The sky is the limit for a recent Brooklyn Technical High School graduate.
Sheepshead Bay resident Karen Li has accomplished an impressive amount in her life and she has just graduated high school. From community service to raising awareness about important topics, she’s well on her way to long-term success.
She recently got accepted into the 2018 Milken Scholars Program which will award her a $10,000 scholarship and provide a lifelong mentor and support system for career-related counseling.
“There are so many amazing scholars,” said Li. “They have a lot of connections and they just help the newer Milken scholars have more opportunities to talk to people in fields they’re interested in. I was accepted into the program last month and I have already received so many emails from people who want to speak about my career pathway and finances so I’m already so grateful to be in this program.”
However, the process wasn’t easy. Li was nominated by the scholarship director at Brooklyn Tech. This past January, she submitted an application, wrote an essay and answered short answer questions. Then, in May, she was informed that she was one of 15 students selected for an interview.
“I was one of six people finally chosen for this amazing program and scholarship,” Li recounted. “I was so happy. When I found out I had been accepted into this program, I just couldn’t believe it. My family doesn’t have to stress about tuition money.”
Because Li was also accepted into Yale on a scholarship thanks to becoming a QuestBridge National College Match finalist, she plans to use the money to pay for graduate school.
Li was excited to get into the Ivy League school and get an academic scholarship in the process.
“I remember finding out I got in and being in disbelief,” she said. “I knew that I had a chance but I just broke down crying in front of everybody. Yale was my first choice. They have an amazing political science and global affairs program and that’s what I want to study when I go to college. The community seems amazing and it’s a nurturing place where you can study what you want for four years.”
Yi also won several prestigious awards thanks to her commitment to helping others. For one thing, she co-founded Stand Against Starvation (SAS) to raise awareness of famine-struck countries.
“I had seen a lot of Facebook posts about the famine in Yemen and how children were dying in March, 2017,” she said. “I realized I had never seen it on the news and didn’t hear anyone talking about it. So I looked into it even more and I found out they weren’t receiving the funding they needed to help the people in Yemen.”
Li then asked two of her closest friends to help spread the word and start an organization that would help the people raise money.
“The first step is raising awareness so that everybody knows about it and is willing to help the cause,” she said. “I contacted a lot of organizations that had already been doing work in Yemen, and the International Rescue Committee contacted me back, So my friends and I met with them, with an advisor from my school.”
Currently, SAS is focused on Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan. The group collected and donated more than 300 pairs of jeans for homeless teens and distributed cards with uplifting messages to Muslim students during Ramadan.
Li also joined the Vision Zero Youth Council after an accident left a friend dead in 2017.
She got involved, she said, “Because I was so upset about the whole situation and I wanted to know what I could do to help and prevent these crashes from happening again. I realized there was a lot more we could do to prevent these deaths from happening to anyone else.”
Li, who also loves to sing and has aspirations of becoming a politician, wants younger kids to know that they should follow their dreams.
“My advice is just to do it,” she said. “Even if you think you’re going to fail or people won’t support it, do it anyway because there’s at least one person that will want to help you in your cause.”