Yale Young African Scholars, a program that aims to improve University education pathways for Africa’s emerging leaders, celebrates the fifth anniversary of its founding this year.

University President Peter Salovey’s creation of the Yale Africa Initiative in 2013 inspired Yale students to found the program. They aimed to give African students a sense of a collegiate liberal arts education and to inspire them to apply to institutions of higher education. The program, which takes place each summer, brings current Yale students and professors to several locations in Africa to teach subjects stretching across the sciences and humanities for weeklong sessions. Since its creation, the Yale Young African Scholars program has expanded to accept 300 students per session across three regions of the African continent and now has more than 1,000 alumni.

“[The program] is increasingly becoming the foremost college-access program with continental reach, serving as a gateway to higher educational opportunities,” said Eddie Mandhry, the director for Africa at Yale’s Office of International Affairs. “African youth are brimming with energy, ingenuity and ambition and steadfastly committed to shaping their continent’s future.”

Its first summer, the scholars program had approximately 1,500 applicants, selected 100 students and held classes in Ghana and Ethiopia.

With subsequent funding from the Higherlife Foundation, the program was able to expand its reach. Last year, Yale Young African Scholars received nearly 2,000 applications from 38 countries for 300 spots. This year they expect about the same.

“We wanted to give as many African students as possible a chance to get involved in something that is on the continent and therefore more accessible for them,” said Yaa Oparebea Ampofo ’16, a Yale Young African Scholars co-founder and mentorship coordinator.

Laura Kaub, the program manager, said the scholars program makes students feel more connected to the larger world and more confident in their future.

Yale Young African Scholars emphasizes a pan-African sentiment, Ampofo explained. By encouraging participants to travel and explore, it aims to build an African network of students. The programming is centered on qualities of leadership and civic engagement in order to form a commitment to self, country and community, she added.

Phyllis Mugadza ’21, a Zimbabwean, first heard about the program through her high school counselor in 2015, the first time YYAS was offered in Zimbabwe.

Mugadza said the program offered her and other students training sessions in everything from the college application process to the SATs. She added that the program was the first time many students learned about the process of applying to college overseas.

“The program is designed to mimic the experience of going to Yale,” Mugadza said. “There are seminars, lectures and workshops. After the week, I thought to myself: If this is what liberal education is like, I want to go to a liberal arts school.”

Yale Young African Scholars is funded through gifts from The Higherlife Foundation and The MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.

Skakel McCooey | skakel.mccooey@yale.edu

Correction, Feb 9:  A previous version of this article misrepresented YYAS’s vision statement as “improving University pathways for emerging students” rather than “for emerging leaders.” It also said the program received applications from more than 38 countries, when in fact the program received applications from exactly 38 countries.