in regular communication with Scholars 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 interviews or information about the Milken Scholars Program, visit www.MilkenScholars.org.