Milken Scholars Program Selects 10 High School Seniors for 2009 Honor

Published 07/25/2017 in Program Updates
Written 07/25/2017

Equipping exceptional young men and women with the resources to become "Lifelong Leaders for a Better World" is goal of Milken Scholars Program

Equipping exceptional young men and women with the resources to become "Lifelong Leaders for a Better World" is goal of Milken Scholars Program

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (June 16, 2009) – The Milken Family Foundation announced today that ten outstanding high school seniors have been named 2009 Milken Scholars. The students were selected from more than 400 nominations submitted by college advisors representing 111 high schools throughout the Los Angeles area.

Each Scholar will receive a $10,000 scholarship in addition to ongoing support and resources during their academic and professional careers. From mentors to assistance with internships, the Milken Scholars program provides recipients with unique support that would typically be outside their everyday reach.

“The remarkable young women and men who’ve been selected as Milken Scholars over the past two decades have consistently worked to make the world a better place,” said Milken Family Foundation co-founder Michael Milken, who with his wife, Lori, instituted the program in 1989. “Doctors, research scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, diplomats – the denominator so common to their pursuits has been a genuine sense of service. Lori and I look forward to working with our newest class of high-school graduates as they join the Scholars family to continue that spirit of accomplishment and contribution.”

Selection is based on academic performance, community service, leadership activities and triumphs over obstacles. By providing these extraordinarily talented youth with the tools and networks to help manifest their dreams and ambitions, the program’s aim is to support and develop “lifelong leaders for a better world.” And, as this year’s class of Milken Scholars looks to the future, they chart goals such as taming fusion for solar power and turning plastic bags into alternative energy sources.

The 2009 Milken Scholars includes five valedictorians, two Academic Decathlon captains, accomplished musicians, and the founder of a theology club created to unite students of different religions. Their volunteer efforts range from recording tutorials teaching students how to sing and read music to designing a school agenda planner, complete with artwork and math formulas, which was used by the school’s 2,000 students.

The 2009 Milken Scholars are:


  • Adan Acevedo, a graduate of Brentwood School, who will attend Harvard University


  • Kimberly Becker, a graduate of California Academy of Mathematics and Science, who will attend the University of California, Berkeley


  • Michael Diaz, a graduate of Millikan High School, who will attend Stanford University


  • Tri Huynh, a graduate of Gardena High School, who will attend Harvard University


  • Yihwan Kim, a graduate of Burbank High School, who will attend Stanford University


  • Alixandra Kriegsman, a graduate of Milken Community High School, who will attend the University of Pennsylvania


  • Yuanjian Luo, a graduate of Arroyo High School, who will attend Harvard University


  • Francis Poon, a graduate of Glen A. Wilson High School, who will attend New York University


  • Jennifer Quintana, a graduate of Bonita High School, who will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology


  • Emma Templeton, a graduate of Reseda High School, who will attend Harvard University.

“Milken Scholars have demonstrated that they have the ability, determination and leadership skills to make substantial contributions to the world,” said Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Family Foundation and a director of the Milken Scholars program. “The program provides a launching pad so that these remarkable young people can achieve their full potential. Whether leading in business or researching cures for cancer, Milken Scholars can be found at the forefront of society.”

The more than 250 Milken Scholars hail from diverse backgrounds with 29% born outside the United States and three-fourths with parents originating from other countries. Most are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university. Milken Scholars have completed or are completing 373 degrees, many of them graduate degrees.

Scholars will gather in July to attend a three-day annual retreat themed, Milken Scholars Changing the World Around Them, with a focus on individual and collective activism, environmental stewardship, business beyond the bottom line, and global responsibility and human rights. The retreat will culminate on August 1st with a recognition dinner at the Biltmore Hotel, in downtown Los Angeles, to formally introduce and welcome the new 2009 Milken Scholars.


