16 Outstanding Los Angeles High Schoolers Receive Milken Scholars Award

Published 07/15/2019 in Program Updates
Written 07/15/2019

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


Contact: Lynne Russo: (818) 903-6079 (cell); lynneerusso@gmail.com


SANTA MONICA, Calif., (July 18, 2019)—The Milken Scholars, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, has chosen 16 talented students from Los Angeles for its 2019 scholarship program after a rigorous nomination, application and interview process. Open to college-bound high school seniors in Los Angeles County, New York City 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 2019 Los Angeles Milken Scholars are: 

  • Christian Alexander, Hawthorne Mathematics and Science Academy (Washington University in St. Louis)
  • Paul Bingaman, Jr., The Buckley School (Harvard)
  • Stephanie Castaneda Perez, Harbor Teacher Preparatory Academy (Stanford)
  • Esteban Flores, South Gate High School (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Haesung Jee, Grover Cleveland Charter High School (Harvard)
  • Oluwamayowa “Mayowa” Jolayemi, Richard Gahr High School (Harvard)
  • Changhyun “Andy” Kim, Palos Verdes High School (Emory)
  • Hangyul “Lyna” Kim, North Hollywood High School (Stanford)
  • Youngeun “Eric” Kim, Palos Verdes High School (Cornell)
  • Ronen Lee, North Hollywood High School (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Brianny Martinez, South Gate High School (Stanford)
  • Yunhee “Eunice” Park, Oakwood Secondary School (Yale)
  • Marcos Perez, North Hollywood High School (California Institute of Technology)
  • Brigitte Rodriguez, Downtown Magnets High School (University of Southern California)
  • Justin Yeh, Glen A. Wilson High School (Harvey Mudd College)
  • Jiangda “J.D.” Zhao, Gretchen Whitney High School (Yale)

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.

“In the nearly three decades since Lori and I cofounded the Milken Scholars program, these leaders of tomorrow have consistently inspired us by their achievements, leadership and dedication to service,” said Milken Institute Chairman Mike Milken. “This year’s class of outstanding Los Angeles Scholars is no exception. In welcoming them to the Milken Scholars family, we are confident they can change the world.”

The Los Angeles Milken Scholars will attend a four-day summit from August 1-4 in Los Angeles with over 100 Scholars including new recipients, undergraduates and alumni facilitators. The Los Angeles Scholars are:



Alexander Christian 01

Christian Alexander

Washington University in St. Louis

Christian Alexander has worked to improve the lives of senior citizens. A graduate of Hawthorne Mathematics and Science Academy in Hawthorne, Christian lives with and cares for his grandmother. He created Great Neighbors, a group that connects students with local seniors, after attending the Aspen Ideas Festival as a Bezos Scholar. Christian met with the director of a local senior center and planned a resource fair and “senior prom” to provide meaningful social connections for seniors, especially those without supportive families. A member of his school’s MESA (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement) Club, Christian and three peers entered the National Engineering Design Competition with a wireless, app-controlled robotic arm accompanied by wireless car to assist the elderly and disabled.

Christian is a Better Angels Scholar, QuestBridge National College Match finalist, QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, USC Bovard Scholar, Posse Scholar finalist, Jack Kent Cooke College Scholar semifinalist, Ron Brown Scholar, Edison Scholar, AP Scholar, SchoolHouse Connection Youth Scholar and Washington University Danforth Scholar. The president of UCLA’s Riordan Scholars Program, Christian won the program’s stock market competition with a mock investment project for tourism company Wyndham Worldwide.

Christian served as secretary of student government and treasurer of the Key Club, where he earned two Outstanding Service Awards for his work cleaning beaches, planting trees and feeding the homeless. As leader of the Link Crew, Christian mentored incoming freshmen, led campus tours and connected students with tutors. His speech on freedom of the press earned top honors at the Lion’s Club Student Speakers Contests. Science is a longstanding passion: Christian built a working model bridge out of balsa wood with MESA and studied the effect of water pressure on blood vessels on Catalina Island.

Christian will study biomedical engineering and English at Washington University in St. Louis and plans an interdisciplinary career at the cross-section between engineering and the humanities.

 Bingaman Paul Jr

Paul Bingaman, Jr.


