Meet, BUILD Nigeria, our newest HALI member 

When Ife and Tolu, Co-Founders of BUILD Nigeria, got to Yale and Harvard respectively, they immediately found that there was a stark underrepresentation of Nigerian international students at world-class colleges in the US. At the time, Ife was only one of three Nigerian students on Yale’s entire undergraduate campus, and the only one without dual citizenship. Tolu was the only Nigerian international student in the class of 2022. They both knew that the problem couldn’t have been that Nigerian students are not brilliant enough to get into these colleges. So, they began asking questions to try to understand what was going on. They noticed that their African peers with a larger number of students at these colleges mostly came from college access programs in their home countries. From Bridge2Rwanda to KenSAP and USAP, Tolu and Ife were immediately confronted by how much incredible, life-changing work these organizations were doing, and it was around this time that they learned about the HALI Access Network 

After learning about these college access programs, they began to conduct demand validation interviews with members of the HALI Access Network and those that work in education in Nigeria. Soon, they found that with the exception of EducationUSA’s Opportunity Funds program, there was no recognized college access program working specifically with high achieving, low income and first-generation Nigerian youth. Instead, there were many college advising agencies that charge exorbitant amounts of money and that students in that demographic cannot afford. There was a gap that needed to be filled because these students are not only brilliant, but deserving to attend world-class colleges that can completely change the trajectory of their lives and equip them with the tools, exposure and support needed to transform their communities, country and the world at large. 

Thus, BUILD Nigeria was born with the mission of democratizing access to world-class colleges globally for high achieving, low income and first-generation Nigerian youth. We support students as they prepare outstanding college applications, and we fund their entire journey to college from test fees to student visa costs. We also provide college preparation programming through workshops and progress on topics such as time and stress management, email etiquette, academic research and writing skills, and so on. Our students join a lifetime community of globally educated, highly skilled, well-connected and impact driven young Nigerians who are passionate about making positive change in their communities, country and the world at large. 

BUILD Nigeria supports so many students and the following story speaks to their remarkable work in the access space 

In March of 2021, we met a student named Ikenna. Ikenna tragically lost both of his parents within months of each other, and was forced to live in a slum with his brothers for some time. Eventually, a church group came to the slum and took him to an orphanage where he currently lives. Despite these challenges, Ikenna continued to excel in school with a perfect transcript, and even became the school’s Head Boy in his final year. Ikenna took on leadership positions at his school and at the orphanage. He led his school’s mental health initiative for his peers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and taught math and English classes to the other children at the orphanage all while working in the orphanage records office to develop more efficient record keeping. Ikenna is passionate about cybersecurity issues in Nigeria, and plans to study computer science in order to develop better cybersecurity infrastructures in Nigeria. 

When we met Ikenna for his interview, we knew immediately that he was the kind of student we were looking for. During his time at BUILD Nigeria, he took part in continuous mentorship and programming, wrote a research paper on cybersecurity issues in Nigeria and those that it disproportionately affects and turned that research paper into a Rise project which led him to become a Rise winner in 2022 (one of only 100 globally). Finally, he was selected to attend Dartmouth with a full scholarship in the Fall of 2023. 

Ikenna is a brilliant student who, given the right support and funding, can achieve great things and he’s already on his way to doing just that. Ikenna would not have been able to afford even the moderately-priced local universities. Being the only one working to attend college abroad, without BUILD Nigeria, Ikenna also would not have had access to the resources and mentorship needed throughout the application process. BUILD Nigeria is passionate about students like Ikenna, and we are so grateful that we are in a position not just to find these students, but to support them emotionally, financially and more. 

You can connect with BUILD Nigeria or learn more about their work below: 


Instagram: @buildnigeria_

LinkedIn: BUILD Nigeria 

Facebook: BUILD Nigeria