(Image courtesy of Cece Jane)
El Segundo High School

Milken Scholars, more than a scholarship

Famed financier Michael Milken and his wife Lori established a way to “pay it forward” by establishing in the Milken Scholars Program, an initiative of the Milken Institute. Since 1989, the programs honor exceptional young men and women who are high school seniors. As of 2015, over 380 Milken Scholars have been selected from more than 100 high schools in Los Angeles County, New York City and Washington, D.C. Representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds and academic and professional interests, they all attend and graduate from the top colleges in America.

Each year in December, college advisors and counselors nominate eligible candidates for the prestigious Milken Scholars Program. This year, counselors had until Dec. 11 to nominate, and now the nominees have until Jan. 29 to submit all of the application materials. Applicants who have been selected as finalists will be notified at the end of March. Ultimately, 20-30 stellar students will be named a 2016 Milken Scholar. In order to apply, students must have attained at least a 3.6 GPA (unweighted) and a minimum SAT  score of 1850, or a minimum ACT score of 28. Thereafter, nominees are evaluated for this prestigious award based on four “pillars”: scholarship, leadership, service, and character.  The goal is to select “Lifelong Leaders for a Better World.”

Milken Scholars receive a financial award of $10,000. Yet, what makes the program truly unique is the resources provided to scholarship recipients. Jeremiah Davis, Associate Director of the Milken Scholars Program explains that “being a Milken Scholar means joining an extended family and building relationships with foundation staff and other scholars who provide a strong support system that lasts over time.”

Each year, winners are welcomed by Mr. Milken at a multi-day summit, capped off with a special dinner where the scholars are presented with their award. Davis explains that Mr. Milken “speaks with scholars about a wide range of topics – including medical research, public health, community service, education, human capital development, and access to capital. Forbes magazine recognized Mr. Milken’s four decades of education philanthropy and called him one of the ‘Visionaries Reimagining Our Children’s Future’ in a 2014 cover story.”

Furthermore, Davis shared that the program “is defined by its lifelong network of college students, graduate students and young professionals. The relationship with recipients extends far beyond the support we provide during college.” Students awarded as a Milken Scholar receive the long-term benefit of becoming a member of the Milken Scholars Family.”  Herein, they benefit from mentorship, annual program events and a network.

Scholars are also supported professionally. Davis said that the program “connect scholars with each other, whether through formal mentorship roles or for informal inquiries. We [the program] offer advice and coaching through online platforms and at many of our events. We carefully seek out experts as guest speakers and facilitators who can thoughtfully provide a wide range of practical advice. We offer assistance with securing summer internships while our recipients are in school. In addition, we have a full-time staff director of career development; an expert with years of experience in executive coaching, who is dedicated to helping our Alumni take the next step in their careers.”

Finally, scholars attend an annual summit where current scholars meet and alumni scholars are facilitators. Davis said that “each Summit is framed by a stand-alone theme that guides our larger discussion, but they all have three goals: to undergird the personal, educational, and professional success of Milken Scholars, to orient new scholars to the Milken Scholars Program and to nurture this connection, and also, to provide interpersonal, intellectual, and informative advice, resources, and networks. We also spend time on creative team building exercises and have some fun.”

So, congratulations to all of the 2015 winners from California: Milla Anderson, Dartmouth College; Richard Ballena, Pomona College; Michael Chang, University of California Berkeley; Alyssa Chiang, University of California San Diego; Susan Chor, University of Pennsylvania; Kayla Gonzalez, Vassar College; Eli Gramajo, Princeton University; Irene Kim, Stanford University; Gerardo Lira, Carnegie Mellon University; Brian Matusovsky, Yale College; Christian Mendez, Yale College; Joyce Ou, Yale College; Kevin Ou, Yale College; Michelle Park, Stanford University; Debbie Park, Harvard College; Ted Zhu, Harvard College.

Wishing all of the candidates the best in their college careers, and we look forward to learning of the new recipients of this prestigious award. Who from the class of 2016 will join these students as the 2016 Milken Scholars? As the Milken Family Foundation says “the Future Belongs to the Educated.”

For more information:  www.milkenscholars.org.

Photos used courtesy of Milken Institute

(Image courtesy of Cece Jane)