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Seventeen Colombians selected to participate at the 2021 Department of State Fellowship Program

17 Colombian trailblazers, selected through a competitive application process with over 2,300 eligible applicants, will be part of the U.S. Department of State 2021 Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Fellowship Program, which will bring together 260 business and social entrepreneurs from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada for a virtual fellowship from January to April 2021. Fellows will complete the customized YLAI entrepreneurial curriculum, work with a U.S. host organization, and collaborate with U.S. mentors to address shared business challenges.

Launched in 2015, YLAI is the Department of State’s flagship program to empower emerging entrepreneurs from the Western Hemisphere to enable the full economic potential of the region’s citizens. Combining a yearly fellowship program, an active and open online network, and ongoing engagement from U.S. embassies, YLAI fosters prosperity, inclusive development, and democratic values. YLAI also promotes U.S. business models, increased trade, and job creation.

Those selected represent 37 countries throughout the Western Hemisphere. Fellows work in diverse industries including agriculture, clean energy, e-commerce, education, food and beverage, health care, hospitality, marketing and branding, and others. We invite you to read their profiles here.

The YLAI Fellowship Program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented in 2021 by IREX.

For more information on joining the free YLAI Network or how to apply for the upcoming YLAI fellowship program, please visit

Maria Camila Angel Cruz

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As a Co-Founder and General Manager of Agroindustrias Montecamoa SAS, María Camila Angel Cruz has experience in agro-industrial processes, the business operations of manufacturing, and consultative sales in the context of working with small farmers and communities in conflict. During the fellowship, Camila aims to learn about financial management, marketing strategies to increase sales and expand the business, strategic planning to strengthen their organizational structure and reach company goals, and how to implement best practices as she leads the company. Upon returning to Colombia, she plans to develop a plan to increase the sales of raw material for Sacha Inchi growers in the Orinoquia region as they expand their reach into a larger global market.

Sebastian Arevalo Sanchez

Americas, Colombia, Civic Engagement, 2021

As a Co-Founder and CEO for Fundación Pasos Libres, Sebastián Arévalo Sánchez has experience in crime prevention, citizen security, human rights, partnership building, international organizations, peace and justice. During the fellowship, Sebastián aims to learn about data-driven solutions, financial sustainability and partnership-based expansion strategy. Upon returning to Colombia, Sebastián plans to build and promote a multisectoral investment ecosystem for data-driven solutions focus on disrupting human trafficking.

Carlos Fernando Castellanos Neira

Americas, Colombia, Economic Innovation & Growth, 2021

As the Chief Operations Officer for Cultivando Futuro (Cultivating the Future), Carlos Castellanos has experience in business strategy, fundraising for social impact in agriculture, and devising software applications to improve and scale the operations of the company. During the fellowship, Carlos aims to learn about technology development, fundraising in the U.S. ecosystem, and expand his network of organizations committed to sustainable development goals (SDGs). Upon returning to Colombia, Carlos plans guide the technology department of his company in applying technology in development programs. As he creates new startups with a positive impact based on SDGs, he looks forward to implementing the lessons he learned at the fellowship as he raises awareness about available opportunities and fundraising.

Jorge Andres Ceron Zamudio

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As a Professional in Procurement for Org. Terpel S.A. / Masser SAS, Jorge Cerón has experience in procurement, logistics, and sales. During the fellowship, Jorge aims to learn new leadership skills, grow his marketing and business strategies, and develop effective negotiation approaches. Upon returning to Colombia, Jorge plans to make his business the biggest healthy premium snacks company in the country and extend his reach to other countries abroad.

Daniel Esteban Conde Velasquez

Americas, Colombia, Primary & Secondary Education, 2021

As a Co-Founder and Director in APD (Drone Professional Association), Daniel Conde has great experience in marketing and sales through experience with digital channels and negotiation with key clients and partners to help the company grow in the best possible way. During the fellowship, Daniel aims to learn new perspectives on how to build a social business with a world scope in mind, grow his company network, and learn from people who already overcame what APD is struggling with. Upon returning to Colombia, Daniel will apply all the knowledge and experience obtained in the development of APD’s professional project, and above all, in helping Latin America to improve its level of quality of life through drone technology.

Paola Karin Contreras Vivas

Americas, Colombia, Energy & Environmental Issues, 2021

As the General Manager for RAEE COLOMBIA S.A.S., Paola Contreras has experience in standardizing operations and process improvement. During the fellowship, Paola aims to learn about emotional intelligence, conflict management, and how to create and nurture the organizational culture of the company. Upon returning to Colombia, Paola plans to work with the employees to develop an optimal environment in the company culture, thus maximizing their effectiveness in collaborating to accomplish the company’s objectives.

Camila Cooper

Americas, Colombia, Health, 2021

As a Founder and Director for Fruto Bendito Foundation, Camila Cooper has experience in social innovation in the region of Latin America. During the fellowship, Camila aims to learn about scaling and expansion through a digital platform, marketing and sales and strategy. Upon returning to Colombia, Camila plans to bring the parameters of the digital platform. To have learned and created alliances to apply for grants and to develop with high impact the work in my country with demobilized families.