2009 Milken Scholars

Adan Acevedo


Adan Acevedo’s life has been marked by journeys. From their homeland of El Salvador, Adan’s family settled in Lennox, a 1.1-square-mile of Los Angeles infamous as a haven for drugs and prostitution and home to more than 40 gangs. When Adan was awarded a scholarship to Brentwood School, the ninth-grader knew that he was being transported to a new world of opportunity. He embraced the experience with, as one teacher noted, “an insatiable desire to learn everything.” Another shared, “He’s that rare high school scholar who makes every day in class count. In addition to being a remarkable student, Adan’s quiet dignity, courtly manners, and a sense of decency provide a genuine moral compass for the class.” His lengthy list of awards includes Cum Laude Society, National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar, the University of Pennsylvania Book Award, Le Concours National De Francais Award, and the Athletic Leadership Award for the cross country team which he captained. Adan served as editor-in-chief of his school’s philosophical journal, president of the Latino Student Association, and mentored students through the peer leadership program. Children in his neighborhood are helped and tutored through his volunteer efforts with the Lennox Educational Advancement Foundation and the Richstone Family Center. While Adan’s next step will be to study government and philosophy at Harvard University, he’s also looking to a return journey. “I will never forget the city I came from and the issues that plague my community. Lennox gave me the few pearls it had to offer. I must give them back and with interest.” He plans “to drive for change in my community… and later, the world.”

Kimberly Becker


Last summer Kimberly Becker spent seven weeks as a corporate chief executive officer. She led her “EliteHound Company” to top honors at the highly selective Academy of Business Leadership’s (ABL) Summer Business Institute, an intense program designed to prepare the next generation of leaders. Having applied “to sharpen my leadership skills and gain insight into the business world,” Kimberly found that she could “orchestrate projects into accomplishments, people into a team, and chaos into order.” She will continue her business studies when she enters the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. Kimberly’s leadership skills were in full force at the California Academy of Mathematics and Science, where she served as rocket team leader, National Honor Society president, senior class vice president, and prom commissioner. For three consecutive years she was the school newspaper’s editor-in-chief. A counselor credits Kimberly’s “love of learning and high level of curiosity” as motivation for a curriculum solidly packed with advanced placement, honors and college courses. Though Kimberly has a significant hearing loss in both ears and has worn hearing aids since the age of two, she uses her disability as a catalyst to work harder, better and more proficiently. “My hearing loss is most certainly not something that defines me as an individual.” An active volunteer, she dedicated more than 240 service hours to numerous charities. In challenging herself to compete in cross country, Kimberly shared, “I did not race because I was good at it, or because I liked the pain, but because I needed to prove something to myself.” With such fortitude, it is apparent that Kimberly has already mastered the business of how to succeed

Michael Diaz


Both counselors and teachers laud Michael Diaz as the most outstanding and dedicated student they have ever encountered. Valedictorian in a class of 890, this Millikan High School student distinguished himself with a perfect grade point average, all 5s on his AP exams, and a curriculum brimming with multiple college courses. Among his many academic honors are National Merit Scholar, National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar, five science awards and medals of merit in seven different subjects. Yet Michael is known not only for his academic acumen but for his exceptional altruism. He expressed, “I want to get out there and make my mark on the world. Hopefully my intelligence will help and guide me, but never will it define who I am. I work hard at everything I do and I commit myself to helping others.” As president of QUEST, a community service program for Millikan’s gifted program, Michael quadrupled the number of participating students. He served as president of Camp Fire USA’s youth leadership program, the Horizon Club, and the school’s Red Cross Club. Michael worked for three years on the Long Beach Commission on Youth and Children and received an appointment as commissioner. Other testaments to his leadership include his selection as a Hugh O’Brien Youth Leader and a Congressional Hispanic Caucus Initiative Youth Leader. An Eagle Scout, student council officer, and MVP tennis team member, Michael also co-captained the award-winning Student Energy Team which taught elementary students about energy conservation. Michael is headed to Stanford University where he seems destined to make his mark in his chosen field of human biology.

Tri Huynh


Captain of the Academic Decathlon team since 2005, Tri Huynh ─ a double Gold Medal winner ─ faced an unexpected challenge during his senior year when the team was suddenly without a coach. Through Tri’s resolve, Gardena High School’s award-winning team was saved. Tri credits the experience with teaching him that “true leadership entails an impenetrable sense of dedication, a staggering amount of patience, and an endless wealth of resilience in the face of obstacles.” Employing his resourcefulness and intellect, Tri fought against another challenge: a prevailing atmosphere of low expectations. Gardena High is a large urban school which, according to a college counselor, “rarely produces a student of Tri’s caliber.” Having immigrated from Vietnam at the age of eight, Tri’s vision of the future is more than just “tomorrow,” However, said Tri, “we were constantly reminded that only 50% of incoming freshmen would graduate and only 20% of the graduates would go on to college.” Striving for greatness, Tri set a high bar for himself. His stellar success is evidenced with recognitions including valedictorian, Warren Christopher Scholar, AP Scholar with Distinction, and he led his team to top prizes in the Robert Herndon Aerospace Competition. Tri will pursue political science and mechanical engineering at Harvard University. In addition to providing his own motivation, Tri is committed to helping others. From tutoring his peers to spending Friday afternoons engaged in Peace Games, a national program to promote friendship and cooperation among elementary students, and for which he received the Most Dedicated Peacemaker Award, Tri is focused on reframing the notion of what is possible.

