Given that the HALI Access Network was co-founded in 2016 by a Yale University staff member, we at the Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) program have been big fans of the Network since its inception. But at this year’s Indaba in Kigali, even though our organization is just one year old, we at YYAS were struck by what a powerful impact the Network already has made on our program.
Check this out:
• Over the past year, nine (9) YYAS instructors (all of whom are Yale undergraduate students) have come to Yale and YYAS thanks to support from six HALI Access Network members. That’s a full quarter of our instructor cohort!
• This year alone, YYAS 2017 will have participants who are supported by 12 HALI Access Network members. These participants will come from a dozen different African countries, as well!
• Our partner members within the Network helped to spread word about the YYAS program, which surely contributed to our seeing 100% growth in total applications received, but especially to the increased applications we received from underrepresented countries in Africa including Mali and Malawi.
Network members helped YYAS in a number of ways that go beyond the obvious. For example, they didn’t just ‘spread the word’ about our program—they helped to ensure that highly qualified, motivated and committed students apply. As university admissions officers well know, expanding recruitment is more about quality than quantity of applicants. And since HALI Access Network members know the YYAS program well and understand the type of student we’re looking for, they quickly became a powerful recruitment partner.
Another important way that the Network has helped YYAS increase and improve its 2017 cohort is through the critical support that member organizations offer their students. YYAS is always working to make our program more accessible and to remove the barriers to participation that so many HALI students face. But significant challenges remain. Limited or unreliable internet access, difficulty of gathering official documents, lack of clarity about how to answer application questions…these and many other hurdles can make it hard for the average HALI student to stand out in an applicant pool. But Network member organizations are there to help close these gaps for their students.
Our fellow HALI Access Network members have, time and again, stepped in as guides when a student was struggling with the application process by providing access to strong and free internet, helping students obtain key documents (or providing us context when those documents weren’t available), or walking students through confusing parts of the application requirements. These vital services help to ensure that high-achieving, low-income students aren’t left out of our program. Feedback from Network members’ continually helps us improve our application processes so they are more accessible to HALI students.
For these and many other reasons, YYAS is grateful to be a member of the HALI Access Network. So much so that we have agreed to serve in a leadership role as the Network grows. We are proud to think that we can give back to HALI Access Network and help it expand its reach so that many other programs, and university admissions offices as well, can benefit as YYAS has from the knowledge and efforts of this extraordinary group of organizations.
Written by Laura Kaub, Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) Program