The mission of YYAS is to expose Africa’s brightest young leaders to various opportunities for pursuing tertiary education, and to equip them with the skills to serve their communities and the world. In line with Yale’s mission of educational accessibility, YYAS is free for all students.
The vision of YYAS is to mentor and support African secondary school students to become Africa’s next generation of leaders and engaged citizens. Participants in the YYAS program will emerge with an expanded knowledge base, friendships forged with peers from around the continent, and direct access to university student mentors who will help guide them through the university admissions and financial aid application processes.
The Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) Program was conceived in 2013 by a group of African undergraduate and graduate students at Yale University. Their goal was to share their knowledge and experience of studying in the U.S. with some of the continent’s most talented secondary school students, and to help them prepare for the demanding university application process. Dr. Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science and Director of the MacMillan Center, as co-director of the Yale Africa Initiative, immediately embraced the project. The MacMillan Center’s support was instrumental in bringing YYAS to fruition.
In 2014, YYAS held its pilot program in Ghana and Ethiopia. Over 1,200 students from 23 countries applied and 110 students were selected, representing 18 African countries and 79 secondary schools across Africa.
Building upon that early success, the following year YYAS held subsequent programs in Rwanda and Zimbabwe, bringing together 100 participants from 17 countries. Later in 2015, thanks to a generous gift from Higherlife Foundation, YYAS received funding for three years of sessions to be held in Ghana, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, with 100 students per session each year.
In 2016, thanks to the gift from HLF, YYAS welcomed its first cohort of 300 with students from 25 African countries. As the years progressed, country representation increased steadily to reach 39 in 2020. In addition to being the most diverse cohort year yet, the 2020 program set some more records for YYAS. 2020 was the first year YYAS piloted an online version of the program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Yale Young African Scholars (YYAS) Alumni Network is fast growing and now reaches well over 2,000 students across the continent.