YYAS: Lives changed in a blink of an eye
By Dusenge Florent (Rwanda), YYAS 2017 Alumnus
Since I was a child, I imagined living in an environment with an intellectual atmosphere in full swing. I imagined and envied staying in a multinational community of Young people. Yet far from my imagination, was the thought of having all these wishes fulfilled in one Go.
Imaginations turned to reality when on the 17th August; I set foot in Africa’s “Venerated House”-Zimbabwe. I was attending the prestigious Yale Young African Scholars Program; a program staged by Africans for Africans.
I went from excitement to excitement when on my first day, I had made friends from countries like Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, just to mention a few. The different cultures and nationalities integrated at unprecedented lightning speed. As I learnt some new Shona (a language in Southern Africa) words, I found striking similarity of words in different African Languages. These experiences were heavyweight enough to convince me that Africans had more in common. This was just the first day; I still had 5 more days.
Day in day out- we enjoyed interesting lectures. Prominent African figures, who behind the curtains were instigating mega projects and advocating for a better Africa, were given the floor. These lectures were graced by the lecturer’s fountain of captivating charisma. Of all our lecturers, I observed that most were women, who had accomplished big feats in life. This observation challenged the common African mumbo-jumbo that women were not level with men.
There is a quote which goes “if you want to hide something from Africans, put it in the books”. In the YYAS program I met Young Africans who challenged this quote by plunging themselves wholly in the books. This sight of Young Africans who could debate and speak with reference to many prominent writings, further reinforced my conviction that Africa can go against the odds. Truly, Africa’s hope lies in books, and after the program I vowed to encourage reading in my community.
The most inspiring part of the program came as the history of YYAS was revisited. YYAS was born in the minds of African Students, who envisioned helping their fellow youths on the African continent. They faced many hurdles but with resilience and determination, they created a program that would forever change the lives of Young Africans. As I listened to their story, my heart thumped “Hallelujah! Yes, Africans can!”
Then came the SAT preparation Classes which are not as boring as they sound. The SAT was a strange concept for many but it was lucidly familiarized to everyone by the self-sacrificing YYAS staff. The SAT’s are requirement tests to be taken by foreign candidates applying to American Universities. Interactive SAT classes, which utilized tech (personal tablets and projection of slides) in its full form, ensured that all YYAS participants would vanquish the SAT with relative ease.
At the end of the program, Young Africans had to showcase their talented side. From Young Africans composing and reciting beautiful poems to those who performed mesmerizing magic tricks, anyone could conclude that talent has his residence in Africa.
Assembling a mere 5 nationalities in a single place is a herculean task. Yet The Yale Young African Scholars, lived to its hype by assembling more than 20 African Nationalities in a single African country.
The Yale Young African Scholars lasted for 7 days which were no different from the blink of an eye. “The Blink of an eye” changed my life forever. I met young peers with projects to rival mega companies like Facebook. I met young Africans who envisioned a better and developed Africa. I met young African girls who will alleviate the women’s status in Africa. To envelope it all, I met Young Africans who regardless of the status quo loved the continent they call “home”-Africa.