One hundred young Black girls from East Orange, Newark, and Hillside took a trip to Yale University on July 28th to participate in the Black Girls Go to Yale initiative. The initiative, which was created last year by Dr. Ijeoma Opara, brings young Black girls to New Haven, Connecticut, to tour the Ivy League campus, meet the many Black women who work there, and see for themselves that higher education is an attainable goal.

The theme for their trip was “You Belong in the Room.”

Dr. Opara, director of Yale University’s Substances & Sexual Health (SASH) Lab, founded the Black Girls Go to Yale initiative under the auspices of her research-based Dreamer Girls Project (DGP). The DGP employs Black girl focus groups that develop sexual health and drug use prevention programs for Black girls.

The DGP has also morphed into a Black girl empowerment project, Dr. Opara explained to the AmNews. “It basically gets Black girls interested in public health so that they could be the ones actually making public health studies in the future. It’s my way to bring Black girls into public health, to get them excited about research, so that they could be the ones leading these prevention projects that are for Black girls, by Black girls. One of the ways that I want to get Black girls interested in public health is by bringing them to a place like Yale.”

The 100 girls who visited the university on July 28th were brought there via a collaboration with the East Orange Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training, Newark Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, and Hillside Innovation Academy. They were preceded by 25 girls from Paterson who visited the campus on July 13th. This past January, Dr. Opara also brought 9-year-old Bobbi Wilson to Yale to ensure she was honored for the work she’s done eradicating spotted lanternflies in her hometown of Caldwell, New Jersey.

Born and raised in Jersey City, Dr. Opara says she knows the challenges young Black girls face in urban communities. After her parents passed away when she was young, she had little exposure to places like top colleges. “Nobody is telling them you can go to Yale, you can go to Harvard, you can go to Dartmouth, nobody’s exposing them to these things,” she said. Working with community partners throughout New Jersey, Dr. Opara envisioned the Black Girls Go to Yale initiative. Her ultimate goal is to bring 1,000 Black girls to Yale over the next couple of years. Young Black girls interested in participating in the Black Girls Go to Yale initiative can contact Dr. Opara at

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