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Artens Lazaj

Artens Lazaj, Albania

Artens Lazaj is the President of the U.S. Embassy Youth Council Albania.  Artens is 26 years old, graduated with a Gold Medal Award from the Faculty of Law, University of Tirana.  With a professional background in the private and public sector, Artens is committed to civil rights, good governance, anti-corruption, and especially the rule of law.  He believes that a working democracy means holding the public institutions accountable and making the officials understand the great sense of duty.  Artens is a strong advocate of youth empowerment programs, and he believes young people can deliver impactful changes in their communities.  The U.S. Embassy Youth Council has made significant progress on civic engagement issues, supporting democratic principles, and empowering the voice of diverse youth audiences through multiple projects and initiatives.

Ahmed Hassan 2021

Ahmed Hassan, Australia

Born in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, Ahmed Hassan is driven by a desire to improve social cohesion, bridge cultural divides and achieve the best outcomes for young people from multicultural backgrounds.  In 2014, at the age of 18, Ahmed co-founded Youth Activating Youth alongside fellow community leader and current CEO Ali Ahmed.  Youth Activating Youth offers support to marginalized and disadvantaged young people – particularly those who consistently fall through the cracks.  As a young community leader Ahmed is regularly interviewed for print and TV.  He is the recent Victorian state recipient of Young Australian of the Year 2022, Deputy Co-Chair of the Victorian African Communities Action Plan and sits on the Western Bulldogs (AFL) Community Foundation Board.  Ahmed Hassan is participating in the upcoming IVLP A Global Moment in Time: Reflections on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Accessibility beginning this November.

Esrat Karim

Esrat Karim, Bangladesh

Esrat Karim is the Director and Founder of Amal Foundation. She has been an advocate for social reform and women empowerment since before her foundation was established in 2014.  As a result of her work in education, emergency response, health, and women’s empowerment, she was honored by Forbes in 2020 as one of Asia’s top 30 under 30 social entrepreneurs.  She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Finance from University of Dhaka and her Master’s degree in Social Entrepreneurship from the University of Colorado.  As an Acumen Fellow, she is running skill centers for women in different remote areas of Bangladesh.  Esrat was the first girl in her community who completed undergraduate studies and received a scholarship to study in a prestigious master’s program in the United States.

Md. Nazmus Sakib

Md. Nazmus Sakib, Bangladesh

Md. Nazmus Sakib is the Inclusion Officer at the Center for Disability in Development (CCD), a local NGO in Cox’s Bazar.  He is visually impaired and before serving CCD, he worked for Physically-challenged Development Foundation (PDF) as a Team Lead.  Nazmus studied International Relations at the country’s premier public university, Dhaka University.  Nazmus is 25 years old and was a panelist for an Embassy-organized program about inclusive democratic practices and the ADA—and a musical performer for a disability awareness-themed Music Buzz program.  He has been working as a young activist in the democracy and disability sector since 2015 and volunteered with several rights-based organizations.  During the 2018 national parliamentary election, he was an active International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES) non-violent democratic engagement advocate.  He has won several debate competitions in Bangladesh and was the champion of the first visually impaired debate competition on democracy.  He also participated in the Government of Korea’s ‘Global Challenges of Youth with Disabilities 2018’ as a youth delegate.

Enna Zone Donlic IMG 0968

Enna Zone Đonlić, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Born during the war, about 10 months before the Dayton Peace Agreement was negotiated, Enna Zone is a dedicated advocate for human rights in both her personal and professional lives.  She holds three master’s degrees (Political Science, Criminology, and Democracy and Human Rights in Southeast Europe) and a law degree.  She is earning a PhD in law. Through her organization, Youth for the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), she is promoting democratic values, a human rights-based Constitution and taking a lead in inspiring the youth of BiH to engage in civic life.  Enna Zone is active in multiple local and regional youth organizations.

Tomas Garate Silva

Tomás Gárate Silva, Chile

Tomás Gárate was elected Mayor of Puerto Varas – a municipality of approximately 50,000 people in southern Chile – in May 2021 and took office in June.  At 28 years old, Gárate is the second youngest mayor in Chile.  He considers himself a “true political independent” with no ties to any party, who led a citizen movement that helped him win the mayoral race.  Previously, he led the environmental NGO Legado Chile.  He views local governments as key to answering citizens’ needs.  As Puerto Varas’ population has grown greatly during the COVID-19 pandemic when people moved there to telework, Gárate’s priorities include sustainable development, waste management, environmental conservation, and a transition to greater reliance on renewable energy.  Tomás has a degree in Architecture from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, a Masters in Landscape Architecture, and a certificate in Project Management for Wildlife Conservation.

Ismael Gamboa Ocampo

Ismael Gamboa Ocampo, Colombia

He has served as a delegate to the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council and works to integrate victims of armed conflict into society.  Gamboa represented conflict victims before the parties of the 2016 Peace Accord and now works with World Vision to build historical memory in order to prevent future conflict.  Based in Cucuta, Colombia’s main receptor city for Venezuelan migrants, Gamboa also works with Venezuelan refugees.   He is the author of the book “Paisajes de la Resistencia Juvenil en Frontera” (Landscapes of Youth Resistance on the Border).

