“The amount of support I received surpassed my expectations,”

Vanessa Darkwah, ’23 BCS fellow

Black college and university enrollment has fallen by 22% in the past decade. Black College Success (BCS), a project of LA Promise Fund, is looking to change that. BCS’ mission is to increase opportunities through college access and success for Black high school students in South Los Angeles. Through mentorship, financial aid assistance, college tours and workshops, BCS is focused on supporting students from their High School senior year and all the way through their four years into college. The BCS program if offered in nine South Los Angeles schools, an area where 38% of the population is Black and only 8.2% of its residents have a four-year degree. The Class of 2023, is BCS’ second cohort to graduate with more than 203 students going on to college, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Howard and Clark Atlanta.  Here’s a Q&A with four students to get a deeper understanding of what the program does for its communities and most importantly, for its youth.

Aammarah Gage – BCS described in one word: “Lovely”


Aammarah Gage, a graduating senior at Crenshaw High School, will go on to UCLA in the fall majoring in Engineering. Gage enjoys gardening, photography and building unique sculptures.

Q: What has been the greatest hurdle you have faced on your academic journey?

A: The most significant hurdle I’ve faced was my lack of motivation during quarantine. Attending classes online felt like school was no longer important, so sometimes, I didn’t want to do any work. I overcame this lack of motivation by realizing the future I wish for myself would depend on the effort I put in now.

Q: How has BCS helped you obtain your goals?

A:  BCS has consistently helped me with my writing. I’ve needed help finding as well as applying to various scholarships, and someone, often Miss Nina (Torres), would sit down and help me craft a developed essay. I will always be grateful to them for their assistance.

Q: Why did you join BCS?

A:  I joined BCS as they dedicate themselves to helping their students succeed in college as well as life. This program has surpassed my expectations numerous times, allowing me to join multiple programs within BCS.


Mikayla Wills – BCS described in one word: “Motivating”


Mikayla Wills is a graduating senior at Alexander Hamilton High School, and the youngest one at that.  At only 16 years old, Wills owns a small business where she sells handmade candles. Wills is also not a stranger to hard work, as her first job was at the age of 12 at a daycare. Wills committed to attending Clark Atlanta in the fall, majoring in Business Administration.

Q: What Makes You Unique?

A: I feel like what makes me stick out is my age. People never believe I am 16 with my life basically figured out, or with how many jobs I have and how I manage them, people try to put a block on how much a teenager (my age) can actually do or reach for in life so I’m here to prove you can do anything you put your mind to no matter the age.

Q: What has been the greatest hurdle you have faced on your academic journey?

A: The greatest hurdle I have faced on my academic journey was the doubt. When I tell you that there were so many people that doubted me going to college this early. Those people were mentioning how it would be “too much on me”, “she is way too young to go off to another state by herself,” “she will never make it to graduate high school,” and the most common one was “she’s immature for college, but mature for her age.” With all of the doubt it just motivated me to go 10 times harder like okay you don’t think I can? Now I’m about to show you. Academically I have never struggled, my biggest fear was always having bad grades so I knew I would ace that part.

Q: Why did you join BCS?

A:  I joined BCS to learn more about Black Colleges which are not talked about as much. BCS definitely was way more than I expected. Seeing how dedicated someone is to seeing you succeed as a person in life is so amazing, and I think other students should be able to experience what BCS has to offer.


Takhie Dudley – BCS described in one word: “Auspicious”


Takhie Dudley, a graduating senior from Westbrook High School, is an active member of his school, participating in programs like the National Honors Society, the Student Government Association, Just Keep Living and Jobs for American Graduates. Dudley will be attending California State University Northridge come fall. Takhie is a Young Professionals Council scholarship recipient.

Q: If you could describe BCS in one word, what would it be?

A:  In one word, I would choose the adjective “auspicious” to sum up BCS because it is a program where future success is expected. BCS has exceeded every expectation I had when I first enrolled in the program, and I would advise any other Black students to do the same if granted the opportunity.


Q: What has been the greatest hurdle you have faced on your academic journey?

A: The biggest challenge I encountered in high school was when I had to switch from in-person learning to virtual learning due to Covid.  This was difficult for me because I entirely lost interest in school during these periods because I was at home, easily distracted, and frequently worked from my bed.   However, when I was able to return to school, I was made aware of the BCS program, which enabled me to connect with other students and become active in the black college community. 


Q: How has BCS helped you obtain your goals?

A: BCS has assisted me in maintaining a GPA above 3.0 throughout the academic year, getting active in a community of only black students, and establishing contacts within the BCS organization.  I have significantly benefited from BCS’ assistance in getting knowledge, counseling, acceptance into multiple universities, and even scholarships.   I am really appreciative of BCS and think that this program makes sure that their students are academically and financially prepared for college.


Vanessa Darkwah – BCS described in one word: “Supportive”


Vanessa Darkwah is a graduating senior at Manual Arts High School. Darkwah will be attending University of California Irvine in the fall and will major in Biochemistry. Darkwah holds several leadership roles in her community, church and school. OWLS scholarship recipient.

Q: Can you tell me about yourself?

A:  I’m 18 years old , I love science and I enjoy learning and researching new diseases. I also enjoy advocacy work such working with Spring Into Love – an annual conference that  teaches youth about their rights and their sexual reproductive health.

Q: How has BCS helped you obtain your goals? 

A: BCS has supported me throughout the college process from editing my college essays to sending me scholarship opportunities and many more.  BCS nominated me for the Owls scholarship and provided support throughout the application process. Because of the support of this program I won the Oprah Winfrey Scholarship and now I can focus on the most important thing,  learning, instead of worrying about how I could pay for college.

Q: Why did you join BCS? 

A:  I joined BCS because as a first generation college student I knew I needed a lot of guidance throughout the college process. The amount of support I received surpassed my expectations.