Information About the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI)

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) is a U.S. Department of State program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), implemented by IREX to professionally train entrepreneurs in the region.

YLAI empowers young leaders to strengthen their ability to launch, promote, and strengthen their entrepreneurial ideas. These leaders are then able to contribute effectively to the social and economic development of their communities. Since the launch of this initiative in 2015, more than 1,000 YLAI fellows from Latin America (49 alumni in Ecuador), the Caribbean, and Canada have expanded their leadership and business experiences through professional exchanges with U.S. companies and organizations.

Through the program, YLAI participants will accelerate the success of their commercial and social enterprises and develop action plans to implement once they return to their home countries. YLAI fellows will create lasting networks, connections, and partnerships to attract investments and support for their ventures. Program components include:

  • Four-week individualized professional exchange in various cities in the United States: YLAI fellows will travel to the United States and be placed with U.S. host companies that match their respective sectors. They will also acquire valuable professional development skills and experiences with U.S. organizations and companies. Fellows will collaborate with their professional-exchange host on their Business Leadership Action Plan (E-LAP). Fellows will implement this action plan upon return to their home countries.
  • YLAI Business Leadership Curriculum: The YLAI scholarship program includes online and face-to-face courses, developed by IREX and Arizona State University (ASU), that combine technical business training and leadership development. Using the E-LAP, fellows will establish and achieve their business leadership goals.
  • YLAI Closing Forum in the United States: YLAI Fellows will participate in the YLAI Closing Forum in Washington D.C., as well as networking events with business representatives, social leaders, and U.S. government officials.
  • Post-Fellowship Opportunities: After successfully completing the fellowship, YLAI fellows will continue their collaboration with U.S. partners. In addition, they will have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentorships, networking, and alumni activities. YLAI fellows will have the opportunity to host a U.S. guest in Ecuador, which ultimately help the exchange of ideas and relationship building between Ecuadorian and U.S. business leaders.

Requirements to apply:

Candidates must:

  • Be between 25 and 35 years old by January 1, 2024.
  • Be citizens and residents of one of the eligible countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, or Venezuela.
  • Be eligible to receive a J-1 visa.
  • Have a proven track record of successfully growing your own business or social enterprise for at least two years.
  • Have proficiency in written and spoken English.
  • Not be a U.S. citizen or resident.
  • Not be working for the U.S. government.
  • Be available to travel to the United States during the month of March and April 2024

To complete the application form and find out more about the scholarship requirements and benefits, visit YLAI’s official website: apply. The call will be open from January 18 to February 15, 2023.