By Jewelle Saunders
The United States and partner nations across the Western Hemisphere came together at the ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June 2022 to forge regional agreements and partnerships and respond to the hemisphere’s most pressing issues, including the COVID-19 pandemic, threats to democracy, the climate crisis, and a lack of equitable access to opportunities.
The United States invited 10 outstanding youth delegates to support the administration’s goal of hosting the “most inclusive Summit of the Americas in history.” Delegates included five Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) fellows who served as a voice for the program, their communities, and youth across the region. The YLAI network team spoke with three of these delegates to learn more about their experiences on the ground and to discuss what is coming next for their communities and their businesses.
The YLAI Fellowship Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is administered by the International Research & Exchanges Board.
How was it attending the Summit of the Americas as a youth delegate?
- Bevon Charles, from Grenada, CEO and founder of Akata Farms: The experience was once in a lifetime. It was an eye-opening moment to be seen and heard by the region’s most experienced leaders. The quick reception of youth leaders was staggering. The highlight of my experience was meeting Secretary Blinken and hearing that my work was much appreciated.
- Gerardo Perez, from the Dominican Republic, CEO of Luxia Labs: The experience as a whole was amazing. At all the events we attended, we really felt like we were in the center of the future by talking with world leaders, fellow entrepreneurs, and the people that actually want to make a change.
It empowered me to want to reach even higher and to keep being a voice for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
- Luis V. Villaherrera, from El Salvador, founder of Gobdata/Tracoda: It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and my biggest highlight was being able to be loud about what youth want and share that with prime ministers, presidential advisers, and CEOs, and have dialogue with others seated at the table.
My most memorable moments were speaking with Secretary Blinken as well as the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, Samantha Power, and listening to other young participants about the realities in their countries and connecting in order to make future collaborations. Now more than ever we need to discuss and make real commitments.
What were your most memorable moments across the week?
- Gerardo: Being a panelist in the Young America Business Trust panel and the roundtable discussion with world leaders and other entrepreneurs were the most memorable for me. Being able to exchange ideas with people from such different backgrounds was amazing — to learn, to be heard and to know how far we can go as a whole. I met some of the most interesting people I know in the Summit; such different backgrounds, visions and ways to interact and solve problems. The best part of this kind of summit is the networking, getting feedback from different minds all over the world. It’s one of those things that most entrepreneurs should have at least once in their life.
- Bevon: It was great to meet other YLAI alumni and investors keen on collaborating with our mission. I was humbled by their stories. They are creating, innovating, and sharing their stories with passion. There were so many opportunities to meet and share and shake hands. This has been the biggest networking event I have ever attended. I look forward to building on these relationships and networks to create more opportunities for the Caribbean region.
How has this experience and the commitments promised moved goals that you have for your business and yourself forward?
- Luis: I was able to connect with a lot of people within the Department of State. As the fellowship was ending, I had the opportunity to talk with so many Fellows, experts, and people and communicate to them now about how inaccurate information is affecting every space and the importance of democracy in every space.
- Bevon: Hearing President Biden announce the initiative to strengthen and expand the economies of the hemisphere; the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity was a memorable commitment. What this will mean for the Caribbean is that focus and resources are going to be allocated in fighting many of the challenges facing the region at this time.
From climate change to the quality of work to how we conduct business which will really drive sustainability and growth. This means opportunities and space to create and innovate. I believe with much emphasis being placed on food insecurity and its value chain that myself and farmers across the region have much to look forward to. Once those resources are made accessible to us, we can achieve much faster than the intended 2030.
- Gerardo: I realized the responsibility I have with my company and how I’m making an impact on so many people. This made me want to take a bigger approach with my own business, integrating more people in each project we do and having a social impact purposefully in everything we do. The Summit made clear that each one of us has a big responsibility and we are being called to action.
Thank you to Bevon, Gerardo, and Luis for your firsthand account of the ninth Summit of the Americas! Learn more about President Biden’s key Summit agenda and the Summit’s overall commitments moving forward.