Luis Antonio Gonzalez Jimenez

Luis Antonio González Jiménez, Costa Rica

Majored on International Relations focused on International Politics, he has been the Executive Director of Young Person Council (CPJ) since October 2020. He was the former chief of staff of the Vice Ministry of Youth, of the Ministry of Culture and Youth, from 2018-2020 and a consultant for the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), for the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO). He was also a member of the coordinating team of the Agents of Change Program of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) and served as a research assistant and researcher for various reports of the State of the Nation Program (PEN / CONARE). He has also participated in several civil society initiatives focused on youth participation and judicial reform.

Johana Bazlerova Photo

Johana Bázlerová, Czech Republic

Johana is a 20-year-old student from Prague, where she attends the University of Economics and Business. She discovered an interest in politics and public affairs thanks to the New York Times podcast “The Daily” and protests against the Czech Prime Minister in 2018.  One year ago, she started an Instagram profile “jsemvobraze” (I’m in the picture) which helps young people to keep up with current events.  She advocates for democracy, human rights, equality, gender and climate.

Merveille Gozo

Merveille Gozo, DRC

Marveille Gozo is a lawyer, electoral researcher, and representative of the Mouvement Citoyen compte à rebours/Collectif d’action de la Société civile (CSAC) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). CASC is a CSO consortium supporting electoral reforms in DRC, and Ms. Gozo recently served as the youth civil society representative for consultations conducted by the National Assembly’s Political, Administrative and Judicial Commission prior to the revision of the organic law governing the National Independent Electoral Commission.  As a representative of both youth and female perspectives, Ms. Gozo’s efforts to champion DRC electoral reform, advocate for youth participation, and empower youth to participate in democracy will be essential to credible 2023 presidential elections.

Danilo Manzano

Danilo Manzano, Ecuador

Danilo Manzano is a 34-year-old Ecuadorian LGBTQI+ and human rights activist.  He studied Public Relations at the local university Tecnológica Equinoccial (UTE) and has additional coursework in marketing and conflict resolution in other Ecuadorian institutions.  Mr. Manzano coordinated youth programs at the national NGO Fundacion Esquel.   Manzano founded in 2018 the NGO Dialogo Diverso, an organization focusing on democracy and human rights advocacy with an emphasis on vulnerable populations, including LGBTQI+ persons, women, and migrants/refugees.  He launched “Dialogando Ando,” an online platform available on Facebook and YouTube, for activists and the public to discuss issues of local and national interest.  He has represented LGBTQI+ organizations and civil society groups in several national and international events and regularly appears on local and national-level media interviews.

Aida Betancourt

Aida Betancourt Siman, El Salvador

Aida Betancourt is Co-founder and Director of Political Affairs of Nuestro Tiempo, a humanist political party in El Salvador. She promotes the political participation of youth and women and girl empowerment. Additionally, Aida works as an analyst for World Bank Group and UNDP. She is a member of the Global Shapers Community, and is an of the United States Department of State International Visitors Leadership Program. She holds a BA and Master’s Degree in Law from Université Panthéon-Assas Paris II and Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, and an MSc in International Public Policy at UCL, as Chevening Scholar of the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

Vladislav Velizanin

Vladislav Veližanin, Estonia

Vladislav Veližanin is an alumnus of the 2015 Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute at Wake Forest University. Vlad studied Public Relations and Communication at Tallinn University and was an exchange student for a year at Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, and currently is back at Tallinn University in his second year of Master’s degree in the faculty of Political Science. Vlad has a full-time job as Chief Specialist at the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People.  Since high school, Vlad has been an active member of NGO “Open Republic,” an Estonia-wide youth organization that aims to enhance integration of multicultural and social groups of people, as well as an outspoken public commentator, writing essays about national minorities in Estonia and other local and national issues.

Avikesh Kumar

Avikesh Jai Kumar, Fiji

Avikesh Kumar is a 24-year-old queer social entrepreneur and youth advocate who is the lead for U.S. Embassy Suva’s Youth Council.  He has focused on youth development during the past five years by leading a variety of youth organizations, including the National Youth Advisory Board under Fiji’s Ministry of Youth and Sports, Environment Advocacy and Social Empowerment for Youth, Youth for Integrity, International Peace Youth Group, and the District Advisory Council in one of Fiji’s provinces.  Avikesh has organized youth dialogue forums on Peace and Democracy and facilitated workshops, trainings, and dialogues on anti-corruption, transparency, and integrity in conjunction with Transparency International and Youth for Integrity.

Yolanda Joab Mori

Yolanda Joab-Mori, FSM

Ms. Joab-Mori is the Program Coordinator for Blue Prosperity Micronesia, which leads the FSM’s effort in developing its blue economy, strengthening sustainable fisheries, and creating marine spatial plans that will protect 30 percent of its marine environment.  She is also the founder and director of Island PRIDE Micronesia, a grassroots non-profit dedicated to empowering communities by uplifting the most marginalized to take action, particularly women and girls.  She is an alumna of the Obama Foundation Leaders Program, East-West Center Pacific Islands Leadership Program, and serves on the Board for the UN Major Group on Children & Youth.

