Birthed in 2014 by African graduate and undergraduate students at Yale University, the Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) program seeks to work with African secondary school students who plan to pursue tertiary education and wish to make meaningful impact as young leaders on the continent.
YYAS is a free eight-day multidisciplinary program that encompasses seminars, lectures, university readiness and skills-building workshops.
One of the reasons why I love working for YYAS and I believe this is the same for everyone who has a stake in this program, is the group we serve – high achieving, low income (HALI) students with limited access to educational opportunities.
Courtesy of sponsorship from the Higherlife Foundation, YYAS is free for all 300 participants who make it through the competitive application process every year. I recall the disbelief on the faces of the students in Mauritius and Lesotho when I said it cost nothing to participate.
YYAS seeks to address a real and pressing need on the continent. For a HALI student in Djibouti, Guinea, Somalia, Morocco or any other African country, YYAS offers the following opportunities:
- A face-to-face interaction with admissions officers from universities such as Rochester, Ashesi, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Rice University, to learn about their programs and financial aid options;
- How to prepare for the SAT as a student who is not used to such standardized tests;
- A rare platform to meet and engage several other high school students from about 38 different African countries, and subsequently become a part of such a diverse network at a young age.
YYAS consists of many firsts for most of our participants. It is the first time they learn about gap year programs, financial aid, and the Common App. For some, it is the first time traveling outside their home country and making friends from other parts of the continent.
At the end of it all, our participants receive a year-long mentorship from university students or from our local partners who are dedicated to supporting HALI students. As part of the mentorship, students receive financial support to register for the SAT, as well as guidance as they prepare to pursue various educational opportunities.
Anthony Baah, a 2016 participant and current undergraduate at African Leadership University in Rwanda, said, “YYAS kindled my potential and set the foundation for success through the cognizant experiences aimed at developing the right character and mindset in a mere week”.
Roy Ndebvudzemene, who is pursuing a Bioengineering degree at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, USA said this, “I came back dead set on changing my reality. YYAS had provided possible avenues to do so and I utilized some of these. I got involved in my community and started reaching out more for ideas and strategies from my YYAS colleagues, with whom I am still in touch.”
Tochi Patrick, a 2018 alum and a Public Health major student at Saint Louis University in Missouri, US volunteers at a hospital for mentally ill children, and mentors YYAS alumni from Nigeria.
Anthony, Roy and Tochi are a testament to the kind of impact the program has had and will continue to have in the lives of the over 1,100 alumni who have either successfully progressed to college, or are still working hard in high school to graduate and pursue their dreams of higher education. It is these kinds of stories that make everything worthwhile for both staff and participants alike.
Associate Director, Yale Young African Scholars