November 18, 2015 | #TYSPhilly Reflection: Kenisha Askew

From Poverty to UPenn

Local high school and college students a July 2014 My Brother’s Keeper Round Table.  Source: U.S. Ed. Dept.

MBK Philly is bringing you a very special  Tell Your Story reflection this November. Instead of highlighting Philadelphia’s best and brightest youth, as we typically do, we’re sharing an account from Big Brother’s Big Sisters Southeastern PA Enrollment & Match Specialist Kenisha Askew. Kenisha is a local young professional, University of Pennsylvania alumna, and Gates Millennium Scholar.

Established in 1999 with the goal of developing Leaders for America’s Future™, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMS Program) removes the financial barriers to education for high-performing, low-income students. Each year it enables 5,000 students to attend and graduate from 800 of the most selective private and public schools in the country, including Ivy League colleges, flagship state universities, UNCF member institutions and other minority-serving institutions. Notably, the program is in its final year.

In partnership with MBK Philly, Kenisha has generously offered to provide one-on-one application coaching to Philadelphia youth who are applying for the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Continue below to read Kenisha’s story and to learn how you can receive her assistance!

“As a child, I dreamed of one day becoming a college student…”

college hall_0
A snapshot of UPenn’s historic grounds. Source: UPenn

As a child, I dreamed of one day becoming a college student. Though I did not know what it looked like to be one—as no one in my home had ever graduated from college—I poured myself into my studies. I believed that a college education would help me escape poverty. I was unaware of the steep financial, academic, and social hurdles that could have prevented me from reaching my dream.  Fortunately, there were already opportunities in place that would minimize those hurdles for me.

During my senior year of high school, I applied for and received the Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) Scholarship. The GMS Scholarship was created to help minority students with significant financial need reach their full potential by providing financial support to attend college for up to ten years. I would eventually go on to complete undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Not only did the GMS Scholarship cover many of the costs for these opportunities, it also provided me leadership development programs and networking opportunities.

As a first generation college student, there were many things I did not know about college, from how to select a meal plan to how to plan for a career. However, the GMS Program was there to connect me with other students across the nation who had been where I was and who could challenge me to reach further. Without the GMS Program I do not know where I would be today. The program provided me the resources and confidence to know that I could be much more than a college student—I could be a well-rounded college graduate with a career and the means to help others achieve the same.

Need assistance with your Gates Millennium Application? MBK Philly can help!

This year the GMS Program will welcome its final class and will reach its goal of serving 20,000 scholars! In order to address a disproportionate gender gap in the applicant pool, the GMS Alumni Association My Brother’s Keeper Initiative Task Group is recruiting as many young men of color as possible for the 2016 application cycle.

If you are a Philadelphia based high school student who is interested in the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, please send a message to with the subject line “GMS Program.” MBK Philly will route all legitimate requests to GMS alumna Kenisha Askew. Young men of color are especially encouraged to get in touch with us.

Applications are due on Wednesday, January 13, 2016. Don’t wait—contact us today! Good luck on your application!