Professional Fellows Program

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What is YLAI?

The World Affairs Council is pleased to announce that it will host participants from the U.S. Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program in October and November 2017. As part of the fellowship, ten young business and social entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean will travel to Seattle and become part of the larger YLAI Network which will provide online resources and a space for young leaders to make regional connections.  This is an important step in fulfilling the White House’s commitment to cultivating entrepreneurship and expanding opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and innovative civil society leaders in the Americas.

The World Affairs Council is proud to work with grantee Meridian International Center, a premier nonprofit, global leadership organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. YLAI is also proud to partner with Atlas Corps and Entrepreneurs’ Organization for this program.  The website includes information about the YLAI Professional Fellows Program.

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About the Seattle Program

  • 10 Professional Fellows will be in Seattle from October 14th – November 13th, 2017.

  • The Professional Fellows are young professionals with at least two years of entrepreneurial experience, carefully selected through a competitive application process.

  • The four-week program will place business and social entrepreneurs in relevant businesses and start-ups, non-governmental organizations, and similar entities in Seattle, where they will have the opportunity to learn from U.S. counterparts by job-shadowing and participating in day-to-day operations at their U.S. host organizations.

  • Participants will further develop their business or social venture plans by engaging in skills-building workshops.

2016’s Seattle YLAI Mentor Businesses:









Inquiry Partners















Crosscut Public Media





Washington MESA










Seattle International Foundation





Atlas Coffee Importers LLC





Conduit Coffee















GGLO Design




2016’s Seattle YLAI Fellows:

Brazil – Leonardo de Siqueira Lima is a former Air Force Cadet in the Brazilian Air Force. He is the founder of Mais Educação, a nonprofit organization that aims to provide financial support for young people with fewer financial resources so that they can access quality education. Their goal is to help every student raise tuition money via crowdfunding. He holds a Bachelor´s Degree in Economics from Fundação Getulio Vargas in Brazil and a Master of Science degree in Economics, awarded by Pompeu Fabra University in Spain. He is also the founder of Terraço Econômico, a website that provides a forum for debate by posting articles on economic theory.

Chile – Maria Jose Diaz is the Managing Director of Investors at Cumplo, a crowdfunding lending platform that allows borrowers, primarily small and medium enterprises, and investors to connect directly. Cumplo’s mission is to have fair rates through a transparent and collaborative online marketplace, thereby reducing information asymmetries. Prior to Cumplo, Maria worked for the Government of Chile as the Minister’s Chief of Staff at the National Women’s Service (SERNAM), as an advisor at the Ministry of Social Development, and in the planning unit at the National Emergency Office (ONEMI). She has a degree in Business Administration from the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.

Colombia – Ricardo Jiménez is the Cofounder of Fútbol Fit Club, a startup that encourages people to have an active lifestyle using soccer as a reason to exercise and have fun. Fútbol Fit Club is also entering in the social entrepreneurship field and is developing a coaching program to help children from underprivileged communities. Before Fútbol Fit Club, Ricardo cofounded Mapache Studios, a video game studio that made a donation of 2 million licenses of educational software to the foundation Computadores para Educar. Ricardo is also a One Young World ambassador, Wayra alumnus, and an active member of the digital entrepreneurship ecosystem in Colombia working as a startup mentor.

Costa Rica – Alberto Collado is the founder and CEO at Studio Cromat, a company dedicated to help designers and clients understand each other better with the architectural projects they develop together.  Since he graduated from the School of Architecture at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), he has applied his research on augmented and virtual reality technology to the design and commercialization of many business and large residential projects.  His specialty is strategy and innovative design solutions for communication, industrial process, robotics and CNC machines, urban planning, and architectural construction.  Alberto is a professor at the Latin American University of Science and Technology (ULACIT). 

El Salvador – Carmen Castellanos is the co-founder and CEO of Fashion Truck, the first pop up store in El Salvador. Fashion Truck is a boutique on wheels that travels to its customers. Fashion Truck aims to empower Salvadoran women through clothes so that they can achieve their goals and leave a legacy in the world. Carmen has a degree in Economics from Escuela Superior de Economia y Negocios (ESEN).

Jamaica – Latoya West-Blackwood founded iPublish Consultancy and its imprint, iMagiNation Books, as part of her longstanding love affair with books and reading. iPublish is Jamaica’s first registered full-service publishing consultancy, and it offers a range of support services from its base in Kingston, Jamaica to clients worldwide. From editorial and design, to digital distribution and marketing, iPublish provides customized solutions to self-publishers, corporate clients, and educational institutions. iMagiNation was created as an outlet for works across various genres showcasing the best of Jamaica to the world via new stories, voices, and media. Latoya is a Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship (Caribbean) Official Entrepreneur and Chairman of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. She is passionate about volunteering and supports several community-based and non-profit initiatives promoting literacy and reading.

Mexico – Jesus Leyva is the Co-founder and Technology Leader of a social program called Profesionalización de la Docencia, which is focused on providing training for public school teachers who are in need of new and modern skills.  Jesus has a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business from Tec de Monterrey.  He went on an exchange program at Schulich School of Business-York University in Canada in 2012 on a scholarship from the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP); this was sponsored by the Canadian government. He is also launching a startup along with his co-founder and team called SnapVisits that is focused on virtual reality.

Mexico – Yesenia Sanchez founded Yes Sanchez in 2013, where she designs and produces artisanal products for women.  The Mexican design and accessory brand is committed to helping the environment, and the company selects recycled and ecological materials. She also works for the government institution FONART where she is in charge of developing textile projects in rural areas. She graduated from the Jesuit Universidad Iberoamericana with a degree in textile design in 2011.

Peru – Alexandra Cáceres is currently the CFO of Compadre, a social startup that strives to increase small farmers’ revenue using solar-powered technologies. She has a Bachelor’s degree in business management from San Ignacio de Loyola University and has been working on local startups for three years. She focuses on improving business processes and renewing the business model according to market demands. She is very interested in agriculture, technology, and venture capital.

Peru – Gabriela Saldana is the Co-Founder of Ando Reparando, a Peruvian organization that seeks to change the history of professional technicians. Ando Reparando was born from the team’s passion for helping others and the need to satisfy the current demand for household repairs. Gabriela has solid experience in finance leading new projects, simulating scenarios, and strategic planning. In 2014, she graduated from the University of Lima as an Industrial Engineer.

Latin American Exchange Opportunity for Seattle-based Mentors 

To complement the U.S.-based program, 50 fellowship hosts from 21 cities around the U.S. will travel to the region in spring 2017 to learn about the fellows’ businesses, share best practices, and support the progress of the fellows’ action plans.  Additionally, U.S. fellowship hosts will participate in speaking events and small-scale trainings.

For further information, please contact Rachel.