Celebrating Africa Day with PAYLP


On May 25, also known as Africa Day, Meridian celebrates our annual exchange experience, the Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP). Meridian is pleased to implement the U.S. Department of State’s Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) on behalf of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Each year, this dynamic youth leadership program engages 150 high school students and adult mentors from over 38 countries in Africa for a three-week U.S.-based cultural exchange and civic engagement training program.

When we think of youth, we think of idealism, hopes, and dreams for the future. The Pan Africa Youth Leadership Program (PAYLP) believes in the potential for tremendous and lasting impact when leadership development programs target young emerging leaders and adults who empower them. PAYLP brings together anglophone and francophone high school students and adult mentors for practical leadership and technical skills training centered around an action-planning curriculum & capstone. PAYLP offers:

  • Interactive leadership trainings
  • Conflict resolution seminars
  • Social entrepreneurship classes
  • Community service opportunities
  • Two weeks of homestay with American host families
  • An overview of U.S history and institutions
  • Exciting cultural activities
  • A lifelong PAYLP alumni network

Following an opening kickoff conference, PAYLP participants are hosted by community-based partners for homestays, additional training, and cultural engagement in diverse regions of the United States, from Alabama to Oregon. The PAYLP experience concludes with a closing conference in Washington, D.C., where participants reconvene to share their experiences, deliver action plan presentations, and reflect on the lessons learned from the program. Along the way, youth encounter and foster relationships with fellow participants from different ethnic, religious, and national groups across the continent and exchange ideas with each other in addition to American peers. PAYLP aims to build tolerance and respect through shared culture and values, prepare African youth to become responsible citizens and positively contribute to their communities and promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States and rising leaders throughout Africa.

Read the following testimonials from our PAYLP 2022 alumni:

Fatou, Student, The Gambia: “I learned many things from Sophia about Ethiopia. So many things amazed me! Ethiopia has 20 months, they were never colonized, they have their own alphabet, and coffee was first discovered there. I had never thought about these things before, and I love that so much!”
Student, Angola: “This week, I learned all about my peers’ jokes and idioms in their communities. I am so in love with Swahili from Kenya!”
Adult Mentor, Zambia: “I learned that all of the PAYLP participants are big fans of food! I also learned that a few types of foods are commonly eaten throughout the African continent, like Cassava, Nsima, and Groundnuts.”
Student, Liberia: “The highlight of my week was seeing beautiful pictures of other places in Africa on the WhatsApp group and having the chance to ask questions to learn about my fellow participants. I really loved this week with PAYLP!”
Student, Ethiopia: “This week, I learned the meaning behind The Gambian flag. Red represents the sun, the small white stripes enclosing the blue represent peace, the green represents agriculture, and the blue represents the river Gambia.”
Student, Uganda: “I learned various countries’ different cultures and languages from some participants – for example, Rosa taught me about Angola! I really appreciate how open and confident she is with me because we were able to share and learn from each other so much. For example, she learned from me that Uganda is a tribal country.”
Student, Liberia: “One of my biggest takeaways from the program was the cultural exchange where I connected with many people from different parts of the world. I will never forget this because if it wasn’t for PAYLP, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to meet different people. I love it so much.”
Student, Zambia: “I used to think that people from Angola were bad, but because this program had people from many different countries, including Angola, I know how Angolans really are.”
Student, Uganda: “My favorite activity was when we virtually visited the Jazz Museum with all these great Black men who have had a long, beautiful history with jazz. It made me so happy to realize that jazz came from Africa because my love for music is more than I could have ever imagined. I am so very proud of my continent.”
PAYLP participant Jazmine from Uganda.
PAYLP participant Jazmine from Uganda.
PAYLP Participant from Mozambique with a friend.
PAYLP Participant from Mozambique with a friend.
PAYLP participant Levi from Liberia.
PAYLP participant Levi from Liberia.
PAYLP participant Sofia from Ethiopia.
PAYLP participant Sofia from Ethiopia.
PAYLP participant Malick from Gambia.
PAYLP participant Rosa from Angola.
PAYLP participant Rosa from Angola.