Basketball is more than a sport for Paul Bingaman, Jr.—it’s an opportunity to build team spirit and community. He was named co-captain of the varsity basketball team at The Buckley School in Los Angeles as a sophomore. Paul started biweekly check-ins with his teammates to make sure they were meeting their academic commitments, reinforcing a culture of excellence both on the court and in the classroom. Twice a year the team volunteered with Hope of the Valley, preparing meals for the homeless, gathering donations and handing out clothing, shoes and toys. Paul captained the team as a senior and won multiple awards for his playing, including Rookie of the Year, All-Liberty League Team, and honors from the California Interscholastic Federation.

Paul is an AP Scholar with Distinction and a member of the National Honor Society. He won a Dr. Isabelle Buckley Award, presented to his high school’s most well-rounded student at graduation. Paul worked as a counselor at Buckley’s basketball camp and tutored peers in math, history and science. An accomplished artist and ceramicist, he earned honors for three-dimensional and mixed media submissions from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Paul competed with Buckley’s Mock Trial team and earned an honorable mention for his role as a witness. He organized case files and researched state law as an intern for a criminal defense attorney.

Paul was team captain for Buckley’s Writing Fellows, a group of peer editors who help younger students develop their writing skills. He was a member of the school’s Diversity Club and student leader of the African American Males Mentorship Program, an affinity group through which black male students support each other on campus—particularly important at Buckley, a predominantly white private high school. Through Common Ground, a school service group, Paul and his classmates met with students from local public schools for workshops focused on mutual understanding.

Paul will study political science at Harvard and plans a career in law.

Perez Stephanie

Stephanie Castañeda Perez


Stephanie Castañeda Perez helps the young people of Los Angeles make their voices heard. A graduate of Harbor Teacher Preparatory Academy in Wilmington, Stephanie is the founder and editor in chief of YouthCake.com, an online publication sharing stories about art, social justice and local youth culture. After starting YouthCake as a personal website, Stephanie recruited an editorial board and now solicits contributors, reviews submissions, plans meetings, and edits and publishes articles. The site focuses on unique points of view—a mini-documentary on the South Bay’s experience with Japanese internment during World War II, for example, or a classical musician’s take on house music.

Stephanie is an AP Scholar with Distinction and vice president of the National Honor Society. She received the Adrian and Betsy Gonzalez Foundation Scholarship and the Warren Christopher Scholarship. A dual enrollment student at Los Angeles Harbor College, Stephanie studied music, public speaking, chemistry, government and sociology and earned two associate’s degrees. She won a Silver Key in photography from the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and had her art published in the Nasher Sculpture Center’s online magazine. Stephanie won the Samuel L. Gravely Essay Contest and was the featured speaker at an annual commemoration event for Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Jr. aboard the Battleship Iowa in San Pedro.  Her work appeared in the American High School Poets’ Quarterly Anthology.

The co-captain of her school’s chapter of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate League, Stephanie coached other students and earned semifinalist and top speaker awards at local tournaments. She founded and co-chaired the Harbor Political Action Committee, a student-led activism group. Stephanie worked as a day camp counselor, volunteered at her middle school and the Carson Public Library, and interned at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), where she helped plan MOCA Teen Night, attended by more than 900 Los Angeles high school students.

Stephanie will study sociology at Stanford University and is considering a career in academia.

Flores Esteban

Esteban Flores

University of California, Berkeley

When Esteban Flores sees a need in his community, he finds a way to meet it. South Gate High School offered no extra help for struggling students, so Esteban started a peer tutoring program. He recruited high-performing students, organized a schedule, and shared his own knowledge in math and science. Esteban co-founded the school’s Robotics Club to teach students to code; as the club’s vice president, he created lessons in basic computer science and led the club’s participation in engineering competitions. South Gate’s robotics team was named Rookie All-Star at this year’s FIRST Robotics competition.

South Gate’s salutatorian, Esteban is an AP Scholar with Distinction, a Bovard Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society. He earned the California Seal of Biliteracy and recognition from the California Math Council. Esteban attended the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference and studied biochemistry at the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) at the University of California, Davis. The president of South Gate’s Chemistry Club, Esteban worked with teachers to secure extra credit for members who attended club meetings. He managed the website for the school’s peer college counseling program and served as co-captain and president of the Academic Decathlon, teaching his teammates math through lessons, practice sessions and quizzes.

