Jane Matilda Bolin Program

Not many high school students get to study topics like medical racism or Black disability in an academic setting. But at Yale, the Jane Matilda Bolin Program is helping change that. Modelled after the WEB DuBois Society at Harvard, and named after the first Black woman to graduate Yale Law School, the J.M. Bolin Program launched in 2018 with the goal of introducing New Haven area high school students to the field of Black Studies. Tailored to Black-identifying high school students but open to all, the organization is led by Yale College students and runs 6-7 sessions per semester that facilitate engagement with a wide range of Black Studies topics. Although the challenges of COVID-19 have meant switching to a virtual format and 4-5 sessions per semester, the initiative continues to thrive. 
Program Director Nina Todd (‘22) sat down to tell us about the work she is doing with the J.M. Bolin Program. “I’ve always understood the power of a student-run space,” she says. “With this program we can really play with the curriculum and pedagogy and what learning looks like.”
Each session looks different. Usually undergraduate mentors run a seminar discussion about topics ranging from medical racism to affirmative action. “These are the issues I wish I knew about when I was their age,” Nina says. Each week, a team member chooses a topic of particular salience to them, and presents it in a way that is digestible for high school students. In addition, graduate students sometimes appear in the program’s sessions as guest speakers, discussing topics like Black disco. Professors Crystal Feimster and Gary Okihiro have also spoken to students, giving high-schoolers a rare opportunity to access the knowledge and resources of Yale’s faculty. 
Nina tells us the program is always looking for more students and professors to be involved in this exciting work. 
“Those spaces are always the most transformative for me. The beauty of it is that we can have really engaging conversations, and further explore our own interests as well.”
If you are interested in being involved, please contact the J.M. Bolin Program on Instagram at @jmbolinyale or email jmbolinprogram@gmail.com.