While the month of June often brings feelings of joy and fulfillment associated with high school graduations, the month of August can bring with it anxiety and nervousness, as many high school graduates leave home for the first time to attend college. Such feelings of uneasiness can often be intensified for Black students – particularly those who do not attend historically Black colleges and universities – as they adjust to their new surroundings and search for the various services and resources that will assist them in succeeding academically, socially, and emotionally.

Since 2000, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) has sought to ease this transition through The Learning Community (TLC), a year-long enrichment program committed to the success of first-year students of African descent. With an intentional focus on cultivating leaders, instilling community consciousness, and promoting academic and co-curricular success, the program assists incoming students in expanding their ethnic and cultural awareness, deepening their understanding of existing programs and resources, and gaining a greater understanding of the University’s mission and traditions.

Congruent with the University’s geographic location, stellar academic reputation, and national reach, TLC has, historically, attracted some of best and brightest students from not only California but several states across the country. This year’s cohort is no different, as states such as Washington D.C., Oregon, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York are represented. Additionally, this year’s cohort demonstrates an extreme level of diversity in terms of gender (seventeen females and thirteen males) and area of study (with majors ranging from Business, Liberal Arts, and Engineering to Film Production and Health and Human Science). Moreover, nearly twenty percent are the first in their immediate family to attend college.

Under the leadership of Mr. Henry Ward, LMU’s Senior Director of Ethnic & Intercultural Services, TLC departs from the traditional summer bridge model and prepares incoming students for the rigor of undergraduate academic and extra-curricular life by engaging them in eleven consecutive days of programming that are diverse in nature. Said Ward, “The TLC Program is not designed for students who need supplemental college readiness. It is a strengths-centered, enrichment program designed to develop the gifts and talents of our first-year scholars of African descent and, in so doing, facilitate Black Excellence.”

The program began Saturday, August 10 with Orientation Sessions for both Parents/Guardians as well as Participants, and ended on Wednesday, August 21 with a Celebration Dinner. During the program, participants met and had lunch with high-level University administrators, including the President, Provost, and Senior Vice President of Student Affairs, they connected and developed relationships with faculty, while discussing the steps necessary for academic success. Participants also engaged in an African American Studies course taught by Dr. Brad Eliott Stone, as well as others focused on Holistic Wellness, Financial Literacy, Resume Building, and Spirituality. They also had the opportunity to explore Greater Los Angeles through excursions to several well-known locations, including the Broad Museum, Leimert Park, The Grove, the Annenberg Space for Photography, and the El Capitan Theater, where they viewed The Lion King. Participants also attended services at Faithful Central Bible Church and Oasis Church.

Program participants articulated a great deal of confidence, excitement, and overall gratitude regarding their experience. Natalie Riddick from Vacaville, California shared, “My experience with TLC was one built on support, love, and family. I had the opportunity to be surrounded by other young African-American scholars, who were all uniquely motivated and passionate about their education. My time in the program has made me feel confident and ready to start my college journey because I know I have peers, as well as LMU faculty and staff, who are behind me and rooting for my success.” Similarly, program participant Drew Jenkins from Oswego, Illinois commented, “TLC is the epitome of Black Excellence! I learned what it means to strive for Community Excellence, but also learned a great deal about the role that I must play in that process. The TLC Staff pushed me to be the best version of myself, and I’ll never forget the experience.”

TLC participants will continue to be engaged through a leadership course that meets weekly during the Fall and Spring semesters, and focuses on identity development, community involvement, and social justice. For more information on the program, please contact Program Coordinator, AnaLexicis Bridewell at (310) 258-8754.