Apply to the Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) from Benin

The exchange supports long-range U.S. foreign policy priorities by offering secondary school youth (ages 15-18) and adult educators the opportunity to explore priority policy themes such as civic education, climate resiliency, conflict resolution, economic development, entrepreneurship, respect for diversity, women’s empowerment, and youth leadership development in addition to fostering regional cooperation on the continent. Approximately 150 youth and adult participants will travel to the United States in two separate, mixed-country delegations in the spring and summer of 2024. The exchanges will take place at various colleges, universities, and institutions throughout the United States over the course of the exchange. The Spring (English only) exchange will take place from approximately April 6-April 27, 2024. The Summer (French only) exchange will take place from approximately July 13 – August 3, 2024. It is anticipated that two to three youth participants and one adult mentor participant will be selected from each eligible post, though final numbers will depend on overall post responses, regional bureau priorities, and other factors.

A youth candidate for this program should:

  • be a high school student who is aged 15, 16, 17 or 18 years at the start of the exchange
    • Spring program dates: approximately April 6-27, 2024
    • Summer program dates: approximately July 13-August 3, 2024
  • be proficient in English (for the Anglophone program) or French (for the Francophone program);
  • be able to attend at least one additional semester of high school in his/her home country following completion of the program;
  • indicate a serious interest in learning more about the United States of America;
  • demonstrate strong leadership qualities and potential in his/her home school or community;
  • have a high level of academic achievement, as indicated by academic grades, awards, and teacher recommendations;
  • demonstrate a personal commitment to community service and record of engagement in extracurricular activities;
  • have had little or no prior study or travel experience in the United States or elsewhere outside of his/her home country;
  • be mature, responsible, independent, confident, open-minded, tolerant, thoughtful, and inquisitive;
  • be willing and able to fully participate in an intensive program, including community service and an active educational travel program during the exchange, as well as follow-on activities in his/her home country;

An Adult candidate for this program should:

  • be a teacher, trainer, volunteer, or community leader who works with youth;
  • be proficient in English (even for the Francophone program, which also requires French fluency);
  • have a commitment to remain in teaching positions or other positions of influence on young leaders after the program ends;
  • indicate a serious interest in learning about the United States of America;
  • demonstrate an interest in further developing professional skills;
  • be eager to work with the teenage participants and to assist them to become productive and responsible members of society;
  • exhibit maturity and open-mindedness; and
  • be willing and able to fully participate in an intensive program, including community service and active educational travel program during the exchange, as well as to mentor youth in their follow-on activities in their home countries.

ECA, through an award to Meridian International Center, will cover all program costs, including round-trip international travel, alumni activities, lodging, stipends, in-country program related expenses (including domestic travel for visa interviews and/or pre-departure orientation), in-country lodging and expenses, and other program associated costs. Posts are encouraged to provide support to the maximum extent possible, particularly for pre-departure orientation (PDO) participation. There will be no Miscellaneous Obligation (MO) issued for this program.

Participants will be covered by ECA’s Accident and Sickness Program for Exchanges (ASPE) health benefits program.  Meridian International Center is responsible for enrolling participants.  ASPE is a limited, health benefit program (not insurance) that covers medical expenses associated with each illness or accident up to $100,000 per occurrence. ASPE does not cover routine examinations or pre-existing conditions.

All participants funded through this cooperative agreement must travel on J-1 visas.  No fees should apply to visa or SEVIS applications.

Meridian and their consortium partners note that PAYLP participants are encouraged to receive available vaccinations against Covid-19, influenza, and other infectious diseases. Participants should acknowledge that illness with any infectious disease may result in removal from portions or the entirety of the program at any time.    Meridian encourages COVID-19 vaccination to ensure that participants can participate in all portions of the program. At this time, some partners and locations may have vaccination requirements during the 2024 program. Participant vaccination status information will be collected prior to travel to the United States to ensure that the program is compliant with any local partner regulations.

At this time, Meridian plans to have a mandatory COVID-19 testing policy before and during the program to prevent the spread of COVID-19. PAYLP will provide funds for participants to access COVID-19 testing in their home country prior to departure. Meridian International also will provide COVID-19 antigen tests for weekly testing during the duration of the program.

Vaccination, testing, and masking requirements are subject to change as the global health landscape continues to change.