PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten entrepreneur Dominique Hodge has been selected as one of the 2023 fellows for the US Department of State’s Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellowship Programme.
The US Mission to the Dutch Caribbean announced the cohort on Tuesday. Three young leaders from Curacao and one from St. Maarten have been selected.
The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellowship is the U.S. Department of State’s flagship programme for emerging entrepreneurs and business leaders from the Western Hemisphere. During a fully funded five -week exchange programme, the Fellowship offers YLAI Fellows the opportunity to improve their leadership and entrepreneurial skills through hands-on experience, online coursework, and face-to-face training. The YLAI Fellowship fosters business relationships and connections between entrepreneurs in the United States and those across Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada.
Hodge works in the Food and Beverages sector as an ice pop specialist providing tasty local treats from her company Tropsical. During the host placement, Hodge hopes to learn how to be an effective leader and how to assemble a team with similar values to grow the brand and inspire others to become entrepreneurs.
Monifa Jansen from Curacao, is another fellow. Jansen who works in the fashion sector as a self-employed social media content creator (influencer) leading a vast online audience, mainly focused on beauty, arts, and fashion. During the host placement, she hopes to learn from a US business how to expand her business beyond content creation and move to the next level of entrepreneurship.
Fellow Caroline Kolk of Curacao is a holistic health and wellness practitioner who works in the Health sector leading The Space. During the host placement, Kolk hopes to find a partner that can help the company expand across the Caribbean and into Central and South America, making the region the top destination for healing and wellbeing.
Fellow Alton Paas of Curacao works in the Health sector leading Fundashon Alton Paas, a non-profit working to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries and other neurological disabilities. During the host placement, he hopes to learn how to extend the foundation’s impact and further awareness and services.
The 2023 YLAI Fellowship Programme, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, launched in December with a virtual Fellowship Leadership Curriculum and orientation. In May, fellows will split into cohorts and travel to 19 cities across the United States for four-week professional placements with US businesses. They will collaborate with their peers to address shared business challenges, as well as engage in virtual and in-person events and cross-cultural activities. At the end of their professional placement, YLAI Fellows will travel to Washington, DC for the YLAI Closing Forum, before returning home to complete their Entrepreneurial Leadership Action Plans.
Fellows return to their ventures with new skills, resources, ongoing support from US counterparts, and a broader network. YLAI strengthens business ties between the US and Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada, and promotes inclusive economic growth by giving a
diverse array of entrepreneur’s access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentorship, life-long connections, and continued collaboration with US partners.
Entrepreneurs aged 23-35 who want to expand their business and learn new skills, can apply. Applications for the 2024 YLAI Programme are due February 15. Visit ylai.state.gov/apply to apply.
The YLAI Fellowship Program is a programme of the US Department of State with funding provided by the US government and administered by IREX.