A longtime member of the Iberoamerica Church Royal Rangers, Esteban learned survival skills and participated in training camps; now a teaching assistant in the program, he leads bible studies and plans physical activities for younger members. As a novice judge for the Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate League, Esteban supported new members and referees entry-level teams in early rounds of competition. He performs property maintenance for his father’s real estate business, helping with repairs and interacting with tenants.

Esteban will study bioengineering at the University of California, Berkeley in preparation for a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Jee Haesung 4

Haesung Jee


Hundreds of students in Los Angeles are learning to code thanks to Haesung Jee. A valedictorian of Grover Cleveland Charter High School in Reseda, Lee founded Code Buddy, a nonprofit that brings high schoolers to local elementary schools to teach computer programming. Haesung serves as the group’s director of operations and has brought coding classes to 11 schools and more than 400 students in greater Los Angeles, with expansion plans in the works. Code Buddy won a $1,000 grant from the Kevin Na Foundation and used the funds to host a coding contest. Code Buddy’s goal: to show that computer science is approachable and cultivate perseverance, critical thinking and creativity.

Haesung is a National AP Scholar and a finalist for the National Merit and Gates Scholarships. She earned top honors in the Code Quest and American Computer Science League All-Star Competitions and received the Congressional Award Gold Medal. Haesung was editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, raised funds for victims of human trafficking as president of the Artemis Club, and helped her peers learn robotics and earn coding certificates from Code.org as president and founder of the Women in STEM Club. The vice president of the Expressive Asians Club, Haesung led discussions about Asian American experiences and planned outings to art exhibits and performances.

Haesung researched the connection between the social activism of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and radical theology at the Telluride Association Summer Program. During an internship at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, she assisted in experimental animal surgeries, conducted image-data analysis on nerve fibers and heart apex images, and co-authored an article on the effects of diabetes on cardiac nerves. Haesung volunteered at the Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship Center and taught calligraphy to children and teens at the Police Activity League Supporters Youth Center, creating seasonal decorations and greeting cards for a local senior center.

Haesung will study the history of science at Harvard and plans a career in medicine or public health.

Jolayemi Oluwamayowa

Oluwamayowa “Mayowa” Jolayemi


Oluwamayowa (Mayowa) Jolayemi is working hard to make her community a better place. After attending the Aspen Ideas Festival as a Bezos Scholar, she returned to Richard Gahr High School in Cerritos ready to tackle the lack of minority representation in the school’s AP classes, academic programs and college preparation activities. Mayowa drafted plans for her “Track Program,” met with school officials and received a grant to develop the program. Working with California State Assemblymember Cristina Garcia in the Young Legislators Program, Mayowa visited local businesses to understand the effects of municipal government on their operations and presented her own legislation during a mock floor session at the California State Capitol.

Mayowa is an AP Scholar with Honor, graduated as Gahr’s valedictorian and earned the City of Cerritos Proclamation for Leadership. The undersecretary of Model United Nations, Mayowa led discussions of international issues like refugee crises and clean water, earning multiple commendations. The president of Gahr’s Associated Student Body (ASB), Mayowa facilitated weekly meetings, created a calendar, approved events and budgets, and oversaw beach cleanups and food distribution on Skid Row. She ran social media campaigns to spread awareness about service opportunities for the California State Federation and earned both the Owl and Lamp Pin honors.

As a fellow with Earthwatch Ignite, Mayowa researched the effects of climate change on the nesting and birthing habits of owls. The student representative for the ABC Unified School District’s Finance and Audit Committee, she provided a student perspective on the district’s allocation of funding and resources. Mayowa volunteered at the Cerritos Library, mentored Gahr’s incoming students to help them transition to high school, and tutored fellow students in math. Active in her church, Mayowa facilitated community outreach projects and planned a mission trip to Mexico to establish a Vacation Bible School.

Mayowa will study economics and math at Harvard and plans a career in public policy.

