Latin American Leaders with the Dream of Creating a Better World | YLAI Guest Blog

YLAI pilot fellows Sofia & Claudia, representing Mexico


Sofia Cruz is a young entrepreneur from Mexico who was selected to attend the 2016 Young Leaders of the America’s Initiative (YLAI) pilot program by the U.S. Department of State. Here are some of her reflections on her experience attending this prestigious U.S.-based exchange.

Meridian is excited to implement the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Professional Fellows Program on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. In fall 2016, 250 new YLAI Professional Fellows from Latin America and the Caribbean will expand their leadership and entrepreneurial experience through fellowships at NGOs and businesses across the U.S.

Visit for more information and to begin your application!

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YLAI Professional Fellows Program


When I first arrived in Miami, Florida, I never thought that in a short three weeks, I would have the opportunity to improve my project, find inspiration, and make life-long friends. My YLAI experience has challenged me to grow in so many aspects of my life. The best way to explain what I learned is to focus on the influence it had on my project, my regional perspective, and on me.

Sofia with artisan goods
Sofia with artisan goods

Through Tekiti, I currently work with artisans in Mexico, and one of the biggest problems my country faces is the growing technology gap. This prompted my initial goals to leave YLAI with a plan of how to help artisans integrate technology into their daily lives and to use technology for education and business development.  I learned that the U.S. is truly a land of opportunities, and was impressed that people were willing to share their time, resources, and knowledge with us. In Charlotte, I had countless mentors teach me everything from how to sell online and make contracts that protect the artisans to how to set goals, select the right people, and create the right environment. I had access to the innovative minds of artists, business moguls, marketing strategists, and computer programmers. I was able to build a multi-faceted plan for my project and develop the strategies to achieve a greater impact in my country.

YLAI pilot fellows Sofia (Mexico) and Roberto (Nicaragua)
YLAI pilot fellows Sofia (Mexico) and Roberto (Nicaragua)

When I first met the other participants, I had to remind myself how fortunate I was to be part of this group of incredible people. From the beginning, we could immediately relate to each other about business opportunities, strategies, and common obstacles. By the end of the Miami opening program, we all knew that our best resources in this program would be the people in this group. It was the start of an amazing community of business leaders.

One of the greatest and most surprising moments of the program was realizing the potential of Latin America as region. We have tremendous potential as a community that shares common languages and an interconnected history. Our countries have found effective solutions to social problems.  If shared, these solutions could help us advance faster towards more stable economies and a better quality of life. This program illustrated how cooperation in the region can offer so much to our collective development.

Sofia at the US Department of State
Sofia at the US Department of State, addressing Secretary of State John Kerry

I am very proud of my accomplishments during the YLAI program. It really became a personal journey that allowed me to experience new things, open my mind, and learn more about myself. It was an honor to represent my country and show others the richness of Mexico.  YLAI motivated me to strengthen my personal commitment to generating a greater impact with TEKITI in the artisanal community.  I grew my project and my network, and most importantly, I grew personally.