Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI)

Fellows of the YLAI 2018 class together with Minister Councilor David Hodg
Fellows of the YLAI 2018 class together with Minister Councilor David Hodg

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.

In Guatemala, there are two active YLAI programs:

  • YLAI Network
  • YLAI Professional Fellows

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. 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 Fellowship 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.

Applications for the 2021 cohort of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows are open from January 21, 2021, to February 25, 2021.

YLAI Professional Fellows – 2021 Call for Applications

The YLAI Professional Fellows program is a six-week program for entrepreneurs. Due to the intensive nature of the YLAI Fellowship 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, the YLAI Fellowship Program 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 from the Fellow’s business sector. Fellows will collaborate with their fellowship host on their Entrepreneurial Leadership Action Plan (E-LAP), which the Fellows will implement upon return to their home countries.
  • YLAI Entrepreneurial Leadership Curriculum: The YLAI Fellowship Program includes online and in-person coursework, developed by IREX and ASU, that combines technical entrepreneurship training and leadership development. Using the E-LAP, Fellows will set and achieve their entrepreneurial leadership goals.
  • S. 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 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.

*Please note that 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.

 Am I eligible for this scholarship?

You must fulfill all the following requirements to be eligible:

  • Guatemalan citizen currently living in Guatemala. U.S. Citizens or permanent residents are not eligible.
  • 25 – 35 years of age as of February 1, 2021.
  • Have a demonstrated track record of successfully growing their own business or social venture for at least two (2) years.
  • Entrepreneurs looking to take their entrepreneurial leadership to the next level.
  • Member of the YLAI Network.
  • Advanced English level: spoken and written.
  • Leadership skills, highly motivated, and capacity to adapt.
  • Committed to the development of their communities through community service, volunteering, 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 October 11 to November 19, 2021.

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

  • January 21, 2021 – Application opens
    February 25, 2021 – Application deadline
  • April 2021 – Embassy interviews semifinalists
  • May 2021 – Confirmation of principal and alternate candidates
  • October 11 through November 19, 2021 –Travel to the United States. Orientation in Tempe, AZ.
  • November 2021 – YLAI Closing Forum in Washington, D.C. Participants 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;
  • S. Orientation in Tempe, Arizona, 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.

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