Yale University Partners with Higherlife Foundation to Mentor African High School Students

October 26, 2015

New Haven, Connecticut—Yale University is delighted to announce the expansion of its Yale Young African Scholars Program (http://africanscholars.yale.edu) through a new partnership with Higherlife Foundation to train and mentor the next generation of African student leaders.  

A signature program of Yale’s Africa Initiative, YYAS will bring Yale undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff to three African countries each summer, where they will collaborate with local teachers and other partners to inspire talented high school students to set their sights on studying at universities in the United States.

YYAS will be made possible through the generous support of Higherlife Foundation, founded by Zimbabwean-born entrepreneurs and philanthropists Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa to promote basic education among thousands of disadvantaged children and to support young talent development by offering scholarships to gifted students across the African continent.

“This wonderful gift from the Higherlife Foundation will allow us to expand dramatically the opportunities we offer to young scholars from across the African continent, preparing them for success in applying to—and thriving in—college,” said Yale President Peter Salovey. “Through Yale Young African Scholars, students develop the skills they need to be leaders in an ever more global society. We are so thankful to Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa for their visionary support of this invaluable program.”

Tsitsi, who is passionate about empowering African children through education, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Yale University on this exciting initiative. The opportunity to expose African high school students to Yale students and professors will provide a transformational experience and help build a long-term college access pipeline into a wide range of American colleges and universities for the benefit of the African students.”

As the Executive Chair of Higherlife Foundation, Tsitsi has for nearly two decades been involved in education support for social impact and in identifying and nurturing young talent, and offering them scholarships to top overseas universities, particularly in the United States.

The Yale Young African Scholars Program was first conceived by African undergraduate and graduate students at Yale, who desired to create a forum for talented high school students on the African continent that combined academic programming with preparatory workshops focused on higher education in the United States.   

With the support of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, the Office of International Affairs, and Yale Undergraduate Admissions, the inaugural pilot sessions launched in Ethiopia and Ghana during the summer of 2014 were a resounding success.  YYAS then ran again this past summer in Rwanda and Zimbabwe, attracting a continental-wide applicant pool from which 100 exceptional students were selected to attend.  In each country, six-day sessions were offered free of charge, featuring lectures from Yale faculty, small seminars led by Yale students, and college-readiness workshops.

Higherlife Foundation’s gift will help support an expanded YYAS program for 300 high school students in three countries, for each of the next three years.  The 900 students will become part of a robust mentorship network in which they are paired with local organizations as well as U.S.-based college students from Yale and peer schools, who will help advise them throughout their American college application process. 

In addition, Yale Undergraduate Admissions will help organize workshops for high school teachers and counselors in all three African countries each year, as well as partner with the United States Achievers Program (USAP) in Zimbabwe to organize a conference of educational sponsorship organizations from across the continent, the first of its kind.

Meanwhile, plans are already underway for the summer 2016 sessions that will take place in Ghana, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe. The application form can be accessed here.

Yale Professor Ian Shapiro, Co-Director of the Yale Africa Initiative, celebrated the partnership:  “It has been wonderful to see the genesis of YYAS from an idea presented by a handful of students, turned into a robust program bringing together students, faculty, alumni, admissions officers and partners from across Africa united by a common objective: the provision of greater access to educational opportunities for African youth.” 

“This is such a fantastic initiative and we cannot think of a more dedicated partner than the Higherlife Foundation,” said Ted Wittenstein, the executive director of the Yale Young Global Scholars Program, which administers YYAS.  “As the demand for college education in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to outpace supply, programs such as YYAS will be critical to the preparation of students interested in pursuing higher education at American institutions.  YYAS helps to achieve this vital educational objective by tapping the unlimited enthusiasm of Yale students, faculty, and staff.”

Rebekah Westphal, Director of International Admissions for Yale College, said that “We are excited to have the opportunity to work with and support more teachers and counselors on the continent through the additional workshops and training sessions.  In particular, I really look forward to bringing together coordinators from sponsorship and NGO organizations from all across Africa to share best practices on supporting high-achieving students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Helinna Ayalew, the project manager for YYAS, who began her work with the program as a Yale graduate student instructor in summer 2014, emphasized the importance of YYAS’s focus on mentorship, drawing on her personal experience as a high school student in Ethiopia. 

“I know how challenging it can be for African students to prepare for and navigate the American college application process.  In the first two pilot years of YYAS, I witnessed the program’s potential first-hand, as participants completed the program and successfully applied to college.  This outstanding gift from the Higherlife Foundation will enable YYAS to dramatically expand this mentorship capability to hundreds of students across Africa for years to come.”

The Yale Africa Initiative, announced during President Peter Salovey’s inauguration speech in October 2013, aims to expand and sharpen scholarship from Africa at Yale, to increase the number of African students on campus as well as the financial aid available to support them, and seeks to establish partnerships between the University and peer African institutions. 

The Initiative is Co-Chaired by Yale Professors Ian Shapiro and Michael Cappello, and administered with support from Eddie Mandhry, Director for Africa in the Yale Office of International Affairs.

For more information on the Yale Young African Scholars, or its parent program Yale Young Global Scholars, please visit their website.  The Higherlife Foundation website can be accessed here.