YLAI Professional Fellows Program


The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) is a Professional Fellows Program that empowers entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders to strengthen capacity and advance their entrepreneurial ideas to contribute to social and economic development in their communities and region.

250 YLAI Professional Fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean expanded their leadership and entrepreneurial experience through fellowships in cities throughout the U.S., placing business and social entrepreneurs in start-ups, small businesses, non-governmental organizations, and similar entities. Through individualized entrepreneurial mentorships, the YLAI Entrepreneurship Institute and a leadership summit, 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.

The online application for the 2020 YLAI Professional Fellows Program will be posted here soon.

Program Length

5 weeks

Eligibility and Application Overview

Public applications are accepted.

Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • 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, 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, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Venezuela.
  • Are eligible to receive a U.S. J-1 visa;
  • Have at least two (2) years of entrepreneurial/leadership experience, preferably with a start-up business or social venture;
  • Are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident of the United States;
  • Are not U.S. government employees; and
  • Are proficient in reading, writing, and speaking English.

Meridian International Center is the implementing partner for the State Department for the YLAI Professional Fellows Program, with additional partners Atlas Corps and Entrepreneurs’ Organization.  For further information, please contact the Meridian program team at YLAI@meridian.org.  

Country-Specific Information

Application Overview

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program is an open, merit-based competition. There is no cost to apply.

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.

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