Lala Touray

Lala Touray, Gambia

Lala Touray is an award-winning poet and women’s right activist whose work focuses on promoting the representation of Gambian women in political leadership. She is the Senior Program Assistant on Gender, Elections and Governance at the National Democratic Institute. She currently represents the Gambia at the Commonwealth Youth Council and a Council Member for the Global Apolitical Academy. She is a Mandela Washington Alumni who serves as Country Coordinator of the Gender Center for Empowering Development, where she implements programs geared towards promoting women’s rights and leadership in politics. She previously worked with the International Republican Institute and the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. She served as an executive member and volunteered for various youth organizations, including Green-Up Gambia, where she coordinated the planting of over 10,000 trees nationwide.

Seba Nazary

Seba Nazary, Germany

As a child of Afghan war refugees, her parents raised Ms. Nazary to appreciate the freedom and opportunities in Germany.  Ms. Nazary studies industrial engineering and is currently a student advisor in the innovation and digitalization project at Mercedes-Benz.  She worked for several years as translator and psychological counselor for organizations like Save the Children.  She also founded a network for Afghan girls and women living in Germany to help them rebuild their lives and provide assistance.  Ms. Nazary is a 2016/17 Fulbright alumna who went to San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Alexandra Pliakopanou

Alexandra Pliakopanou, Greece

She was born and raised in Ioannina, Greece and is currently a second-year medical student in the University of Ioannina.  She is a U.S. Exchange Alumna, having represented Greece in Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship 2018 in Wake Forest University, North Carolina.  This experience gave her the opportunity to cultivate her advocacy, negotiation, critical thinking and problem-solving skills and assume her role as a young leader.  She has enrolled in many conferences on democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in Greece and abroad and she has excelled in debate and rhetoric competitions.  She has participated in crisis simulations (National Museum of American Diplomacy Education Program), Model United Nations both as chair and delegate, including the Student Simulation of UN Committees on Human Rights, “Students as Diplomats,” where she won the best declaimer twice at the European Council simulations.  As a student, she has represented her school in the European Parliament and has served as school and city ambassador to twinning schools in Europe.  She is also interested in bioethics and health policies.  Volunteering is an important part of her life.  She has participated in the organizing of various community outreach programs, charity work and she is an active environmental volunteer.

Romeo Mendez

Romeo Méndez, Guatemala

Romeo is a Guatemalan 22 year old who is strongly committed to building a better future for Guatemala. He has contributed to the development of training spaces and citizen participation for youth in the country. Since he was a child, his main motivation has been to be involved in activities that promote the improvement of his nation. He founded, with a team of fellow young leaders, a non-governmental organization called “Con Vos”, which generates political incidence and social projection, taking into account the importance of the leading role of youth in the national reality, collaborating with society directly. Currently, he represents Guatemala in political-youth events at national and international level, and is committed to sharing knowledge and ideas from different spaces.  He is an active voice for his organization “Con Vos”,  he is an advisor for the United Nations Population Fund in Guatemala, he is the director ofr training and political actions at the Political Association “Caminemos, he is also affiliated with the Youth Network Human Rights Defenders of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Guatemala.  Romeo is also co-author of the Central American Book “La Región que Viene”.

Shreya Sen

Shreya Sen, India

Shreya is an experienced senior researcher and trainer with a demonstrated history of working in the development sector.  With her work at Nazdeek, she is deeply invested in issues around gender, childhood, sexuality, violence, health and education and advocates for structural and systemic changes in various institutions, through training, research and resource building, to make them more diverse, inclusive and easily accessible to communities on the margins of society.  Shreya is a part of various autonomous activist collectives, both online and offline which aim to build stronger support networks for people looking for safe spaces. Shreya is currently working as an advisor with Nazdeek, a legal empowerment organization committed to bringing access to justice closer to marginalized communities in India. Their model fuses grassroots legal education, community monitoring of service delivery, use of judicial and non-judicial remedies, and strategic research and advocacy to advance social and economic rights.

Gitanjali Babbar

Gitanjali Babbar, India

Gitanjali Babbar is the founder and director of a non-profit named Kat-Katha that works to empower and liberate sex workers and their children living in brothels of the largest red-light area known as G.B. Road of Delhi.  Gitanjali is a graduate from Delhi University with a degree in journalism and has a post-graduation in development communications from Jamia Milia Islamia University.  She is a Gandhi Fellow, Laureate Global Fellow, and Professional Fellow with the US Department of State Bureau. In 2010, when she was a program officer with the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), she got a chance to closely work with eunuchs and sex workers.  With her work in Kat-Katha, Gitanjali helps the sex worker nurture their dreams, educate, and enrich their community. She encourages them to join mainstream life by helping them learn arts like stitching, embroidery, paintingand motivates them to explore alternate life choices.

