This coming summer, a group of Yale students and faculty will travel to Kenya and Zimbabwe to educate about a hundred African students as a part of the Yale Young African Scholars program.
YYAS, in its second year and modeled on the Yale Young Global Scholars Program — an intensive two-week summer program for high school students from around the globe — recently released its application for the upcoming summer. Unlike the upcoming program, YYAS’s pilot run took place in Ghana and Ethiopia in August. YYGS Deputy Director and YYAS organizer Erin Schutte ’12 said the program exposed 100 African students to a sample of American higher education through seminars, lectures and college preparatory courses — all in less then a week. Admission will likely be competitive, Schutte said — last year, YYAS was only able to accept eight percent of applications. YYAS admits driven and promising students, she added.
“We look for academic achievement, leadership potential and an interest in going to college in the United States,” Schutte said. “But we also look for students who demonstrate a commitment to giving back to their community.”
YYAS fits into Yale’s broader Africa Initiative — launched in September 2013 by University President Peter Salovey — which seeks to recruit more Africans to Yale. YYAS Instructors Eno Inyangete ’16 and Yaa Ampofo ’16 said the program is an outlet to inform African students about academic opportunities in the United States.
Metabel Markwei ’15, who grew up in Ghana and visited YYAS last summer, said she believes the program helps students prepare not only for American universities, but also for universities anywhere else in the world.
“The program motivates students to think about higher education in places like Ghana or America, and I think that’s powerful,” she said. “The transition to higher education here is not that easy, even if someone was exposed to an international curriculum.”
Because YYAS covers tuition and room and board for its students, Markwei said, the program is more accessible to low-income families. Most of these students cannot afford to pay tuition, she added, which makes a zero dollar tuition vital to the program’s success.
Program Manager Helinna Ayalew GRD ’14, who grew up in Ethiopia, said the program’s minimal cost enables it to reach a diverse set of students.
“Part of the rationale of making the program free is to make the program as accessible as possible to students of all backgrounds,” she said. “We try to reach students who wouldn’t normally have access to these sorts of opportunities.”
Ampofo said the two initial countries, Ghana and Ethiopia, were chosen with student recruitment in mind. In Ghana, a strong, Yale alumni network suggested local schools to visit, some of which had not previously sent students to American universities. YYAS entered Ethiopia for the opposite reason, Ampofo added. Because the Ethiopian alumni network was minimal, she said, program coordinators sought to strengthen it.
“We wanted to choose one place with a really solid grounding and then another where we could try something new,” Ampofo said.
But Inyangete said the primary goal of the program was not to increase awareness of American universities. The main purpose was instead to expose students to critical and imaginative thinking, since many African high schools require students to memorize and repeat material rather than pursuing innovative avenues for learning.
While Ayalew said YYAS — which is relocating to Kenya and Zimbabwe next year — is still in an exploratory phase and is simply looking to see what other countries are like, Schutte said she has bigger plans in mind. Schutte added that she would like the program to become a meeting point for students from different areas.
“We’re exploring this idea of creating regional hubs in Africa. Its not our intention to provide a program for students only from the host country,” she said. “We want students to come from the entire region, so we’re exploring new countries to determine where the best place to host this program is.”
Andre Monteiro ’18, who spent part of his adolescence in Libya and traveled to several countries in Northern Africa while there, said he believes the education YYAS provides, however brief, could improve economic development in relatively impoverished regions.