PAYLP alumnus Brian Sibanda’s journey from poverty in Zimbabwe to scholarship in the United States

For 18-year-old Zimbabwean Brian Sibanda, discovering that he had been accepted to Pomona College in California was nothing short of a dream come true. “I was very shocked and for a couple of days I thought I was dreaming.” A former participant in the Pan-African Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) administered by Meridian International Center in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), Brian received a full scholarship to attend Pomona College this year where he is now just days away from completing his first semester. As someone who faced adversity at a young age, this feat represents a major milestone in Brian’s ongoing journey to empower himself and the lives of youth like him in countries across Africa. Continue  

PAYLP Through the Eyes of a Meridian Intern

 “This program has offered me the opportunity to experience what I’ve learned in school, a lot of what I teach my pupils and read on the internet and books…. I am sure this will breed a group of young leaders with a hunger for success.” (Private Mchenga of Malawi, PAYLP Adult Mentor participant) Students will often look to adults, school, and friends to shape the things they do not know. When that is not enough television and movies fill in the gaps.  As it turns out, romanticized perceptions, movies, and television often steer us further away from the reality...

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“The Impacts of Exchange Programs in my Life” by Massolian Fahnbulleh, A Liberian Let Girls Learn Participant

My name is Massa and I am from Liberia. This is actually a real experience about my life. I never thought I could be outspoken and participatory until I went on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program because I used to be a very shy person. But when I went to the U.S. for the one year program in 2011, I learned how to speak in public, do PowerPoint presentations, and cultural presentations in front of audiences. I also learned how to sing and dance in my American high school. Then came the “Let Girls Learn” program...

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“The Let Girls Learn U.S. Exchange Program” by Bochra Laghssais, A Moroccan Participant

First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama invited 22 Moroccan girls and 22 Liberian girls to the White House for the premiere of the CNN documentary We Will Rise on October 11, the International Day of the Girl. I was one of the Moroccan girls invited to Washington D.C. as part of First Lady Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative. The White House visit was a follow-up to First Lady Obama’s visit to Liberia and Morocco in June 2016, during which we Moroccan girls participated in a roundtable discussion on the challenges young girls face in order to continue...

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Meridians’ role in bridging the gap between gender roles in Iraq and facilitating positive change

The Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) recruits the brightest and most forward thinking minds in the country who come to the United States to expand and develop their leadership and cultural diversity skills. IYLEP, a State Department funded program, facilitated by Meridian International Center brought 100 participants, selected from over 2,000 applicants this year, to the U.S. to learn and experience student life at various universities around the country. The program also entails valuable workshops during the opening conference in New York City and during the closing conference in Washington, D.C. The IYLEP participants are consistently presented with...

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