Kim Changhyun Andy

Changhyun “Andy” Kim

Emory University

Protecting the environment is a priority for Changhyun (Andy) Kim, a graduate of Palos Verdes High School. As team leader of the Solar Cup Club, Andy helped his peers build a solar-powered boat, guiding the design and construction process, organizing meetings and mentoring beginners. The team competed in a tournament held by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California; their boat won first place for endurance and second place in the sprint. As president of the International Environmental Service Club, Andy hosted fundraising events and led nature hikes. He has brought club members to volunteer for the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy, for which he is a team leader. Andy has performed independent scientific research at a local marsh preserve, including ways to capture and reuse the heat generated by cars and the behavior of local birds.

Andy is an AP Scholar and a Commended National Merit Scholar. He earned a Certificate of Congressional Recognition, second place at the Los Angeles County Science Fair, the Audubon Youth Environmental Stewards Award, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Earth System Science Award. Andy shadowed a local cardiologist, participating in clinical rounds and pre-operation meetings and worked in the café of a local church. A budding entrepreneur, Andy created an online clothing store, buying vintage designer apparel in Japan and reselling it in the U.S. and South Korea. The store has seen more than $11,000 in sales since its launch January 2018.

Andy serves food to the homeless on Skid Row, mentors a young boy with mutism and is learning American Sign Language. He volunteers at a nursing home with Korean-speaking seniors, leading card games and helping with exercise classes.

Andy will study biology at Emory University and plans a career in medicine.


Kim Lyna Hangyul2

Hangyul “Lyna” Kim

Stanford University

Hangyul (Lyna) Kim has created multiple opportunities for hands-on science research—for herself and fellow students. A graduate of North Hollywood High School (NHHS), Lyna worked on improving solar thermal fuels at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Research Science Institute. She studied stable isotope geochemistry and researched improvements for renewable fuels at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). A research project on the antimicrobial properties of propolis, a resinous mixture produced by honeybees, earned honors at the California State Science Fair and Siemens Research Competition. Lyna expanded research opportunities for her peers as co-president of the Science Research Club, connecting classmates with UCLA professors for internships. She prepared elementary students for the Super Science Engineering Competition, organizing curricula, leading experiments and training other coaches.

Lyna is a National AP Scholar, Gates Scholar and Jack Kent Cooke College Scholar. She is a six-time gold medalist in Science Olympiad; in addition to competing on her school’s Science Bowl team, she also coached the team at Walter Reed Middle School. As captain, Lyna led her NHHS team to ninth place in the national CyberPatriot cybersecurity competition. She was president of the Math Club, was named National Champion of Extemporaneous Speaking by the National Speech and Debate Association, and organized a solar eclipse viewing and a trip to Mount Wilson Observatory as secretary of the Planetary Society.

Outside of science, Lyna was editor-in-chief of The Magnitude, the NHHS literary journal, overseeing more than 20 student contributors and editors. She founded the Tree of Sharing Students, an organization that improves language skills for special education students and English Language Learners through speech and debate. Lyna earned gold and bronze Presidential Service Awards. When her sister was diagnosed with autism, Lyna researched early interventions and participated in her education and therapies.

Lyna will study energy resources engineering at Stanford University and plans a career in engineering or research.

Kim Youngeun Eric

Youngeun “Eric” Kim

Cornell University

As president of the FIRST Robotics team at Palos Verdes High School, Youngeun (Eric) Kim led his team as they designed, built and programmed a robot in six weeks for the intense FIRST Robotics competition. The team’s lead programmer, Eric created mathematical models, experimented with code and scavenged user manuals. The team made school history when it placed fifth and made the quarterfinals at a regional competition. Eric developed a training curriculum, created sub-teams and delegated training sessions to more experienced members, all to ensure the program’s continued success after the seniors graduated.

Eric is a National AP Scholar and a finalist for the Gates, Edison and National Merit Scholarships. He received the Rensselaer Medal, Presidential Service Award and Audubon YES Award. Eric earned recognition from the California Department of Education, California Mathematics Council, County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and California State Senate. An experienced competitor in STEM events, he won honors at the American Mathematics Competition, Math Kangaroo, Cerritos Science Olympiad, National Math and Science Competition, Rio Hondo Regional Science Olympiad and Palos Verdes Science Fair. The president of the Math Club, Eric solved thousands of problems and created a cumulative guide for the American Mathematics Competition.