Gracia Jobel Mambrasar

Gracia Josaphat Jobel Mambrasar, Indonesia

Gracia Josaphat Jobel Mambrasar (Billy) was born in Serui, Papua Province, Indonesia.  Billy is an alumnus of the YSEALI Professional Fellowship 2015.  In 2019, he was appointed as one of Indonesian President Jokowi’s expert staff in social development, advocacy, and education underprivileged communities in Indonesia.  He currently advises the presidency on policies and programs related to equal access for education, training, and the workforce.  He is the founder of “Kitong Bisa,” a foundation which established learning centers in Papua and Papua Barat Provinces to educate approximately 500 students annually.  With 5,000 alumni since 2009, this education nonprofit aims to inspire Papuan underprivileged youth to get better education, as well as mentor and coach the students in life skills and entrepreneurship.  Billy manages Corporate Responsible Investments for British Petroleum on its social sustainability plan project in West Papua Province.  In this role, he ensures the participation of the Indigenous people, both the workforce, as well as the suppliers for the company’s operations. He also ensures the company follows its sustainability commitments.  Since 2019, Billy has been one of Indonesia’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Ambassadors, advocating for youth participation to help Indonesia reach its SDGs.  Billy received his undergraduate degree in Politics and International relations from the London School of Economics, received a Master’s Degree from Oxford University, and is currently pursuing a Human Development and Psychology (EdM) degree from Harvard University.

Obaida Farjallah

Obaida Farjallah, Jordan

Mr. Obaida Farajallah is a Jordanian media figure, and a prominent civil society activist. Mr. Farajallah has served in several youth leadership roles including but not limited to: President of the Jordanian Youth Parliament during its second session in 2013, and as a member in the Royal Committee for modernizing the political system, as well as a member of the elections’ sub-committee. Mr. Farajallah has also previously served as a member of Irbid’s youth council of the higher council for youth, and has helped establish several community initiatives, youth institutions, and cultural clubs.  He holds a master’s degree in journalism and modern media from the Jordan Media Institute and the University of Jordan. He holds a BA in Public Relations and Media from the Faculty of Mass Communication at Yarmouk University.  He has also participated in several fellowship programs, chief amongst them: Economics and Entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and Democracy and Political Science from the Lebanese American University, in Lebanon.

Asseel Shaban

Asseel Shaban, Jordan

Aseel Sha’ban is a Project Manager at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) in Jordan.  Ms. Shabaan is passionate about youth leadership, gender mainstreaming, international relations and gender equality.  She is an experienced Advisor with a solid track-record working in development projects mainly focusing on women, youth, political parties, parliament and civil society organizations.  In addition to her enthusiasm on matters pertaining to legislation and gender equality on a social dimension, as well as political participation of women and youth, her wider work experience also includes technical consultancies on political landscape and development, and observation of several parliamentary elections as a political analyst. Aseel holds a master’s degree in Diplomatic Studies and a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Jordan.

Willice Onyango Pic Nomination For Youth In Democracy Town Hall (Kenya)

Willice Onyango, Kenya

Willice Onyango is the Executive Director of The Youth Café, a multi-award-winning youth-based organization in Nairobi, Kenya. He has a 7-year track record of youth-led development having served as a global youth representative to the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons and as a member of the International Youth council. He has been invited to speak at numerous international forums on youth, development, and democracy including the 68th UN General Assembly, World Bank Youth Forum, AU Heads of States Summit etc. He is an alumnus of One Young World, International Young Leaders Assembly, and Kettering Foundation Deliberative Democracy Exchange, and was a Mandela Washington Fellow at Kansas State University in the USAHe is the author of the first ever Kenya Youth Manifesto, a non-partisan publication that unifiedthe aspirations of Kenyan youth into a common philosophy. In addition, he is the author of several book chapters, the most recent titled Securitizing Youthpublished by Rutgers University Press based on the role of young people in global peace and security.

Amina Kaja

Amina Kaja, Kosovo

Amina Kaja is a 19 year old student of General Medicine in Prishtina. She is currently a Research Assistant at Kosovar Centre for Security Studies and a Young European Ambassador representing Kosovo – focusing on EU Integration, human rights, youth activism and art. She was President of the Youth Advisory Board (USAID’s Up to Youth) and through the years, she has been a member of the Youth Assembly of Prishtina and founder and President of Kosovo’s first Career Club. The work and energy she has put into her change-making have made Amina Ambassador of Council of Europe’s “Block The Hatred. Share the Love!” campaign. Her dedication branches out to other organizations as well, such as UN Women, OSCE, YIHR, PEN, YEA Kosova and more, gathering over 600 volunteer hours in recent years, mainly in areas of interethnic dialogue, human rights and career orientation. Her activism is mostly done through art – poetry and graphic design. In the future, she hopes to bring breakthroughs to the world of medicine and human rights.

Ayman Dandash

Ayman Dandash, Lebanon

Mr. Dandash is one of Lebanon’s outstanding young experts on good governance, anti-corruption, social accountability, electoral law and reform, advocacy, and active citizenship.  He is currently a senior community mobilizer at Transparency Lebanon (Chapter of Transparency International) and has played a leading role in the implementation of over 50 projects on addressing and fighting corruption over the past ten years.


Tshepo Nkhabu Drexel Pic

Tshepo Nkhabu, Lesotho

At 16 years old, Tshepo founded Hands of Life (HoL) Cycling, a youth organization based in Mafeteng which uses cycling to create positive change in the lives of Lesotho youth.  The organization uses donated bicycles to engage at-risk young people on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and life and leadership skills to impact change.  Tshepo`s organization encourages a healthy lifestyle for youth, camping, technical training, and sports.  Hands of Life also provide a safe place for at-risk youth to learn about HIV prevention and receive counseling and support.  From 2015-2017, his organization hosted a Peace Corps volunteer who also helped to expand Hands of Life to the United States.  In 2017, Tshepo was selected as a Mandela Washington Fellow.  Tshepo worked for two years at a local community radio station.  In 2019, he partnered with Having P.U.R.P.O.S.E, Inc. a U.S. based non-profit promoting the SDGs globally, and the organization sponsored Tsepo’s trips to be part of the Youth Connekt Summit in 2019 and 2021.

