Yale Young African Scholars Program Premiers in Ghana and Ethiopia

August 29, 2014

A critical component of the Yale and Africa efforts is making Yale College a more accessible destination for talented African high school students who hope to join the Yale community as undergraduates.  This summer, the university has taken a critical step in this direction: bringing Yale to those students in their home communities by launching the brand new Yale Young African Scholars program.

Run by the Yale Young Global Scholars program and the Office of International Affairs in close partnership with the MacMillan Center and a team of African Yale students, the Yale Young African Scholars program (YYAS) is a five-day residential program that prepares high-achieving high school students from across the African continent for applying to and studying at U.S. universities such as Yale. The program features a rigorous academic curriculum with lectures and seminars taught by Yale faculty and students, leadership training, and college preparation workshops. 

Nicola Soekoe (TD ’15), a South Africa native, is part of the team of African Yale students who developed the original vision for the program. “We all knew that there were so many talented youth in Africa who knew nothing about the incredible educational opportunities available to them in the U.S.,” she said.  “So we figured that if we could somehow make college in the U.S. a real possibility for them - through exciting classes, interaction with relatable instructors, and intensive application workshops - we could add so much to their scope of opportunity, and to the student bodies of schools like Yale.”

After long months of preparation, that dream is now a reality. From August 11th to August 22nd, a team of seven African Yale students and four Yale administrators from the Office of International Affairs along with several Yale Faculty members traveled to Accra, Ghana and to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to deliver the two inaugural sessions of the program. Each session hosted 50 students, selected through a rigorous application process from a pool of over 1,200 applicants. The participants represent 13 African countries (applications came from 23 African countries) and come from a wide variety of backgrounds across the socioeconomic, political, and cultural spectrums. In order to eliminate financial barriers, the program is free for all students.

Sterling Professor of Political Science and Faculty Director for the Yale and Africa efforts, Ian Shapiro, who lectured in both program sessions, said, “[The goal] is to increase the number of African students who have access to American higher education, not by going to British boarding schools and stealing away students who would otherwise have gone to Oxford or Cambridge, but by broadening the pool.”

Participants in the Ghana program exchange questions and ideas during a workshop led by Yale studentsA typical day for students in YYAS starts with a morning lecture by a local practitioner – often a Yale alum or former World Fellow – who is a leader in their field, ranging from management to education to medicine, followed by small group discussion sections on the content of the lecture led by a Yale student instructor, project group work, and lunch. In the afternoons, students attend elective seminars (also taught by Yale student instructors) and an afternoon lecture. The day concludes with dinner, college application workshops, and then a variety of evening activities ranging from movie discussions to a Yale admissions talk to a talent show.

Leiya Salis, a Ghanaian high school student who attended the program in Accra, said of her experience, “YYAS kindled the passionate African in us in a mere week. Whether it was through the seminars and project groups, or just the simple interactions I had in the [lounge], every single word I exchanged with anyone during the program fueled my intellectual development…It was transformative. It was fresh. It was revolutionary.”

A student in the Ethiopia program, Addismiraph Abate from Ethiopia reflected, “as a science student I have always been focused on the structure of things- the formulas and equations- but I never had the context for what I was doing. I came here to learn that content, to become informed about global issues, and hone my ability to think critically.  I have gained all that, and more. I definitely plan to apply to Yale.”

Professor Shapiro said that what struck him most about the program was the incredible intelligence and seriousness of the students. “Building human capital is the key to Africa’s future,” he said. “And universities [like Yale] have a role to play in that area.” 

The 2014 YYAS team consist of: Instructors Yaa Ampofo (ES ’16), Helinna Ayalew (GSAS ’14); Elizabeth Babalola (F&ES ’14), Ameze Belo-Osagie (TD ’16), Eno Inyangete (CC’16), Akwei Maclean (DC ’15), and Nicola Soekoe (TD ’16); Associate Director for Africa, Rachel Nyaradzo Adams; Deputy Director of Yale Young Global Scholars, Erin Schutte; Woodbridge Fellow, Leslie Bull; and Communications Officer, Amy Shah.  Adeolu Morawo (GSAS, ‘19), Fari Ngongoni (YSM ‘17), Hamara Abate (PC, ’15), and Metty Markwei (BK, ’15) also played critical roles in the development and execution of the program. The team was also supported by Christopher Udry, Chair of the Council on African Studies, Linda Lorimer, Vice President for Global & Strategic Initiatives, and Don Filer, Executive Director of the Office of International Affairs. The program was supported by our alumni in Ethiopia and Ghana (special thanks to Ruth Botsio ’09) and our partners at Education USA (special thanks to Nancy Keteku and Shaakira Raheem).

For more information, please visit http://globalscholars.yale.edu/africa.

For those interested in being a part of YYAS or in partnerships with the program, please contact the team at african.scholars@yale.edu.