Natalia Andrea Diaz Gonzalez

Americas, Colombia, Energy & Environmental Issues, 2021

As the CEO and Co-Founder of Prolicar, Natalia Diaz Gonzalez has experience in resource management. During the fellowship, Natalia aims to learn about finance, scaling and expansion, and marketing and sales. Upon returning to Colombia, Natalia plans to improve her skills in personnel management, grow a sustainable business, and generate more social and environmental impact through increased profits.

Joseph Alejandro Gallego Mejia

Americas, Colombia, Economic Innovation & Growth, 2021

As a CTO for Sammu, Joseph Alejandro Gallego Mejía has experience in artificial intelligence, manufacturing processes, software development, and big data. During the fellowship, Joseph aims to learn about scaling his business, marketing and sales, and talent acquisition. Upon returning to Colombia, Joseph plans to launch a new scaling campaign in Mexico and Honduras using the YLAI network. In addition, he plans to start ten new relationships with manufacturing companies in Latin America to improve the performance of their entire businesses. With these new synergies, Joseph wants to bring new opportunities to employees in Latin America.

Diego Alejandro Gonzalez Fernandez

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As a Founder of Auto Prime, Diego Gonzalez has experience in the automotive industry and has developed and established new repair techniques and services for the automotive business by using a new and modern business model. During the fellowship, Diego aims to learn about how to scale and grow the business model as well as marketing and finance for entrepreneurs. Upon returning to Colombia, Diego plans to apply the new lessons learned and make strategic decisions for making the business model grow and expand.

Graybern Livingston Forbes

Americas, Colombia, Civic Engagement, 2021

As a Co-founder and General Coordinator of Raizal Youth Organization, Graybern Livingston has experience in designing alternative methodologies based on ancestral and intergenerational knowledge to empower young people and organize communities. He also has experience as a facilitator in youth empowerment workshops. During the fellowship, Graybern aims to learn about community planning methodologies, social innovation techniques, youth empowerment strategies, and financial sustainability. Upon returning to Colombia, he plans to scale the leadership school into a center for youth empowerment and community innovation to continue to prepare highly qualified young leaders characterized by critical and disruptive thinking, ethical awareness, social action, and civic participation to transform society from the bottom up. He also hopes to use his YLAI network to maintain contact with other organizations and learn from their experiences through an annual exchange program on San Andres Island more accessible for all.

Maria Camila Malagon Sierra

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As a Founder for Correcaminos World, Camila Malagón has experience in entrepreneurship, social media management, sales, and rural tourism. During the fellowship, Camila Malagón aims to learn about strategy, marketing, and sales. Upon returning to Colombia, Camila Malagón plans to teach her community to develop agrotourism projects and create an association of rural tourism operators.

Santiago Medina Zambrano

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As a Co-founder and CEO for Vapor Kingdom, Santiago Medina has experience in leading teams, executing plans for expanding the business, budgeting, and achieving projected goals. During the fellowship, Santiago aims to learn about navigating new laws and policies, securing partnerships for the long run, and retaining talent. Upon returning to Colombia, Santiago plans to launch a new initiative, positioning Vapor Kingdom as leading the way in compliance with the upcoming regulations for this kind of product in 2020 as it touches the vaping industry in Colombia.

Stephanie Laura Mullen Raymond

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As a Co-founder for Mullen´s Homemade, a specialty maker of thirteen types of handcrafted sausages that contain no preservatives, and the Leadership Project Manager for Corewoman, Stephanie Mullen has experience in leadership development applied to entrepreneurship. During the fellowship, Stephanie aims to learn about how to scale the business, increment sales in a cost-effective manner with an imperative and increasingly important focus on environmental sustainability, aimed at having a positive impact in the Colombian society and innovative marketing strategies to open additional sales channels. Upon returning to Colombia, Stephanie Mullen has ambitious plans to implement strategies learned throughout the fellowship by opening a new sales point in the city and informed by an initial scoping of locations in order to maximize sales, grow brand recognition for Mullen´s Homemade all while taking into consideration the carbon footprint it creates, measuring the environmental impact and creating solutions to improve it.

Santiago Andres Ortega Ramirez

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As the Founder of Fasalact, Santiago Ortega has experience in the development, manufacturing, and commercialization of healthy dairy products. During the fellowship, Santiago aims to learn about leading people and teams, innovation management, and business strategy. Upon returning to Colombia, Santiago plans to consolidate an expansion strategy for the Sketos brand to reach the Latin American market.

Jonathan Puerta Pereira

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As CEO for TASKME, Jonathan has experience in innovation, entrepreneurship and employment. During the fellowship, Jonathan aims to learn about science, technology and innovation policy, public innovation, and the future of work. Upon returning to Colombia, Jonathan plans to scale the impact of his venture and become an innovation leader that uses innovation and technology as catalysts of socio-economic development.

Miguelangel Rivas Vargas

Americas, Colombia, Business, 2021

As a Founder for Exito Corp, Miguelangel Rivas has experience in stabilizing cost structures while monitoring inflation rates. During the fellowship, Miguelangel aims to learn more about marketing, merchandising, and how to brand his company and expand his network to include exportation experts. Upon returning to Venezuela, Miguelangel plans to open a shop and launch a marketing campaign to secure sales agreements with home remodeling chain stores in Colombia.

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