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Sonnie Lawrence, Liberia

Sonnie Lawrence has six years of experience in various fields in the community development sector, especially community- based initiatives. Currently, she is the Founder and Executive Director of Agents of Positive Change.  She hosts a weekly radio program called “Career Talk” that helps young people discover their career for the future.  Sonnie graduated from United Methodist University in Monrovia studying Mass Communications and Sociology.  She was a Mandela Washington Fellow in 2019.

Nur Qyira Izzati Yusri

Nur Qyira Izzati Yusri, Malaysia

Qyira is the Co-Founder and Education Director of #Undi18. #Undi18 is a Malaysian grassroots movement, spearheaded by a group of young people that successfully lobbied the Government and Parliament of Malaysia to take steps towards amending Article 119(1) of the Federal Constitution to reduce the minimum voting age in Malaysia from 21 to 18 years old.

Qyira was previously a member of the National Youth Consultative Council. She is a Fellow at the Institut Für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa) and a Democracy Discourse Fellow by the De La Salle University. She was nominated by the U.S. Embassy KL for the International Woman of Courage Award and was recently listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 for her work in Social Impact.

With #Undi18, she leads the voter education initiatives by creating workshop modules and creative content to ensure that by General Election 15 Malaysian youth are prepared to vote. Some of the programs and initiatives that they’ve organized are Parlimen Digital, Seeds For Democracy, Youth Defence Summit, and more.

Misbaah Abbas

Misbaah Abbas, Maldives

Misbaah Abbas is an alumnus of the International Visitor Leadership Program on Investigative Journalism in 2017. Abbas has been appointed as a member of the presidential inquiry commission on unresolved murders and enforced disappearances on the first day of the Solih administration. Since 2007 Misbah has been serving the Maldivian media in positions such as the senior desk editor at Channel News Maldives, senior journalist at Voice of Free Press, and as a member of the Maldives Media Council. Misbah has a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Relations. Abbas was under serious persecution from the Maldivian courts, local gangs, and politically connected officials of a previous administration for reporting on corruption and violence. He is a repository of local knowledge in gang violence and radicalization issues in Maldives.

Nazeem Junggee Mauritius

Nazeem Junggee, Mauritius

With his experience in media, graphic design and printing combined with a passion for innovation and creativity, Nazeem Junggee launched Nineteen Fifty Design & Print Co Ltd. in 2010.  The company specializes in advertising and large format digital printing.  With a grant funding from the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF), he developed ‘SAKILI’, the brand name for unique and heavy-duty bags made from discarded advertising banners and billboards.  His company now turns advertising waste into want.  Nazeem was a 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow and a YALI grant winner, part of the U.S. African Development Foundation’s youth entrepreneurship portfolio.  Nazeem in the co-founder of the political movement “En Avant Moris” and has participated in several debates on youth in politics and advocates for environment projects.

El Mahdi Harmouch

El-Madhi Harmouch, Morocco

El Mahdi Harmouch is currently working as a program manager for “The Open University for Citizenship,” a USAID-funded project at the Moroccan Institute for Policy Analysis that aims to engage youth, women, and persons with disabilities in civic and political life.  He is a 2017 SLP alumnus and a two-time U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) grant awardee of the Alumni Venture Fund.   He was awarded the Alumni Grant Competition and COVID-19 Alumni Grant Competition.  Through these grants El Mahdi organized several trainings on public speaking, conflict resolution and leadership.  He previoulsy worked as a program manager for “Access Information as a Tool for Advocacy and Good Governance” project, at SimSim-Participation Citoyenne, an independent, non-profit, Morocco-based organization that seeks to use technology to help improve the way citizens and governments interact.  His past work experiences focused on reinforcing CSOs’ capacities in access to information and aiding citizens’ groups to leverage the access to information.

Emma Theofelus

Emma Theofelus, Namibia

She is one of the eight members of Parliament (MPs) directly appointed by President Geingob.  Appointed Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Information, Communication and Technology at age 23 by President Geingob, Theofelus is one of Africa’s youngest cabinet ministers.  Before her appointment, the minister was a youth activist around issues of gender, children’s rights, sustainable development, and youth unemployment.  She has also served as the Deputy Speaker of the Youth Parliament of the Republic of Namibia and the Junior Mayor of the City of Windhoek.  Theofelus leads the Government of Namibia’s (GRN) public outreach efforts on the Access to Information Bill.  She has spoken about the need for deliberate efforts to combat gender-based violence.

Pampha Purkoti

Pampha Purkoti, Nepal

Pampha Purkoti is an advocate for women’s and disability rights who is Dalit and also a person with a disability. Comment: As a so-called “lower” caste, the Dalit community faces marginalization in Nepal.  She is the Nepal Disabled Women’s Association (NDWA) focal point for Kavrepalanchok District in Bagmati Province, and a member of two municipalities’ newly formed Disability Coordination Committees.  Purkoti has led many public awareness and advocacy events to increase the political participation of women with disabilities.  She is also widely recognized as resource and focal point for disability issues in Kavrepalanchok by government and non-government institutions.

