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UT Austin Hosts 2021 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Fellowship Virtually

  • Jan 11, 2021

Up and coming young entrepreneurs representing 11 countries across Latin America and the Caribbean will learn skills and best practices to grow their businesses and social ventures from local Austin organizations during the U.S. Department of State’s 2021 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellowship Program.

Launched in 2015, YLAI is the state department’s flagship program to empower emerging entrepreneurs from the Western Hemisphere to enable the full economic potential of the region’s citizens. Throughout the program, participants develop stronger ties with their peers from across Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as with their U.S. fellowship hosts.

The 2021 YLAI Program, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is the first to be held virtually and the fourth cohort hosted by UT. During the three-month virtual fellowship, the young leaders will complete customized curriculum, work with a U.S. host organization and collaborate with U.S. mentors to address shared business challenges. Fellows will also learn from U.S. counterparts by participating in day-to-day operations at their host organizations and collaborating on a joint project.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic has not quelled our determination to continue hosting critical global programs like the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Fellowship Program,” said Sonia Feigenbaum, senior vice provost for global engagement and chief international officer. “YLAI and other customized programs extend UT Austin’s impact abroad and give our local community the opportunity to work with talent from around the world. We are grateful to our local business hosts and join the Longhorn community in welcoming our fellows.” 

UT Austin welcomes 15 entrepreneurs in the fields of technology, fashion, film, health and others. Guatemalan fellow Rocio Marisol Palacios Castellanos, founder of sustainable packaging startup Strawordinario, aims to learn about new technologies for eco-friendly food packaging and apply these methods to her organization. Upon returning to Guatemala, Rocío plans to launch her brand in 50 percent of the country within the next eight months and scale her company throughout Central America in the next two years.

Mexican fellow Zaid Musa Badwan Peralta is an engineer and CEO of Medi-Print, a company that develops high-tech medical solutions using 3D printing. During the fellowship, Zaid hopes to learn about sales, digital marketing and establishing a sales department. Upon returning to Mexico, he plans to increase sales revenue by 400 percent and use funds to gift prosthetic devices to people who need them.

As part of the program, U.S. fellowship hosts will have the opportunity to partake in a reciprocal exchange program to travel to their fellow’s region and implement a collaborative project addressing community needs. They will also share best practices, support the progress of the fellows’ action plans and participate in speaking events and trainings.

Texas Global is delighted to partner with IREX, a global development and education organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., on this program.

Learn more about YLAI and the YLAI program at UT