As vice president of the International Environmental Society, Eric learned about native and invasive species and the importance of biodiversity as he weeded, mulched and planted. He captained the track team, plays jazz guitar, mentored students at Pepperdine University’s leadership camp, tutors science and math at South Bay Megastudy, and raises money for disaster relief with the Korean American Youth Society. Eric studied decision-making, writing and STEM problem-solving at Stanford University. He and a friend secured a provisional patent for a green energy generator that uses less space and is more cost-efficient than wind turbines.

Eric will study physics at Cornell University and is considering a career as an analyst.

Lee Ronen

Ronen Lee

University of California, Berkeley

Ronen Lee wants to be a biotech entrepreneur—and he’s getting a running start. Working at a community biology lab and makerspace near downtown Los Angeles, Ronen developed an open source, low-cost 3D printer capable of printing biomaterials to create tissues or animals. He modified an existing 3D printer design, altered the software to print with different materials and designed parts to extrude gel instead of melted plastic. Ronen successfully printed aquatic sponges by infusing hydrogels with cells and is now working to keep the sponges alive for extended periods of time. A graduate of North Hollywood High School (NHHS), Ronen co-founded the nonprofit Project Magnify to introduce 3D printing to younger students. In after-school programs at one middle and one elementary school, students build 3D printers, design their own printable objects and print microscopes and robotics parts.

Ronen is a National AP Scholar and National Merit Scholar. He has won several medals for geology at the Southern California Science Olympiad. The captain of the Quiz Bowl team at NHHS, Ronen reinvigorated the team after several years of flagging participation, increasing membership and taking the team to the High School National Championship Tournament. To build the Quiz Bowl pipeline, Ronen organized tournaments at NHHS for high school and middle school students.

Ronen is an accomplished pianist and was co-principal trumpet in the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra. He taught children about ocean pollution as a docent for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and volunteered at the Los Angeles Public Library. A teen columnist for a local newspaper in the San Fernando Valley, Ronen used his 500-word articles to share his favorite things to do in Los Angeles, educate the community about 3D printing and other innovative technology, and raised funds for Project Magnify.

Ronen will study materials science engineering at the University of California, Berkeley and plans a career as a biotech entrepreneur.


Brianny Martinez

Stanford University

The online newspaper at South Gate High School has seen substantial improvements recently, thanks in large part to Brianny Martinez. Appointed the paper’s technology manager in her junior year, Brianny was eager to find new ways to make the content more accessible and useful. She and her team developed a plan for a redesign that included learning CSS website coding and transferring years of content onto the new site. Brianny pitched the plan to the principal, gained his approval and secured funding for the upgrade. By the end of the school year, Brianny and her team had made the upgrades, all while managing and training new staff writers, editing articles, and interviewing students and teachers about issues like the teacher strikes across the country. The paper is now a point of pride for South Gate.

Brianny is a QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship recipient, a Bovard Scholar at the University of Southern California (USC) and an AP Scholar with Distinction. She received the USC Presidential Scholarship and the California Seal of Biliteracy. Brianny attended Engineering Possibilities in College, a summer program at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, and Camp Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she observed medical procedures and shadowed physicians. Brianny plays basketball and served as captain for South Gate’s junior varsity team.

As a member of Teen Court—an alternative to Juvenile Court for first-time juvenile offenders—Brianny served on the jury during court trials with local judges. The program honed her speech and debate skills as they discussed issues like race and equity. At the California Science Center, Brianny helped young visitors and their families understand the scientific concepts illustrated in the exhibits. She is actively involved in caring for her younger siblings.

Brianny will study civil engineering at Stanford University and plans a career as a civil or structural engineer.

 Park Yunhee Eunice

Yunhee “Eunice” Park


It’s been three years since Yunhee (Eunice) Park founded GirlTalk, a nonprofit network linking girls around the world with female mentors. With online career seminars and one-to-one Skype sessions, GirlTalk has connected girls in more than 50 orphanages, shelters and schools in 10 countries with women who practice law, run global corporations and create cutting-edge technology. Eunice also created GirlTalk Magazine, which shares stories and art focused on women’s and LGBTQ issues. GirlTalk has been featured on CNN and received a $1,500 Julie Beren Platt Teen Innovation Grant.