Prakriti Bhattarai Basnet

Prakriti Bhattarai Basnet, Nepal

Prakriti Bhattarai Basnet is a young advocate for women’s access to political leadership opportunities and resources at all levels of government.  She is the founding Chairperson of Political Literacy for Women (PLfW), an organization that teaches young girls and professional women about politics.  Despite being just two years old, the organization has already trained over 600 women.  She is also an alumna of Harvard’s Leadership, Organizing and Action: Leading Change program.  Bhattarai-Basnet is a new voice for women’s political participation.  She researched why fewer women participated in politics in Nepal and discovered that unlike men, who take part in “living room” and tea stall conversations, there are no similar agents of political socialization in Nepal for young girls.  She founded PLW to fill this societal gap.

S4D Alum Photo Sandesh Shrestha

Sandesh Shrestha, Nepal

Sandesh Shrestha is currently serving the Government of Nepal as a Joint Government Attorney (Gazetted First Class) under the Office of the Attorney General of Nepal. He has completed his LL.M (Masters in Laws) from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Switzerland in the year 2013.Mr Shrestha entered the civil service of the Nepal Government in the year 2009 as a Section Officer of the Supreme Court and was promoted to the position of Under Secretary in the year 2016. He passed the open competition conducted by the Public Service Commission in the year 2018 and was appointed as the Joint Secretary position of the Government. As a Government Attorney his responsibility includes- prosecuting the criminal cases and representing the government at various courts including the Supreme Court of Nepal, providing legal opinions to the government institutions and supervising District Attorney Offices under his jurisdiction.

Samira Rafaela

Samira Rafaela, Netherlands

Samira Rafaela is a Member of the European Parliament for the Dutch social-liberal party D66 since 2019. She is the first Dutch Afro-Caribbean MEP in the European Parliament, and one of the youngest MEPs elected in 2019. In 2020, Samira was selected as Politico Europe’s one of the 20 MEPs to watch in 2020 for her contribution to making trade more green and fair. In 2020, Samira won the Harper’s Bazaar International Women of the Year Award. She was also one of the participants in the 2019 Youth Town Hall hosted by President Obama.

In the European Parliament, Samira is a Member of the Committee on International Trade where she is the Vice-Coordinator for Renew Europe. Additionally, she is Renew Europe’s Coordinator in the Committee on Women’s rights and Gender Equality. Samira is a substitute Member in the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, as well as the in Committee on Human Rights. Samira recently participated in a visit of the European Parliament to the UN where she spoke with Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield.

Before her election, Samira advised the Dutch national police on inclusion and diversity. She is alumna (2016) of the Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Network of the German Marshall Fund.

Dawn Raids

Josiah Tualamali’I, New Zealand

Josiah is New Zealand-born and of Samoan and palagi descent.  He is a serial submission writer, company director, and elevates people’s voices in decision making around their mental health and addictions.  Josiah’s leadership journey began at 14 when he started developing the Pacific Youth Leadership and Transformation Trust to empower Pacific youth voice in democracy with his peers.  In 2018, he was the youngest of six panel members appointed by the New Zealand Government to the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction and is a co-author of their report “He Ara Oranga.”  Since 2019, Josiah has been one of the community conveners who pulled together a petition of 30,000 people which successfully asked the New Zealand Police to not routinely carry guns.  Most recently, he took a petition to the New Zealand Parliament calling for an apology for the historic Dawn Raids and special Parliamentary debate which has enabled conversations of healing, and a rebalancing of history.

Enrique Cuadra

Enrique Jose Cuadra Vargas, Nicaragua

Enrique Cuadra is a 20-year-old student leader from Leon, Nicaragua.  Cuadra serves as Coordinator of the Political Commission for the prodemocracy youth group University Alliance of Nicaragua (AUN).  AUN is a key member of one of the two main opposition groups in Nicaragua, the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (CAJD).  Cuadra also serves as the CAJD student sector representative in Miami, as part of the Nicaraguan diaspora.  Cuadra fled Nicaragua in February due to political persecution.  Cuadra is a highly engaged natural leader. He actively promotes democracy in Nicaragua and denounces the Ortega-Murillo regime’s arbitrary repression and human rights abuses.  In the Summit for Democracy Youth Town Hall, Cuadra would represent Nicaraguan youth who have become essential stake holders in the Nicaraguan political context since the 2018 prodemocracy protests.

Michael Lual Mayen

Michael Lual Mayen, South Sudan

Born as his family fled war-torn South Sudan, Lual spent 22 years of his life in refugee camps across Uganda. When Lual saw his first computer in 2007, he felt there would be a future for him in technology. In 2013, Lual became the proud owner of his camp’s first laptop. Despite having to walk for three hours through the African bush to charge it, he quickly learned to play, then code his own games. It was at this time that he uploaded his first game “Salaam” (Peace) to Facebook at an Internet cafe, which propelled him into the global spotlight. Since being discovered, Lual has started his own company called Junub Games, and has been recognized as the Game Award’s Global Gaming Citizen. He has become a beloved leader in the gaming community, and a powerful advocate for social justice and nonviolent conflict resolution. Lual was selected as a CNN Champion For Change in 2020 and a Laureate for the 2021 Young Activists Summit entitled “New Generation, New Solutions.”

