Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) – Summer 2018 Cohort

PAYLP participants celebrate their final night of the program at Meridian’s campus in Washington, DC.
PAYLP participants celebrate their final night of the program at Meridian’s campus in Washington, DC.

In August 2018, Meridian welcomed 109 high school students and adult mentors from twenty-three African countries to the U.S. for the Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP), an annual three-week academic and cultural exchange on leadership development and civic engagement.

The program opened in Atlanta, Georgia, on August 4, 2018, highlighting key fundamental lessons and models in values-based leadership. Atlanta is home to many great examples for this, including the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and lessons learned from the American Civil Rights Movement. Students discovered various leadership styles and began to apply those skills while working together as country teams to examine the greatest social and economic needs in their home communities and create solutions to address them.

Following Atlanta, the group split five directions, sending country specific cohorts to Austin, Texas; Burlington, Vermont; Kansas City, Missouri; Muncie, Indiana; and Portland, Oregon, for in-depth training and support to design action plans for social and economic issues facing their communities at home. During this leg, participants lived with American families, offering them insight into American culture.

The larger group reconvened and closed the program in Washington, DC, on August 21, 2018. A capstone for PAYLP is the “Pitch” session where students present their community action plans to panels of locally-based experts in social enterprise and African development, as well as the U.S. Department of State. Michelle S. Giuda, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs at State Department, joined the final round of pitches offering feedback to the top presenters. The final week in Washington culminated in a high-level reception where students were able to meet Ambassadors and senior members of the international Diplomatic Corps from their home countries; Ambassador Jennifer Zimdahl Galt, State Department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs; and performers of Taratibu Youth Association, which closed out the celebratory reception in dance.

PAYLP is designed to develop leadership capacity and potential in the next generation of African leaders, primarily through dynamic trainings and cultural exchange with their American counterparts. Program goals are outlined below:

  1. Enhance the civic engagement, consensus building, and leadership skills of a cadre of young leaders from Sub-Saharan African Countries;
  2. Promote mutual understanding, sustainable partnerships and relationships among and between U.S. and Sub-Saharan Africa program participants and between key civil society groups in the U.S. and counterpart organizations in participants’ home countries;
  3. Provide continued support for implementation of projects aimed at encouraging civic engagement among diverse ethnic populations;
  4. Involve a broader audience in learning and teaching opportunities.

The Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) is sponsored by the United States Department of State and is implemented by Meridian International Center. For more than half a century, the people of the U.S. have supported international educational and cultural exchange programs as an investment in global understanding and peace. Such exchange programs have a long track record of bringing future leaders from around the world to the U.S. to experience and enhance their knowledge in major fields of study, explore U.S. culture and values while empowering them with the skills necessary to succeed. These people-to-people exchanges also give Americans invaluable experiences and insights from different cultures.


U.S. Department of State

Project summary