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

Fall 2016 Cohort

In Fall 2016, 250 Latin American and Caribbean entrepreneurs will participate in the YLAI Professional Fellows Program. These outstanding business and social entrepreneurs are working to transform their societies. Learn more about the YLAI Professional Fellows and their ventures.

Meet the 2016 YLAI Fellows   FAQ  

For more information, please contact YLAI Professional Fellows Program Team at

President Obama’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) empowers entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders to strengthen their capacity to launch and advance their entrepreneurial ideas and effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities. In fall 2016, 250 YLAI Professional Fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean will expand their leadership and entrepreneurial experience through fellowships at businesses and civil society organizations across the U.S. 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 Professional Fellows will build networks, linkages and lasting partnerships to attract investments and support for their entrepreneurial ventures. YLAI 2016 Professional Fellows will participate in:

  • Four-week Fellowship: With U.S. fellowship hosts in their field of expertise, YLAI Professional Fellows gain valuable professional development skills at entrepreneurial organizations or companies across the U.S. and work jointly on a venture Action Plan to be implemented upon Fellows’ return to their home countries.
  • Washington, D.C., Summit: YLAI Professional Fellows participate in a three-day 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 participate in a three-day conference and networking event with top U.S. government officials as well as global public, private and nonprofit leaders.
  • Sustained Engagement Post Fellowship: 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 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 Professional Fellows Program Timeline

May 27, 2016 YLAI Professional Fellows Program application deadline
May–July 2016 Applications reviewed by the selection committee
August 2016 Finalists and alternates notified
August–September 2016 Pre-Departure Orientation and program preparation
Early October 2016 YLAI U.S. Fellowship begins
Mid-November 2016 YLAI U.S. Fellowship ends
Spring 2017 U.S. Mentors Fellowship Hosts travel to host fellows’ countries

Financial Provisions of the YLAI Professional Fellows 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.

  • 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 Dallas and summit 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 are 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 21 and 35 on the start date of the YLAI Professional Fellows Program.
  • 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 at least two (2) years of entrepreneurial/leadership experience, preferably with a startup business or social venture.
  • Are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States.
  • Are not U.S. government employees.
  • 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 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. A selection panel will review all eligible applications. Semifinalists will be contacted to schedule an interview in June. All applicants will be notified of their status in August 2016.

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

  • Demonstrated understanding of how your personal and professional goals align with program objectives.
  • Demonstrated leadership, social consciousness and commitment to community or public service, mentorship or volunteerism.
  • Demonstrated professional entrepreneurial experience and knowledge.
  • Positive attitude and demonstrated initiative and perseverance.
  • Commitment to your home country and to applying entrepreneurial and leadership skills, experience and knowledge to benefit your community and country.

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 and experience with their own business or social ventures, volunteer activities and English language proficiency. The application will request a copy of applicants’ business or organization plans and resumes.

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

  • What are your goals for this program and how will it help to advance you personally and professionally? How will your participation in the YLAI Professional Fellows Program enhance your ability to contribute to your community, country, region and society?
  • What challenges does your company/organization face? How will your participation in this program help you face those challenges?
  • Please share any previous experience with U.S. organizations. What interests you about the opportunity to work with a U.S. institution?
  • Please describe your entrepreneurial accomplishments.
  • Please describe the business plan that you hope to refine and further develop as a part of this program.

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