Yihwan Kim


Burbank High School’s valedictorian, Yihwan Kim, led his senior class of 626 in academics while also excelling in community service, music and athletics. An AP Scholar with Distinction, Yihwan’s SAT score of 2310 included perfect 800s in math and critical reading. He was recognized with a gold level Presidential Service Award and the school’s Social Studies Award. In Boy Scout’s he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. A principal cellist in the school orchestra and at his church, Yihwan spent summers as a group leader for AWANA International helping elementary children read, understand and interpret the Bible. The organization acknowledged his contributions with their Meritorious Award. A member of the varsity tennis team, he received the Scholar-Athlete Award and was named Most Inspirational Player. His AP history teacher pointed to Yihwan’s “exceptional organizational and creative talents coupled with a meticulous attention to detail as qualities rare in adults, let alone high school students.” In describing Yihwan, the teacher added, “He is one of the most talented leaders I have known. He is a leader sought out among leaders.” Yihwan ─ the first non-senior to be elected president of the school’s award-winning Key Club ─ gained wide acclaim by creating training materials which he later developed for use by 250,000 Key Clubbers worldwide. He was named the Outstanding President for a three-state region and elected to the International Board of Trustees. In the fall, he’ll begin his studies in international relations and political science at Stanford University.

Alixandra Kriegsman


“Ali Kriegsman is the quintessential well-rounded student,” shared her Milken Community High School counselor. "Academically, she is what most would call an ‘interdisciplinarian.’ Interested in everything, she makes an effort to understand the way it all connects.” She was honored with the American Society for Technion Award for Excellence in Science and her research on the effects of solar exposure to chemical dyes was published in the Journal of Student Research Abstracts. Awards abound from the arts to altruism. A solid “A” student, Ali earned Excellence Awards in English and in theater and was recognized with the Tzedek Award for Justice. Her efforts as the editor-in-chief of the school’s award-winning newspaper have, in the words of the faculty advisor, “considerably raised the standards of the paper and the journalists.” A gifted and accomplished musician, Ali is a member of the Young Vocal Artists of Los Angeles, a professional student choir that records tutorial CDs ─ in several languages ─ to teach children how to sing and read music. She performs at civic events as part of the Kol Echad a cappella group and she assembled an eight-person band, Rockaria, to entertain special needs children. Last summer she was one of 25 students from across the country chosen for a Bronfman Youth Fellowship in Israel. In writing about the experience, Ali shared, “It helped me rediscover an identity grounded in passion – an identity that thrived when questioning, challenging and feeling. I say what I think and defend what I love.” Committed to stopping terrorist attacks through understanding the human mind and creating a safer, more humane world through social justice, this “interdisciplinarian” will study criminology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Yuanjian Luo


Intent on addressing the energy crisis by developing viable alternative energy sources, Yuanjian Luo will study physics at Harvard University. He plans to revolutionize the use of nuclear energy by speeding up the decay of nuclear waste and also researching how to tame fusion to use more solar power. “I have stepped across the starting line of my career of applying my knowledge to engineer a better world,” he stated. Yuanjian, the first in his family to attend college, came from China when he was 13. While observing his father’s arduous efforts to build a new life in a new land, Yuanjian resolved to work diligently to meet his father’s expectations that he be number one in everything. “Opportunities that are within my reach, such as the Teen Leadership Camp and the Science Olympiad Competition, have never escaped my grasp.” First in his class of 522 at Arroyo High School, this valedictorian earned 5’s on eight AP exams, a SAT score of 2320 with two perfect 800s, and a National Merit Letter of Commendation. As Academic Decathlon captain, Yuanjian led his team to multiple gold and silver medals. While awards help buoy Yuanjian’s confidence in pursuing his desire to contribute to the community, he said his service work “made me fall in love with this goal. I am filled with hope and a certain satisfaction that I am giving to, rather than taking from, those whom I serve.” With 500 service hours through the National Honor Society and the Leo Club, for which he served two terms as president, Yuanjian’s good works have made a positive difference in countless lives.