A graduate of Oakwood Secondary School in North Hollywood, Eunice is a U.S. Presidential Scholar, National AP Scholar and National Merit Commended Scholar. She received the Yale Bassett Award for Community Engagement and earned four Presidential Gold Service Awards. Eunice was a finalist in the MIT Humanities Research Competition and won a Scholastic Regional Silver Journalism Medal. The national activism director for Junior State of America, Eunice spearheaded the group’s efforts for the 2018 midterm elections, creating resources for voter registration, town halls and debate watch parties. As co-president of Oakwood’s student council, she met with administrators and Title IX lawyers to reform sexual harassment policies, create a gender violence policy and mental health resource guide, and provide free sanitary products. Eunice led weekly discussions on criminal justice reform, gender and sexuality as co-head of the Organization of Students for Progressive Reform.

Eunice researched reproductive health issues for refugee women at the United Nations Temple of Understanding in New York. She attended the Telluride Association Summer Program, is an award-winning debater, and has worked at the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the University of California, Irvine’s political science department. A prolific writer, Eunice has published articles in Huffington Post, Feminist Wire and Capital & Main.

Eunice will study gender, statistics and political science at Yale and plans a career in law or public policy.

Perez Marcos

Marcos Perez

California Institute of Technology

Thanks to Marcos Perez, students at North Hollywood High School (NHHS) have a newfound interest in astronomy. As founder and president of the Astronomy Club, he shared weekly lectures and organized viewing nights with the 60-inch telescope on Mount Wilson. Marcos led the school’s first year of participation in the Astronomy Olympiad and qualified to compete at the national level. He volunteered for the Planetary Society, setting up and maintaining telescopes at the Griffith Observatory and explaining star clusters and planetary phenomena to visitors. As a member of Astronomy Live! at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Marcos imaged galaxies using the Lick Observatory’s one-meter Nickel telescope and studied M63, the Sunflower Galaxy.

Marcos is a National AP Scholar and National Hispanic Scholar. He was a finalist or semifinalist for the Coca-Cola, Posse Foundation, Hispanic Scholarship Fund and Elks Most Valuable Student scholarships. Marcos reached the semifinals of the Siemens Research Competition for a project on bee propolis, worked on optimizing algal biofuel production in a UCLA lab, won awards at the California State Science Fair and was recognized by the city of Los Angeles for his Science Bowl performance. The president of his school’s Science Research Club, Marcos helps his peers connect with professors, initiate their own projects and apply for summer research positions; six members conducted research at UCLA and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) this year.

The manager and captain of the NHHS cross country and track teams, Marcos organized practices and trail runs, planned workouts, and led the teams to the city championship meet; he won awards for most dedicated and most valuable player and earned an All-League award. Marcos is an animal lover, volunteering for Best Friends No-Kill Los Angeles and serving as president of the NHHS Animal Rescue Club.

Marcos will study planetary science at the California Institute of Technology and plans a career in astronomy.

Rodregues Brigitte

Brigitte Rodriguez

University of Southern California

Twice a week, you'll find Brigitte Rodriguez poring over employment authorizations and witness testimony transcripts in the Survivors of Violence Unit at the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). A graduate of Downtown Magnets High School, Brigitte works as a legal volunteer at CARECEN. The work for survivors of domestic violence has fed her passion for immigration law and helping vulnerable communities. Brigitte has taught congregants at her church about their immigration options, served as a legal extern for Magistrate Judge Karen Stevenson, interned for a family law firm, and plans to become an immigration lawyer herself.

Brigitte is an AP Scholar with Distinction, National Merit Commended Scholar, Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar, National Hispanic Recognition Scholar and California Scholarship Federation (CSF) Sealbearer. As co-captain of the Policy Debate Team, Brigitte focused on collaboration and communication through team events and community circles; the team doubled in size under her leadership and developed mentoring and fundraising skills to sustain the program in the future. Brigitte has won more than a dozen speaker awards and reached the finals of the Great Communicator Debate Series Regional Championship, Los Angeles Urban Debate League City Championship, Lions Club Speech Contest, and National Association of Urban Debate Leagues’ Flip the Debate Tournament.