Filip Kulakov (1)

Filip Kulakov, North Macedonia

Filip Kulakov is a young professional in the field of youth policy, holding a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) from Goce Delchev University of Shtip, North Macedonia. He has excelled in judicial bodies and the youth-related civil society sector.  His participation in USAID’s leadership development fellowship program was a formative moment in his career that shifted his interests towards civil society and public policy.  Currently, he’s the National Youth Council in North Macedonia’s Policy Coordinator where he spearheads advocacy campaigns aimed at improving the life of North Macedonia’s youth.  He participates in working groups with policymakers to ensure the voice of young people is heard, as well as in regional and European platforms such as the European Youth Forum.  He is also a Fellow of USAID’s leadership development program in North Macedonia.

Sumera Shams

Sumera Shams, Pakistan

Chairperson, Parliamentary Women Caucus Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sumera Shams, 29, is the youngest parliamentarian in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Assembly, and a member of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI). Ms. Shams was recently elected as the Chairperson of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus for the KP Provincial Assembly.  She is also a medical doctor and remained Chairperson of the KP Assembly’s Committee on Health.  She served as KP Coordinator Peshawar at Humqadam Youth Participation for Empowerment (HYPE) Pakistan in 2015 and has worked extensively on youth engagement in peace building.  She is an award holder of “Bargad and Umeed e jawan,” a United Nations Food Program (UNFP)/Government of Punjab Youth Activist 2014.  She was the Youth Speaker from KP at the National Youth Assembly from September 2013 to September 2014. Sumera is an IVLP alumna and participated in “Women Legislators Focused on Foreign Affairs and Peace Building” in 2019. She belongs to Lower Dir district.

Juan Diego Vasquez

Juan Diego Vásquez Gutiérrez, Panama

Juan Diego Vásquez Gutiérrez, at just 25, serves as a member (“Diputado”) of Panama’s National Assembly, representing the area of San Miguelito in the province of Panamá. Deputy Vásquez is one of just five independent members. Elected at age 22, Deputy Vásquez is the youngest and most voted member of the current National Assembly. Before his current role, Deputy Vásquez served as a member of Panama’s Youth Assembly and a student civil society activist. He received a degree in law and political science from University of Santa María La Antigua and another in Criminology from UIP. He cares deeply about democracy, transparency, and the fight against corruption and poverty.

Dagia Aka

Dagia Aka, Papua New Guinea

Dagia Aka is a youth advocate that has been actively involved in the youth space since the age of 15.  His journey started in 2012 in High School when he joined the Youth Against Corruption Association (YACA), becoming a prominent youth voice in the fight against corruption and actively volunteering to facilitate YACA activities.  In 2015 Dagia was amongst the first ever cohort of young leaders from around the Pacific who were invited to participate in the Pacific Youth Forum Against Corruption (PYFAC) in Fiji.  Dagia then took on the role of Social Media Coordinator, assisting to establish the PYFAC Youth Network on Facebook in the year that followed.  In 2016 Dagia assumed the role of Lasallian Youth Ministry Coordinator for the De la Salle Brothers in PNG.  His role saw him travel around PNG and the Asia Pacific region, designing and facilitating youth empowerment programs.  During this year Dagia was elected to the Board of Transparency International PNG (TIPNG), becoming the youngest board director at the age of 19.

Marcia Leon 2

Marcia Antuanette León Eulogio, Peru

Marcia León is a political science student at San Marcos University in Lima and is passionate about social conflict, civic participation, and protecting the environment.  She holds a leadership role in her university’s Governance and Democracy Association, through which she conducts research and organizes workshops related to public policy, democracy, social conflict, and human rights.  A volunteer at the Peruvian Public Policy Lab, one of Peru’s oldest youth organizations dedicated to modernizing the country, she has promoted citizen involvement in the democratic process by researching and disseminating information about congressional candidates. She is also a research intern Peruvian National Police’s graduate school, where she focuses on increasing female representation in the law enforcement community.

Bryan Gonzales

Bryan Ezra Gonzales, Philippines

Bryan Ezra Gonzales is a legislative lobbyist, human rights worker, and good governance advocate. He is the founding president and COO of the National Society of Parliamentarians, Inc. He was the executive director of the Human Rights and People Empowerment Center, Inc., policy advocacy officer at the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, Inc., coordinator of the Mambabatas Para sa Karapatang Pantao (Legislators for Human Rights) coalition, and a consultant at the Senate of the Philippines.  As a youth leader, Bryan helped found several national youth organizations in the Philippines, such as the award-winning good governance network GoodGov PH, and human rights coalition Young Human Rights Defenders.  For his efforts as a young human rights defender, he was recognized by the Free Leila de Lima Movement as one of 60 exemplary Filipino individuals in the field of human rights.  Bryan graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman, and is currently studying for his Masters of Public Administration.

