Milken Moment contest ends with five winning submissions

Milken Moment winners
Weil, Simmons, Gross, Vanderhall and Petrasek-Brown (left to right) are the five recipients of the Milken Moment contest. Photos courtesy of

Sophie Golub


Before Milken students departed on winter break, Alex Weil ’14, Joshua Simmons ’12, Rachel Gross ’04, Jeremy Vanderhall ’99 and Debbi Petrasek Brown, Milken parent, were announced as the winners of the “Milken Moment” contest. Each received an iPad 2 as a reward.

While the contest only intended to have one winner, the judge panel, comprised of upper and middle school parents as well as faculty and administration, received so many submissions they had to extend the deadline and increase the amount of winners.

“[The purpose was] to celebrate our educational community and its accomplishments, create a “narrative” about the school from multiple lenses of the community, create a sense of gratitude for Milken as an institution and to understand more fully what makes Milken such an extraordinary school,” Jason Ablin, head of school, said.

Hundreds of submissions were received, in many different formats. The majority of the submissions, including the winners, illustrated one specific experience that served as a microcosm of their entire Milken experience.

Weil described his surprise when Mr. Roger Kassebaum, director of Mitchell Academy of Science and Technology (MAST), not only listened to the ideas of a freshman, but also immediately put them into action through the MAST program.

“Far too often in our world, people seem content to submit to complacency, to pass their problems on to others because they do not believe that they are capable of something magical,” Weil wrote. “If Milken has taught me one thing, it is that they are wrong.”

Simmons reflected on his Tiferet Israel Fellowship experience that, similar to Weils, unexpectedly changed him. Questioning a non-native Israeli soldier resulted in Simmons taking a step back and reexamining his passive approach to life.

Unlike many current students who scoff or joke about the idea of a “doubters minyan,” Gross’ experience in this obscure minyan, which required her to step outside of her comfort level and explore Judaism, stuck with her since her 2004 graduation.

After over a decade since Vanderhall roamed Milken halls, Milken’s impact on him still lives on. Lost in the chaos of junior year, Vanderhall was unable to figure out what to do with his future until a new course on Aviation Science opened up. The ability of Milken to offer atypical learning experiences set into motion the ensuing events of his life.

Petrasek-Brown is one of the moms working behind the counter of Milken’s very own Milken Mart. Standing behind that counter week after week, interacting and engaging with the students, Petrasek-Brown shed light on how those encounters mirror the Milken student body as a whole.

“Our kids aren’t typical because our school’s values aren’t typical,” Petrasek-Brown wrote. “Our kids are held to high standards, and boy, do they rise to the occasion.”

To read the winning submissions, click here.