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Inspired and developed by Black SCU staff and students, the BEST (Black Excellence, Success, and Trailblazing) College Prep Program is a two-day virtual program aimed at providing Black high school students access to information about the college application process and resources to continue their research moving forward. Throughout this program, you will gain valuable information about the college application process and a supportive community of college students and professional mentors representing industries including medicine, education, technology, law, and non-profit. By highlighting and uplifting Black voices throughout the program, we hope to inspire the pursuit of higher education and self-confidence.

Event Recordings

Did you miss the BEST event ever or are you reminiscing about what an amazing event you attended? Click below to watch the recordings on our YouTube channel. You can also listen to the music curated by our presenters.

BEST Recorded Sessions

Meet the 2021 Mentors

Darius Johnson

(he/him/his)
Hometown
: Chicago, IL
Nationality/Heritage: Jamaican/American
School: Santa Clara University
Major: Finance
Advice: Confidence is key. Half the time no one knows what they're doing, so always being confident in your knowledge, abilities, and beliefs separates you from other people.
Email: drjohnson@scu.edu

 

Gloria Karekezi

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Silver Spring, MD
Nationality/Heritage: Rwandan
School: Santa Clara University
Majors: Public Health Science, Political Science
Advice: Take a deep breath. Everything is going to work out!
Email: gkarekezi@scu.edu


Sydney Freeman

(she/her)
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Nationality/Heritage: Black
School: Santa Clara University
Majors: Communication, Political Science
Advice: This process can be very overwhelming and stressful, so take time to check in and be kind to yourself.
Email: sfreeman@scu.edu


Ifeanyi Ifediba

(he/him/his)
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Nationality/Heritage: Nigerian
School: Santa Clara University
Major: Finance
Advice: “You can only control what you can control, so let the intuition tell you no.”
Email: iifediba@scu.edu

Joanna Thompson, Ph.D

(she/her, they/them)
Hometown: Rockville, Maryland
Nationality/Heritage: Black and Latina (Nicaraguan)
Alma Mater: West Virginia University
Current Role: Director of the Office for Multicultural Learning at SCU
Majors: Criminology and Investigations, Minor in Professional Writing and Editing
Advice: “I found that every time I asked for permission the answer tended to be no, so I had to make my own yeses.” - Issa Rae
Email: jlthompson@scu.edu

 

Ellen Jahanian

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Nationality/Heritage: African American/Mexican American
Alma Mater: University of California, San Diego
Major: Marine Biology
Current Role: Associate Director of Parent Giving at SCU
Email: ejahanian@scu.edu

Tymerra Coleman

(she/her)
Hometown: Joliet, IL
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Mater: Texas Christian University
Majors: Ethnic Studies, Criminal Justice, Women’s Studies
Current Role: Admissions Counselor at Texas Woman’s University
Advice: Use the college admission process to brag on yourself and all you have accomplished!
Email: tcoleman13@twu.edu

 

Katrina Logan

(she/her)
Hometown: Pasadena, CA
Nationality/Heritage: Black and Japanese
Alma Mater: Stanford University
Majors: African and African American Studies, English
Current Role: Director of the Economic Advancement Program at the Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, CA (Attorney)
Advice: Figure out what appeals to you and what you need or want out of college and find schools that would be a good fit for you.
Email: katrina@clsepa.org

 

Latanya Hilton

(she/her)
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Nationality/Heritage: Black
Alma Mater: Santa Clara University
Majors: Marketing, Communication
Current Role: Ambassador at The Ambassadors Circle, LLC and SCU Board of Regents Member
Advice: Share your story, unapologetically.
Email: LT@acircle.org

 

NeChele Rucker

(she/her)
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Mater: Loyola Marymount University
Majors: English (Emphasis in writing)
Current Role: Lead Commercial Counsel at Facebook
Advice: Try to focus on keeping your grades up and finding extracurricular activities you are passionate about. If your standardized test scores are not high, these other factors can still make you competitive when you apply to colleges.
Email: nrucker@fb.com

 

Grace Evans

(she/her/hers)
Hometown: Austin, TX
Nationality/Heritage: Caribbean American
School: Santa Clara University
Majors: Political Science, Ethnic Studies
Advice: Be yourself!
Email: gevans@scu.edu

Randy Winn

Hometown: Danville, CA
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Mater: Santa Clara University
Major: Marketing
Current Role: NBC Sports Bay Area Analyst

Bryant Dowd

(He/Him/His)
Hometown:
Chicago, IL
Nationality/Heritage: Black American
Alma Mater: University of Northern Iowa
Majors: Marketing, Spanish Culture
Current Role: Associate Director of Admission, International Initiatives at Chapman University
Advice: “You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” - Maya Angelou
Email: bdowd@chapman.edu

Byron Howlett

(He/Him/His)
Hometown:
Altadena, CA
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Maters: UCLA (undergraduate), CSU San Bernardino (graduate), University of La Verne (doctoral)
Majors: Geography (undergraduate), Counseling Education (graduate), Organizational Leadership (doctoral)
Current Role: Assistant Dean, Campus Climate (Office of Student Life) at Santa Clara
Advice: “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Email: bhowlett@scu.edu

