Queens high school student earns 2023 Milken Scholars Award

Riya Singh.
Photo courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation

Townsend Harris High School student Riya Singh was named as one of six New York City recipients of the 2023 Milken Scholars Award. The award honors exceptional young individuals based upon their scholarship, leadership, service and character.

Singh and the other students who won the award will each receive a $10,000 cash prize, as well as mentoring and resources, including ongoing college advising, career-related counseling, assistance in securing internships, opportunities for community service and a fund to assist in the pursuit of post-undergraduate career goals.

“I was very excited and elated to find out I was a Milken Scholar, mostly because of the support network that they have and how it extends beyond the four years at college,” Singh said. “It’s a lifetime of support. I was very elated to be chosen to be a part of that family.”

Singh served as the president of her school’s No Buddy Left Behind Club, where she led over two dozen volunteers in building relationships with students at nearby P255Q, a school focused on children and teens on the autism spectrum. In addition to holding holiday parties, game nights and fundraisers, the club paired volunteers with P255Q students as pen pals. The volunteers would also visit P255Q on a daily basis to assist the students in math, writing and in-person conversation.

Under Singh’s leadership, the No Buddy Left Behind Club has experienced tremendous growth. In addition to the assistance they provide to P255Q, the club has also educated the Townsend Harris community about autism spectrum disorder. This has been achieved in large part thanks to schoolwide seminars and electronic leaflets.

In addition to being a Milken Award winner, Singh is also a QuestBridge National College Match Recipient and AP Scholar with Distinction. She is a member of the National Honor Society, New York State Science Honor Society, Robotics/Engineering Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta Mathematics Honor Society and ARCHON, the National Honor Service Honor Society. On top of all this, she has received the Quest for Excellence New Americans Award.

In addition to serving as the president of her school’s No Buddy Left Behind Club, Singh is the multimedia editor of the Townsend Harris High School student-led publication, “The Classic.” Her responsibilities there include overseeing a team of contributors and working on all aspects of video production, from concept to execution and promotion.

While taking part in the Girls Who Code summer immersion program, Singh created a website on women’s empowerment. She also attended NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project Aerospace Academy and studied climate change in the Columbia Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics Coding Bootcamp.

Singh also serves as an assistant coach for her former middle school’s debate team. In that role, she works towards building up the confidence in public speaking for the students on the team. She also teaches them about finding credible sources, recognizing bias in evidence and formulating strong arguments. The team has been very successful, consistently ranking among the top ten across New York City and getting the opportunity to compete in city and state tournaments.

On top of being an assistant coach for this debate team, Singh also judges monthly competitions and state championships for the New York City Urban Debate League. Following the conclusion of each outing Singh judges, she provides detailed feedback to competitors.

Singh credits her family’s support for helping to ensure her academic and extracurricular success.

“My family has supported me along every step of the way,” Singh said. They helped me get through difficult courses in school and gave words of encouragement when times were hard. Even my extended family in Nepal and around the U.S. always have supported me from afar. I think it really played a role in me getting to where I am, knowing that there were so many people to support me on my journey.”

Singh has been rewarded for her academic success and community service. The Milken Academic Scholarship and the $10,000 that comes with it will certainly help her as she prepares to attend Yale University in the fall on a full ride, thanks to being a Questbridge National College Match recipient. At Yale, Singh will be studying computer science.

After receiving her Bachelor’s degree from Yale, Singh intends to go to graduate school before making a career in artificial intelligence. According to Singh, she wants to research artificial intelligence as she looks to use it to tackle real world problems, like climate change.

Founded in 1989, the Milken Scholars Program is a joint initiative between the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation. It is meant to promote and assist young people as they attempt to transition from high school to college and from college to graduate school or the world of work. College-bound high school seniors in Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles County are eligible to apply for it. The Milken Scholars are selected based upon their academic performance, community service, leadership and ability to persevere in the face of personal challenges.

Some of the notable Milken Award recipients in the past include inaugural poet Amanda Gorman Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, Belarus, Ruben Harutunian, Children’s National Hospital Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Joelle Simpson and award-winning entrepreneur Emanuel Yekutiel.

The other five New York City residents who were recipients of the 2023 Milken Award were Sandra Cheah of Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts, Lina Lin of Manhattan Hunter Science High School, Murat Khidoyatov of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School, Kitty Wang of Stuyvesant High School and Sally Williams of Brooklyn Technical High School.

The New York City Milken Scholars will attend a four-day summit in Los Angeles this July with over 100 Scholars, including new Scholars from Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles County and undergraduates and alumni facilitators.