Francis Poon


This year the 2,000 students at Glen A. Wilson High School had a new tool ─ an agenda planner ─ to help stay organized and engaged, and it was all due to the initiative and originality of Francis Poon. From designing the artwork to calculating the production budget, Francis took sole responsibility for turning his idea into a reality. Wilson’s guidance counselor described the agenda as the best planner she had ever seen. “It has an abundance of information from school holidays to math formulas. The entire student body loved it and so did the faculty.” Through his involvement as editor-in-chief of the yearbook, Francis realized that he now dreams of working in the magazine publishing business. “What separates Francis from his peers,” noted the yearbook advisor, “is his commitment and drive to produce a high quality publication. Francis works harder than any student I have ever taught, and his passion for excellence is contagious.” Born in Hong Kong, Francis and his mother immigrated to the United States five years ago. Highly motivated, Francis was determined to learn English and excel in his studies. One of the top students in his class, he is also a standout in his community service endeavors. In his capacity as committee head for the Youth Planning Council, Francis coordinates an annual leadership conference for middle school students. He presided over the Leo Club, was an active Red Cross volunteer, peer counselor and a valued member of the school’s Renaissance Leadership program. One doesn’t need an agenda planner to see that exciting opportunities await Francis in his journalistic pursuits at New York University.

Jennifer Quintana


As a young girl, Jennifer Quintana and her grandmother shared a fascination with the universe. Awash with millions of questions about the mysteries of space, they would study the sky every night. Together they visited museums and observatories, read science books, and even created their own experiments to test various ideas. As Jennifer prepares to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she will study aerospace engineering and music, she acknowledges her grandmother’s influence in fostering an ongoing interest in science. The first in her family to attend college, Jennifer’s quest is to help preserve the planet. She would like to build a transportation system to get outside the atmosphere so that solar power could be harnessed and redistributed. This AP Scholar with Distinction from Bonita High school is the Drum Major of the Marching Band, bass captain of the drumline (the only female carrying a drum), and a baritone saxophone player in a jazz ensemble. The band director noted Jennifer’s contributions to both the symphonic and marching bands: “As a leader, she pushes herself and the group to reach their goals through positive reinforcement and encouragement.” He added that she was an inspirational role model demonstrating “dedication, conscientiousness and creativity.” Jennifer was the longest standing member of the award-winning varsity debate team and received multiple parliamentary debate awards. Named the Most Outstanding Sophomore, she also was honored with the Bearcat Pride Award. In addition to peer tutoring and volunteering with the elderly, Jennifer holds down a part-time job to help her family with expenses. Whatever passions she chooses to pursue, it appears highly probable that Jennifer’s accomplishments will be out of this world.

Emma Templeton


Valedictorian Emma Templeton is, according to Reseda High School’s college counselor, “the best student” as well as first in her class of 608 students. “Across the board, her teachers remark that Emma’s vibrant intellect, multidimensional mind, sense of humor, and sincerely kind personality are her most impressive and endearing qualities.” Emma’s appreciation for the importance of teamwork and cooperation can be seen in her sterling group sports successes. In basketball she earned the Scholar-Athlete Award for four consecutive years and the Coach’s Award twice. Rookie of the Year in volleyball, she was chosen as varsity captain and also received the Scholar-Athlete Award. Among her impressive list of academic honors are AP Scholar with Distinction, California Scholarship Federation’s Gold Award, Science Fair first prize, and state finalist in the HOSA Competition which tests leadership and knowledge in the health sciences. Extra-curricular activities included writing for the school newspaper, volunteering as a peer college counselor, and serving as an officer in the school’s Key Club which consistently was named “club of the year.” Recognizing that “in many ways, religious upbringing best defines who we are since faith (or lack thereof) shapes values,” Emma founded a theology club so that the diverse mix of students on campus would have a forum for “sharing, comparing and questioning their perspectives on life. The only club rule was that all beliefs had to be respected.” Passionate about slowing global warming, Emma will study engineering at Harvard University while exploring ways to develop alternative sources of renewable energy. And there is no question that she’ll be bringing her best efforts to safeguard our planet’s future.