 

Aldo Billingslea

(He/They)
Hometown:
Fort Worth, TX
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Mater: Austin College 
Majors: Communications, English
Current Role: Professor of Theatre at Santa Clara
Advice: Earn your weekend with hard work during the week.
Email: abillingslea@scu.edu

 

Helen Kassa

(She/Her/Hers)
Hometown:
San Jose, CA
Nationality/Heritage: Ethiopian
Alma Mater: Santa Clara University
Majors: Political Science, International Relations, Minor in Religious Studies
Current Role: Policy & Advocacy at the African American Community Services Agency
Advice: Be authentic.
Email: helenkassa1@gmail.com

 

Erika Davis

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Nationality/Heritage: Black American
Alma Mater: Northern Illinois University
Majors: Communications (Emphasis in Media Studies)
Current Role: Partner Relations Specialist at College Greenlight
Advice: Trust your instinct and believe in yourself. It is cheesy but I think it is important to say out loud. There are going to be many people that are going to try to tell you what to do, what not to do, or will flat out try to make decisions for you. There are also people (and institutions) out there that will make you doubt yourself, your talent and your potential. Don't let them get you down! Write down your goals, visualize your dreams and manifest them into reality. And if you find that to be difficult to do, lean on your inner circle for support. Also, talk to a counselor. They can help with these kinds of things and it is not weird.
Email: edavis@collegegreenlight.com

Bernell Nevil

Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Nationality/Heritage: Black
Alma Maters: Washington University in St. Louis (undergraduate), Michigan State University (graduate)
Majors: Human Resources and Psychology
Current Role: Assistant Director in the Office for Multicultural Learning at SCU
Advice: It is so important to find a campus community where you can live your life fully and authentically. Your college years are a rewarding yet stressful time period, so you should make sure to spend them in a place where you are appreciated and valued. Make sure to ask the questions you need of current students, staff and faculty to determine if you will be supported and affirmed in the ways that you need and deserve. You know what you need to be successful, so do not be shy about looking for it or asking for it.
Email: bnevil@scu.edu

 

Ryan Delahoussaye

(he/him)
Hometown:
Surprise, AZ
Nationality/Heritage: Jamaican American
School: Santa Clara University
Majors: Marketing/Communication 
Advice: Be in an environment where you truly feel like you will be supported. Whether that be at the school itself or by joining clubs and activities within the school, that support system can be the difference in loving or hating the college experience.
Email: rdelahoussaye@scu.edu

A.J. Williams

Hometown: San Jose, CA
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Maters: University of Puget Sound
Majors: Communication Studies
Current Role: Senior Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission, Transfer Coordinator at SCU
Advice: It ain’t rocket science!
Email: ahowellwilliams@scu.edu

Antoinette Battiste

Hometown: Compton, CA (now San Jose, CA)
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Maters: Stanford University (undergraduate), Golden Gate University (graduate)
Majors: Psychology, African & Afro-American Studies (undergraduate), Information Systems (graduate)
Current Role: Independent Educational Consultant
Advice: Be true to yourself through the process.
Email: adviser@antoinettebattise.com

 

Ranee Sanford

(She/her/hers)
Hometown:
Waukegan, IL
Nationality/Heritage: African American
School: Santa Clara University
Majors: Political Science, Economics
Advice: Apply to any and every college no matter the distance! You’re only in college for a portion of your life, so don’t be afraid to go far!
Email: rsanford@scu.edu

 

Tokunbo Ogunfunmi

Hometown: Santa Clara, CA
Nationality/Heritage: African American
Alma Maters: Stanford University
Majors: Electrical Engineering
Current Role: Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at SCU
Advice: Follow your passion, set ambitious goals, and work hard to achieve your goals.
Email: togunfunmi@scu.edu

Ekene Anene

(She/her/hers)
Hometown:
Los Angeles, CA
Nationality/Heritage: Nigerian American
School: Santa Clara University
Majors: Economics
Email: eanene@scu.edu

 

Jada Lawson

(She/her)
Hometown:
Santa Clara, CA
Nationality/Heritage: African American
School: Santa Clara University
Major: Psychology, Minor in Sociology
Advice: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”- Malcom X
Email: jlawson@scu.edu

 

Anthonia Ojo

(she/her)
Hometown:
San Antonio, TX
Nationality/Heritage: Nigerian
Alma Mater: Washington University in St. Louis
Majors: Biology, Psychology, Spanish
Current Role: Doctor - Obstetrics & Gynecology
Advice: There is no traffic on the extra mile. 
Email: anthoniaojo@gmail.com

Melina Johnson

(she/her)
Hometown:
Milpitas, CA
Nationality/Heritage: Black and White American
Alma Maters: Santa Clara University, University of San Francisco
Majors: English
Current Role: Lecturer at SCU, Independent Educational Consultant
Email: mrjohnson@scu.edu