Applications for the 2018 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program are now open.

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) empowers entrepreneurs to strengthen their capacity to launch and advance their entrepreneurial ideas and effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities. In fall 2018, 250 YLAI Professional Fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean will expand their leadership and entrepreneurial experience through fellowships at businesses and organizations across the United States. Through the YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute and the individualized Fellowships, YLAI Fellows will accelerate their commercial and social ventures’ success and develop specific action plans to carry out upon return to their home countries. YLAI Fellows will build networks, linkages, and lasting partnerships to attract investments and support for their entrepreneurial ventures. YLAI 2018  Fellows will participate in the following program components:

  • Four-week Fellowship: With U.S. fellowship hosts in their fields of expertise, YLAI Professional Fellows gain valuable professional development skills at entrepreneurial organizations or companies across the United States and work jointly on an action plan to be implemented upon Fellows’ return to their home countries.
  • Washington, D.C. Closing Forum: YLAI Professional Fellows participate in a closing conference and networking event with top U.S. government officials as well as global public, private, and nonprofit leaders.
  • YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute: YLAI Professional Fellows expand their leadership, entrepreneurial, and management skills and knowledge through online and in-person trainings that complement their U.S. Fellowship.
  • Post-Fellowship Sustained Engagement: After successful completion of the U.S. Fellowship and YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute, YLAI Professional Fellows continue their collaboration with U.S. partners and have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentorships, networking, and alumni activities. YLAI Professional Fellows will be eligible for Innovation Small Grants to fund startup or scaling activities, Travel Grants to attend conferences, and a chance to welcome a Fellowship Host to their country to share expertise and expand the hosts’ understanding of the entrepreneurship climate in YLAI Professional Fellows’ home countries.

YLAI Program Timeline

February 5, 2018    YLAI Professional Fellows Program application opens
March 4, 2018    YLAI Professional Fellows Program application deadline
March – June 2018    Applications reviewed by the selection committee
July 2018    Finalists and alternates notified
July – September 2018    Pre-Departure Orientation and program preparation
September – October 2018    Travel to the United States (exact dates to be shared with Fellows)
2019    Select U.S. Fellowship Hosts travel to YLAI Fellows’ countries

Financial Provisions of the YLAI Professional Fellowship Program

There is no fee to apply to become a YLAI Professional Fellow. All YLAI Professional Fellows Program expenses are covered by the U.S. government and include the following categories:

  • J-1 visa support.
  • Round-trip travel from participant’s home city to the United States and all required program travel.
  • YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute training and courses.
  • Program opening in an entrepreneurial hub in the United States and Closing Forum in Washington, D.C.
  • Four-week professional development experience.
  • Accident and sickness medical coverage.
  • Housing and meals throughout the program.

Who is eligible to apply?

Candidates will be considered without respect to race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexuality, national origin, disability or any other protected characteristic as established by U.S. law. Applicants with disabilities are eligible and encouraged to apply for the YLAI Professional Fellows Program. The YLAI Professional Fellows Program is open to young entrepreneurs who meet the following criteria:

  • Are between the ages of 25 and 35 by September 15, 2018.
  • Are a resident and citizen of one of the participating countries*: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela.
    In the specific cases of residency in Aruba, Curacao and St. Maarten, citizenship in the Netherlands is accepted
  • Are eligible to receive a U.S. J-1 visa.
  • Have a demonstrated track record of successfully growing their own business or social venture for at least two (2) years.
  • Are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
  • Are not a U.S. government employee.
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English.

The U.S. Department of State and Meridian International Center reserve the right to verify all of the information included in the application. In the event that there is a discrepancy, or information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

Applications not meeting the above technical eligibility requirements will not be forwarded to the selection committee. If you do not meet the technical eligibility requirements for this program, we invite you to visit exchanges.state.gov for information on other U.S. Department of State exchange opportunities.

What are the criteria for selection?

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program is an open, merit-based competition. There is no cost to apply. After the application deadline of 11:59 PM EST, Sunday, March 4, 2018, a selection panel reviews all eligible applications. Semifinalists will be contacted to schedule an interview in May. All applicants will be notified of their status in July 2018.

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program candidate selection committee will use the following criteria to evaluate applications and interviews:

  • Demonstrated professional entrepreneurial experience and knowledge.
  • Commitment to community or public service, mentorship, or volunteerism in your home country and to applying entrepreneurial and leadership skills, experience and knowledge to benefit your community and country.
  • Demonstrated understanding of how your personal and professional goals align with program objectives.
  • Demonstrated leadership, commitment to your organization’s or business’s success, positive attitude, initiative, and perseverance.

Application information

The purpose of the application is to collect basic information and to better understand applicants’ qualifications for the YLAI Professional Fellows Program. Questions will include candidates’ professional background, experience with their own business or social ventures, and English language proficiency. The application will applicants’ work history and business or organization plans.

See a template of the business/organization plan [PDF].

Additionally, the application will include the following short essay questions:

  • Please write your professional biography. Include a description of your relevant professional and volunteer history, current  work, and entrepreneurial pursuits.
  • How does your business or organization benefit your community, society, or country? How will your participation in the YLAI Professional Fellows Program enhance your ability to contribute to your community?
  • What personal and professional goals do you hope to work toward during this fellowship, and how will participating in the YLAI Professional Fellows Program help you achieve them?
  • Tell us about a significant lesson you have learned about leadership during your career. How has this changed the way you lead yourself and others?

More information: https://ylai.state.gov/fellowship/