Three college-bound D.C. high school seniors have been selected as prestigious Milken Scholars this year, each earning $10,000 cash and a lifetime of support with their careers.
The unique program was founded in 1989 to help students in D.C., New York City and Los Angeles County transition from high school to college to the workplace; and it provides winners with lifelong career guidance and mentoring. Scholars are chosen on the basis of academics, community service, leadership and the ability to overcome obstacles.
One of this year’s D.C. winners, Natural Taylor, just graduated from McKinley Technical High School as 2020 salutatorian and is headed to Harvard University on a full scholarship.
McKinley High’s counselor recommended Taylor for the Milken Scholar award, so when the 18-year-old got the good news, he had to share it with her right away.
“I was so happy, I called Miss Mason right after I said, ‘Miss Mason, it worked! Thank you so much for putting me on to it,'” Taylor said.
Although fall classes at Harvard will be online only because of the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor has chosen to live on campus.
“I feel like it’s a valuable part of the college experience. I feel like it’s irreplaceable, and the closer I can get to that authentic experience, the better,” he said. “I know the risks associated, but I also know that this is Harvard. This is an institution. The safety of the students is definitely going to be a priority.”
Taylor plans to major in environmental engineering.
“My name is Natural, and that isn’t by coincidence. I’m actually a vegan-vegetarian. I live a very earth-friendly, earth-centered lifestyle. So pretty much all my life, I’ve had the environmental part in me. But the engineering part, that part came from a lot of different programs,” Taylor said.
During a summer engineering program in second grade, Taylor remembers learning about solar energy and racing solar-powered cars. Once at McKinley, Taylor chose an engineering concentration.
He likes engineering because it’s so broad.
“There’s all kinds of people who make medicine, people who are in charge of infrastructure, people who drill oil. So it’s just so many different possibilities,” he said.
Taylor is the first in his family to go to college.
“I’m just so happy that I’ve been able to achieve that. Not only personally going to college, but going for free,” he said.
And since he’s the oldest of five kids, Taylor is happy to set an example for his two sisters and two brothers.
“They’re definitely going to aim high. They’ll definitely go great places, as well; and they’ll continue to make the family proud. So I’m glad I could set the bar for them,” he said.
Taylor is very involved in community service and mentoring, and after graduation, he plans return to D.C. to work in the city he loves.
“A lot of people have that give-back mentality, that strong sense of community, so I, having lived around them, I’ve gained that sense, as well,” he said.
The two other Milken Scholars from D.C. that were chosen this year are both graduates of Benjamin Banneker Senior High. Henry Addison plans to attend Harvard, and Callaway Pate is heading to Penn State.