Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI)

Young Leaders

About YLAI

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) builds linkages between young leaders across the hemisphere. YLAI addresses the opportunity gap for youth, especially women, by empowering business and social entrepreneurs with the training, tools, networks, and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development and prosperity, security, human rights, and good governance in the hemisphere.

There are two active YLAI programs in Guatemala:

  • YLAI Professional Fellows
  • YLAI Network

YLAI Network

The YLAI Network is a vibrant community of young entrepreneurs and changemakers from across Latin America and the Caribbean who are committed to fostering economic development and prosperity, security, human rights, and good governance in the hemisphere.

The YLAI Network is a signature part of the U.S. government’s efforts to increase partnerships with future leaders to help promote economic growth and strengthen civil society. Joining the network provides access to digital resources, training and networking opportunities, and the opportunity to connect with senior leaders in business and government as well as other young leaders working to create change in their communities.

Join the YLAI Network here:

YLAI Professional Fellows Scholarship

The YLAI Fellowship Program is a six-week program for entrepreneurs, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). YLAI brings 280 promising leaders from Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean each year to the United States* to expand their leadership and entrepreneurial skills and network through skills-building workshops and opportunities to learn from and exchange with U.S. counterparts.

This program is open to young entrepreneurs 25-35 years of age, selected for participation via a competitive application process. More than 750 alumni of past YLAI Professional Fellows programs maintain a cohesive network across Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada to support each other’s efforts to improve their own ventures, share best practices, and collaborate to reduce the opportunity gap and contribute to economic prosperity in their communities.

The call for applications for the 2023 YLAI cohort is open from October 27, 2021, to December 8, 2021. (Date extended)

YLAI Professional Fellows – 2023 Call for Applications

The YLAI Professional Fellows program is a six-week program designed for entrepreneurs. Due to the intensive nature of the YLAI Professional Fellows program, successful applicants must be focused fully on their professional development and program activities during the entirety of the six-week U.S. fellowship. Therefore, YLAI Professional Fellows is an unaccompanied program, which means no additional guests may join any YLAI fellow during the fellowship and all program activities must be completed in their entirety by each fellow.

The YLAI Fellowship includes:

  • Four-Week Placement: In cities across the United States, YLAI Fellows gain valuable professional development skills and experience at U.S. entrepreneurial organizations related to the fellow’s business sector. Each fellow collaborates with their fellowship host on an Entrepreneurial Leadership Action Plan (E-LAP), which the fellow will implement upon return to their home country.
  • YLAI Entrepreneurial Leadership Curriculum: The YLAI Professional Fellows program includes online and in-person coursework, developed by IREX and ASU, that combines technical entrepreneurship training and leadership development. Using the E-LAP, each fellow will set and achieve their entrepreneurial leadership goals.
  • Orientation and YLAI Closing Forum in the United States: YLAI Fellows participate in the U.S. orientation in Tempe, Arizona, and the YLAI Closing Forum in Washington, D.C., as well as networking events with business and social entrepreneurial leaders and U.S. government representatives.
  • Post-Fellowship Sustained Engagement: After successful completion of the U.S. fellowship and the Entrepreneurial Leadership Curriculum, YLAI fellows continue their collaboration with U.S. partners and have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, small grants, mentorships, networking, and alumni activities. YLAI fellows will also have the opportunity to welcome a fellowship host to their country through the Outbound Program, sharing their expertise on the entrepreneurship climate in their country.

*NOTE: If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that safe travel is not possible at the time of the YLAI fellowship, the program will be conducted virtually.

Eligibility Criteria and Applications

Interested persons who meet all the following requirements may apply:

  •  Guatemalan citizen currently living in Guatemala. U.S. citizens, dual citizens, or permanent residents are not eligible.
  •  Be between 25 and 35 years of age as of January 1, 2023.
  • Have a demonstrated track record of successfully growing their own business or social venture over at least two (2) years.
  • Entrepreneur looking to take their entrepreneurial leadership to the next level.
  • Member of the YLAI Network.
  • Advanced English level, both spoken and written.
  • Demonstrable leadership skills, highly motivated, and capacity to adapt.
  • Committed to the development of their communities through community service, volunteering, and/or other activities.
  • Be eligible for a J-1 visa.
  • Venezuelan or Nicaraguan citizens currently living in Guatemala may also apply. Applicants must have residency or other type of legal permission that allows them to run a business or organization in Guatemala.
  • Candidates with little or no prior U.S. experience will receive priority.
  • U.S. government employees are not eligible for this program.
  • Applicants must be available to travel to the United States from January to February 2023.

Important note for all potential applicants to U.S. exchange programs:

As of November 8, 2021, all non-U.S. citizens seeking to enter the United States by air are required to comply with new requirements related to COVID-19 testing and vaccination status. In order to be eligible for consideration at this time, you must be able to meet these new requirements.

Please review the information available here:

For further details and guidance, we refer you to the U.S. CDC website:

Note: The U.S. Department of State and IREX reserve the right to verify all information included in the application. If there is a discrepancy or information is found to be false, the application will immediately be declared invalid and the applicant ineligible.

If you meet all requirements listed in this section, apply here:

YLAI Program Timeline*

October 27, 2021
(3:00 p.m. Guatemala time)
Call for applications YLAI 2023 opens
December 8, 2021(Extended)
(9: 00 a.m. Guatemala time)
Call for applications YLAI 2023 closes
January-February 2022 Embassy will conduct interviews with semifinalists
March 2022 Confirmation of the main candidates and substitutes
August 2022 The virtual programming will be launched prior to the arrival of the scholarship recipients
September-December 2022 The virtual curriculum modules will be launched. Each Intern will complete various activities at their own pace and attend live virtual events
January-February 2023 Fellows travel to the United States
February 2023 Program closure forum in Washington, D.C.
February 2023 Fellows return to Guatemala.


Comment: Dates may vary due to travel restrictions. (As a reference, the 2020 program took place virtually.)

Financial Provisions

Financial provisions provided by the U.S. government include:

  • J-1 visa support. (No visa support will be offered to dependents, as this is an unaccompanied program);
  • Round-trip travel from Guatemala to the United States and domestic U.S. travel as required by the program;
  • YLAI Entrepreneurial Leadership Curriculum coursework and mentoring;
  • U.S. Orientation in Tempe, AZ, and YLAI Closing Forum in Washington, D.C.;
  • Four-week professional placement with host organization;
  • Limited accident and sickness benefit plan; and
  • Housing and meal stipend during the program.