South Ozone Park high school student receives $10,000 scholarship to study at Harvard University

Photo courtesy of Sarah Deonarain

A South Ozone Park high school student is on her way to Harvard after receiving a $10,000 scholarship. 

Sarah Deonarain, a senior at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, is one of six students from New York City selected to be a Milken Scholar for its 2019 scholarship program after a rigorous nomination, application and interview process.

The Milken Scholarship program is a joint initiative of the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation founded in 1982 supporting education and medical research. Open to college-bound high school seniors in New York City, Los Angeles County 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.

Deonarain was elated upon her acceptance into the program. She will receive a lifelong mentor/support system that includes ongoing career-related counseling, assistance in securing internships, opportunities for community service and a fund to assist her pursuit of any post-undergraduate career goals.

“I think for the longest I’ve been wanting to go to Harvard and it’s always hard to hear growing up that college is expensive and difficult to pay for, and being the first one to go to college in my family — not even in my nuclear family but in my extended family as well — my biggest fear was how am I going to pay for this?” said Deonarain. “Milken giving me this opportunity to experience Harvard with one less weight on my shoulder is incredible and it makes me excited for my future there. It’s amazing and more than I could’ve hoped for.”

Deonarain, who is very fond of debate and public speaking, spearheaded the revival of the Townsend Harris High School chapter of the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), after she discovered it had been nearly defunct for almost a decade.

She researched the benefits of debate practice and prepared a presentation convincing school leaders to relaunch the program. Now the president, Deonarain has competed with her peers in NSDA events, Poetry Out Loud, and the Theodore Roosevelt Public Speaking Competition. She has also led the Science Olympiad team to a record seventh place in the state and earning individual city and state honors in Parasitology.

“All through out middle school I loved giving speeches. I loved writing speeches. Talking in front of an audience and giving presentations has always been the best part of any class or projects, and that kind of carried into high school,” Deonarain said. “It’s been incredible to give back to other students who are looking for an outlet just like I was years ago.”

Deonarain has debated on various school-based topics such as healthier school lunches, politics, immigration, the importance of arts and education, and mental health awareness.

An AP Scholar with Honors, Deonarain has received awards in the American Classical League’s National Greek Exam and earned state honors in math, science, English, language and music. She has been recognized by the Arista and Archon National Honor Societies.

The concertmaster of the school wind ensemble, Deonarain has played at Carnegie Hall and on WQXR, New York’s classical music radio station.

Additionally, she is overall director of S!NG, a musical theater competition among the grades at Townsend Harris. Deonarain wrote original scripts and directed actors, singers, dancers and musicians in annual performances.

The editor of the Phoenix, the student literary magazine, Deonarain critiques submissions, produces webzines and organizes film screenings.

As an intern for New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, Deonarain publicized events, organized tree-planting projects, worked on issues of community concern, and organized a celebration for Asian American Heritage Month. She also tutors students of all ages at the public library, organizes workshops for English language learners, and helps adults whose English language skills are limited complete paperwork for their jobs or children’s schools.

The soon-to-be high school graduate is planning to study government at Harvard and pursue a career in law, diplomacy or politics.

“It’s kind of nostalgic and very sad that this is the last time I’ll be doing some of these things … in this community in Flushing and in Townsend Harris,” said Deonarain. “But it really makes me excited for the future that I was able to have experiences and come to understand what my passions are and what I want to do and set goals for myself. I’m even more excited having Milken and Harvard, that the two of them together could potentially help me do greater things.”