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2019 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program

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Application Deadline: September 18, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. EDT.

The application process for the next Young Leaders of the Americas (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program is now open. Applications for the upcoming cohort of YLAI Professional Fellows will close on September 18, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. EDT.

The U.S. portion of the YLAI Professional Fellows Program will occur between June 7 – July 17, 2020.   Please double-check your calendar to ensure you will be available to travel to the United States during these dates.

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. Since the initiative’s launch in 2015, more than 750 YLAI Professional Fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean have expanded 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 have accelerated their commercial and social ventures’ success and developed specific action plans to carry out upon return to their home countries. YLAI Fellows built networks, linkages, and lasting partnerships to attract investments and support for their entrepreneurial ventures. Program components have included:

  • Four-week Fellowship: In cities across the United States, YLAI Professional Fellows gain valuable professional development skills and experience at U.S. entrepreneurial organizations from each 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 Professional Fellows Program includes online and in-person coursework, developed by IREX and Arizona State University (ASU), that combines technical entrepreneurship training and leadership development. Using the E-LAP, Fellows will sent and achieve their entrepreneurial leadership goals.
  • U.S. Orientation and YLAI Closing Forum in the United States: YLAI Fellows participate in the U.S. Orientation in Tempe, Arizona and 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 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 Fellows will have the chance to welcome a Fellowship host to their country through the Outbound Program, sharing their expertise on the entrepreneurship climate in their country.

Financial Provisions of the YLAI Professional Fellowship Program

There is no fee to apply to become a YLAI Fellow. The U.S. Government will cover all YLAI Professional Fellows Program costs. Financial provisions provided by the U.S. Government will include:

  • J-1 visa support. No visa support will be offered to dependents, as this is an unaccompanied program.
  • Round-trip travel from participant’s home city 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, Arizona and YLAI Closing Forum in Washington, D.C.
  • Four-week professional placement with host organization.
  • A limited accident and sickness benefit plan.
  • Housing and meal stipend during 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 at the Fellowship start date.
  • Are a resident and citizen of one of the participating countries*: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, 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 its implementing partner IREX 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 join the YLAI Network and 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, an independent selection committee of regional and technical experts reviews all eligible applications. Those applicants selected to be semifinalists will be contacted to schedule an interview in October. All applicants will be notified of their status by January 2020.

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program candidate selection committee will use the following criteria, like the following, 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 application is now open. Applications will be open through September 18, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. EDT.

For More Information:

Visit the Official Webpage of the 2019 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program

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