The Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) Program completed its 2017 session offering academic opportunities to secondary school students this past July and August in three locations on the African continent: Accra, Ghana; Kigali, Rwanda; and Harare, Zimbabwe.
YYAS is a cost-free, seven-day academic and residential program designed for African secondary school students who have the talent, energy, and ideas to make meaningful impacts as young leaders, and who want to explore tertiary education. This year, YYAS brought together 300 students between the ages of 14 and 18 and introduced them to the demanding U.S. university and financial aid application processes and requirements. This year’s cohort included students from 33 African nations who currently attend 216 secondary schools on the continent.
“There are many benefits to students having participated in the YYAS program, the first among them being the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of peers from across the continent,” said Dagan Rossini, YYAS Fellow. “Additionally, participants had a chance to meet admissions representatives from various small-town and urban universities and colleges, not only from the United States but also from African and European countries, and were exposed to a wide range of opportunities for tertiary education.”
Eddie Mandhry, Yale’s director for Africa in the Office of International Affairs, conveyed a similar sentiment.
“The YYAS program plays an integral part in equipping Africa’s youth with 21st century academic opportunities.” He added, “It is increasingly becoming the foremost continental program for talented high school students from across Africa — particularly those from low-income backgrounds —aimed at defining pathways towards higher educational opportunities in the United States and beyond.”
During each week-long program, students attended multiple lectures led by prominent Yale faculty who focused on topics ranging from the social sciences and humanites to STEM. In addition, current Yale students developed and taught seminars on a wide range of subjects and academic content, including religion, politics, gender, and the environment, to name a few. Participants engaged in robust intellectual debates and gained firsthand experience of what it is like to learn in a discussion-based environment.
A core component of the YYAS program is providing the young students tutoring lessons for standardized tests — both individually and as a large group — focused on writing, math, and reading comprehension. These lessons were designed specifically for African test-takers new to exams like the SAT. In addition, participants engaged in several experiential activities and workshops geared toward the development of core leadership and team-building skills, thus helping to prepare them to meet their full potential as young African leaders.
Through direct interaction with admissions representatives, students also had a chance to learn more about the key components of university admissions and financial aid applications. One participant commented, “Learning how admission officers view essays and what they look for in a candidate was really valuable to me, especially as an international student.” Following the program, YYAS will pair participants with university student mentors who will provide additional guidance throughout the application process.
Educators’ Conferences for teachers, headmasters, and advisors from African secondary schools in the western, eastern, and southern regions of Africa ran concurrently at each YYAS session. Organized and facilitated by YYAS’s partners focusing on education access in Africa — Ahaspora in Ghana, Imbuto Foundation in Rwanda, and Education Matters in Zimbabwe — these conferences introduced educators to university guidance strategies and resources so that they can offer support to all students at their respective schools who may want to pursue post-secondary education abroad.
The year ahead:
The YYAS program is made possible with the support of the Higherlife Foundation as well as by contributions from The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.
“It has been wonderful to sustain our support for a tremendously impactful Yale Africa Initiative program that was originally conceived by African students on our campus,” said Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and the director of the MacMillan Center. “The program presents Yale students, faculty, and staff all with an invaluable opportunity to engage with brilliant young minds from across Africa who are determined to expand their awareness about their options for higher education in the U.S. and beyond.”
Applications for the 2018 program will open in early October 2017 and be made available online. All applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on Feb. 6, 2018.