 An animal rights advocate, Brigitte worked as a retail and adoption counselor for Michelson Found Animals Adopt & Shop, performing adoptions for more than 150 pets and training new volunteers. She was vice president of the California Scholarship Federation, aided teaching and fundraising for the Hollywood Spanish Pathfinder Club, and co-founded Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán, a LatinX cultural club that hosted events for Dia de los Muertos and Hispanic Heritage Week. An iWitness intern at the University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation, Brigitte helped refine the program for collecting testimony of Holocaust survivors.

Brigitte will pursue political science and contemporary Latino and Latin American studies at USC as a Mork Scholar and plans to pursue a career in law or politics.

Yeh Justin

Justin Yeh

Harvey Mudd College

Members of the Dance Company at Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights now earn class credit for their hard work on the dance floor thanks to the persistence of Justin Yeh and his fellow officers. The team captain, Justin choreographed routines and taught rookie members the fundamentals of hip-hop. When the coach moved away, he stepped in to run the team, leading practices and handling all administrative tasks until a replacement was hired. The team practices year-round for competitions and school rallies, and it has paid off: Under Justin’s leadership, the All-Male team earned first place at the West Coast Elite regional competition, placed third at West Coast Elite Dance Nationals, and finished among the top teams at the United Spirit Association Nationals and West Covina Showdown.

Justin is a National AP Scholar and National Merit Scholar. He was a finalist at the California Lions Student Speakers Contest and earned divisional recognition at the Center for Future Global Leaders International Academic Competition. The captain of Wilson’s Mock Trial, Justin assigned members to prosecution or defense roles and created scripts for competitions. When the team’s advisor stepped down, Justin and another team member went classroom to classroom to find a replacement. In addition to regular practices, Justin held informal meetings at his house, teaching members about everything from objections to trial structure. The news editor for Paw Prints Weekly, Wilson’s newspaper, Justin published three articles per week and won First Place News Writer at the Eastern Los Angeles Journalism Education Association Write-Offs.

As treasurer of Homeless Not Hopeless, Justin helped raised funds for hygiene kits for the East San Gabriel Coalition. At the Discovery Cube Orange County, Justin explained the science behind the exhibits and games. He helped teach coding and 3D printing at the Youth Science Center, a summer science program, and tutored students from third to 10th grade at ACI College Prep Institute.

Justin will study computer science at Harvey Mudd College and plans a career in consulting or advertising.

Zhao Jiangda J.D

Jiangda “J.D.” Zhao


Jiangda (J.D.) Zhao just finished high school, but he already runs a company exploring the cutting edge of blockchain technology. The valedictorian at Gretchen Whitney High School in Cerritos, J.D. co-founded CryptoHash LLC in his garage with two friends. They spent a hot summer coding, raising funds, vetting sponsors and hunting for server components on eBay. J.D. installed a remote management system and eventually rented a warehouse for the noisy 1,000-plus servers, contributing to the global blockchain network. J.D. published a paper in an international journal on ways to improve the scalability and efficiency of the blockchain system.

J.D. is a National AP Scholar, National Merit Scholarship Finalist and Coca-Cola Semifinalist. He received the Congressional Award Silver Medal, won several medals at the United States Physics Olympiad, and captained the team that reached the finals of the National Science Bowl at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. As co-head programmer of the robotics team, J.D. led software development; the team went on to win the THINK Award. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), J.D. learned to train neural networks in the Beaver Works Summer Institute, designed a neural image captioner as an aid for people with visual impairments at the Lincoln Laboratory, and submitted a research proposal on multi-party machine learning to MIT’s THINK Foundation.

J.D. taught programming at robotics camp, led demonstrations at Science Night, and helped peers prepare for math and science competitions as director of science for the STEM Club.  He taught senior citizens about social networking at the Pat Nixon Senior Center, mentored younger students in the Big Buddy Little Buddy program, and served as a teaching assistant for English and calculus classes.

J.D. will study computer science and economics at Yale and plans a career in science.


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 2019, more than 450 Milken Scholars have been selected from over 180 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. Twenty-five percent were born outside the United States and 75 percent have parents originating from 71 countries. Over 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 www.MilkenScholars.org.

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