A recent Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) High School graduate has aimed for the stars and it has paid off big time.
Seventeen-year-old David Mardakhayev, who will study engineering in NYU this fall, was recently named a recipient 2017 Milken Scholars program. The program, funded by wealthy philanthropist Michael Milken, gave Mardakhayev a $10,000 scholarship as well as a lifelong mentor and support system that includes ongoing career-related counseling, assistance in securing internships, and more.
The scholarship is given to high achieving, charismatic students who are going to be the leaders of tomorrow.
Mardakhayev, a Kensington native and exceptional student, was nominated for the scholarship by his guidance counselor this past December which opened him up to the application.
“I sent everything in and a couple of weeks later, I was told I was chosen to do an interview,” he recalled. “I went in, told them about myself, answered some questions, told a few jokes and then I anxiously awaited the email that I thought would probably say I didn’t make it. I got a call from the director of the scholarship. I was expecting to hear I didn’t get it. She said I made it and I was incredibly happy.”
On Sunday, June 4, he along with a select few recipients attended a recognition dinner in the New York Hilton Midtown.
According to the Brooklyn recipient, of the many that applied, only six individuals from New York, three from Washington D.C. and 13 from Los Angeles received the award.
His passion for engineering is recent. “I had my whole life predetermined to be a doctor and when I went to volunteer at a hospital last year, I just found out it wasn’t my area,” Mardakhayev said. “I took a long look at my life and what I enjoyed even when I was young and I figured out I like building things and I like thinking about different ways to solve difficult problems. I can sit there looking at a problem for hours just figuring it out. I really like calculus and physics and those are the foundations of engineering so I figured I’d go for it.”
Mardakhayev is excited to be studying mechanical engineering at NYU this fall. “First off, it’s right here in downtown Brooklyn and it has a reputation for being a really good engineering school,” he explained. “It’s brand new because they just bought Poly Tech which was there first. They gave me great financial aid. And I love the community of NYU. It’s huge and sprawling city. I love being able to see someone new every five seconds.”
He credits several teachers at FDR for his growing success. “My history teacher Mr. Sullivan, my robotics and AP mathematics teacher, Mr. Catalano and my English teacher Ms. Gobin didn’t only help me academically, but they also made me a better person because I left all their classes feeling like I actually learned something rather than just taking in facts.”
Mr. Catalano especially helped him in his future field, said Mardakhayev. “He was an engineer and he’s who I went to for advice about everything,” he said. “He was the one who made me believe I could be an engineer. He was really the person who kept me going.”
The scholar, who considers himself an extrovert, has many other interests and hobbies. “I was part of the robotics club,” he said. “I play piano, guitar and saxophone. I was a student ambassador in high school which meant I went to middle schools all around Brooklyn and advertised FDR. Volunteering was also fine and helping people around and bringing food.”
Mardakhayev, who hopes to have a career in SpaceX or NASA, gave advice to aspiring local students. “I wasn’t even ranked in the top 10 in my school,” he said. “I was ranked number 14 which is still good, but I was real pessimistic about it because coming from an inner city school compared to kids going to these private schools, you feel disadvantaged. I just want to tell people as long as you stay in the top of your class and really let your personality shine through in everything instead of just taking classes for the sake of taking classes, you can get in anywhere.”