Ayanna Neal (243776)

The Milken Scholars, a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation, has selected 13 talented students from the Los Angeles area for its 2017 scholarship program after a rigorous nomination, application and interview process. Open to college-bound high school seniors in Los Angeles, New York 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.

“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.”

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.

The Los Angeles Milken Scholars will attend a three-day summit this summer in L.A. with more than 100 Scholars including new recipients, undergraduates and alumni facilitators from Washington, D.C., and New York.

Locally, Ayanna Neal, a graduate of Marymount High School in Los Angeles, has already made a lasting mark on her city. As founder of Friends of the LAX Dunes, Ayanna led the restoration of a section of the LAX Coastal Dunes near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The effort, which involved 600 volunteers and more than $142,000 in grants, earned Ayanna her Girl Scout Gold Award and a Los Angeles World Airports Award; it also led to her being featured by television ABC7 News in its “Cool Kid” series, which profiles teen community service leaders.

Ayanna, a Marymount Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary scholar throughout her high school years and a student admissions ambassador, has won year-end academic awards in English, math, history and French. During a seminar on social justice at Northwestern University, Ayanna’s personal experiences with some of the other attendees heightened her awareness of the struggles other races and ethnicities face. Back at Marymount, Ayanna served as one of the coordinators of her school’s diversity council, where she planned a 2017 Mission in Action Celebration for 400 students around the school’s goal of “Unity in Diversity.” Ayanna co-chaired a food drive for A Place Called Home in South Los Angeles, sang in the Marymount choir, belonged to the Tri-M Music Honor Society and played varsity softball. She has been a Girl Scout for 10 years and was recognized as an emerging leader. She has worked as a marketing representative for Go Marketing and interned at Inspire Entertainment. Ayanna is a Coca-Cola Pay It Forward Scholar and was featured in an ad campaign for the Coca-Cola Pay It Forward program.

Ayanna will study philosophy, politics and economics at the University of Pennsylvania and plans a career in law and politics.