Eliza Rutynowska

Eliza Rutynowska, Poland

Eliza Rutynowska is a lawyer focusing on rule of law and human rights at the think tank Civil Development Forum.  Prior to her current position, Eliza worked at the Polish Society of Anti-Discrimination Law.  She studied law at the University of Warsaw.  Eliza is an IVLP alumna and a Humanity in Action Fellow (Atlanta Fellowship 2017).  She focuses on the renewal of democratic institutions, including judicial independence.  She was also awarded the special award in the Rising Stars – Lawyers of the Future competition for Polish lawyers under 35.

Pearl Pillay

Pearl Pillay, South Africa

Pearl Pillay is a youth development practitioner based in Johannesburg, South Africa.  She is currently the Managing Director of Youth Lab, a national youth think tank that aims to mainstream youth participation in community development and policy making.  She holds a Master’s Degree in Political Studies from Wits University with a focus on youth participation in policy making and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, focusing on social movements and elections. She was also extensively involved in various university societies such as the Workers Solidarity Committee and the Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee, as well as the Wits Feminist Forum.

Ishika Millaniyage

Ishika Millaniyage, Sri Lanka

Ishika Millaniyage specializes in youth leadership and community peacebuilding. She is currently working with the UNFPA Sri Lanka country program as a project officer for a Youth and Social Cohesion project. Ishika is an alumna of U.S. Department of State Community Solutions Program focused on Tolerance and Conflict resolution. She has served on the first Community Solutions Alumni Board from 2016 – 2018. She’s a member of Sri Lanka Unites (SLU) Youth movement since 2012 and has been a mentor for SLU – Future Leaders’ Conferences. In previous roles, Ishika has facilitated a learning journey program for a group of Palestinian refugees and oversaw an Australian program of activities between Australia, Afghanistan, and India.

Michelle Belfor

Michelle Belfor, Suriname

Michelle Belfor is a 23-year-old Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights advocate and a coordination consultant for the United Nations Suriname. Starting her advocacy journey in 2015 as a member of the Youth Advisory Group of the UNFPA has helped her develop commitment, leadership and organizational skills to continue working on the norms and values that she believes in. In 2016 Michelle became a member of the Leo Club Gado-Tjo and has served as a member of the Leo Associate Team from October 2017 to June 2017.Michelle has represented Suriname on an international level as the first Women Deliver Young Leader in2018.As of October 2020 Michelle is the official representative for the Caribbean Region in the United Nations Women Youth Task Force for Beijing 25.Michelle strongly believes in using South-South cooperation as a mechanism to further the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development and therefore participates in various regional platforms to advocate for Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, Peace and Youth Development. Michelle is currently working on her undergraduate degree in meteorology.

Ian Tarimo

Ian Tarimo, Tanzania

Ian Tarimo is a passionate youth leader who believes that education is a powerful tool for solving the existing community challenges and shaping the future. He has over eight years of experience working in community project management and leadership.  He is the co-founder and Executive Director of Tai Tanzania, an organization that aims at increasing access to information and facilitating dialogue on issues that prevent young people from acquiring education sufficient for them to effectively engage in social and economic development. Tai Tanzania produces educational and entertaining content such as 3D animations, comics, and radio dramas which are distributed through traditional and social media platforms. With a team of more than 30 young people, Tai has a reach of more than 500,000 young people who access the educational and entertaining contents that are designed to inspire positive social behavior changes.

Natalino Soares Ornai Guterres

Natalino Soares Ornai Guterres, Timor Leste

Natalino Soares Ornai Guterres is the social inclusion advisor to Vice Prime Minister Jose Maria dos Reis of Timor-Leste and a leader in Timor-Leste’s LGBTQI+ movement.  He previously served for six years as a communications specialist at the Asian Development Bank, where he supported technical assistance for Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN.  Through a human rights-focused youth organization that he founded, Natalino led the organization of Timor-Leste’s first pride parade in 2017; he was also selected to represent Timor-Leste at the Equal Rights Coalition Global Conference in Vancouver.  Natalino received a Bachelors of Development and Communications studies from Luther College in the United States and a Master’s in responsible management and sustainable economic development from the United World College in Norway.

Angella Asiimwe Photo

Angella Asiimwe, Uganda

Angella Asiimwe is a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumna and has more than eight years’ experience working with women’s rights organizations, civil society organizations, law firms, and feminist organizations in Uganda.  She is the founder and chief executive officer of Voice Consults Limited and a board member of The Remnant Generation, the Uganda Project Implementation and Management Centre, and the International Rescue Committee.  CEO East Africa Magazine featured Angella as one of the Top 20 women CEOs who have pushed barriers to achieve their goals and uplifting women and fighting for their rights.  She has influenced enactment of policies and laws that promote women’s rights and spurred a number of campaigns to address patriarchy oppression in Uganda including #WomenMarchUganda that sought to heighten awareness on femicide and workplace and workplace sexual harassment.

Abiodun Adeoye

Abiodun (Abey) Adeoye, USA

Abey was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to the United States with his family in 2009.  Abey graduated magna cum laude from Salisbury University in May 2020 with dual bachelor’s degrees in history and political science. He founded Salisbury University’s first undergraduate research journal, “LARIDAE,” and worked with the office of Public Affair sand Civic Engagement (PACE) on topics of race and politics.  He was a 2021 fellow at the Hertog Foundation, and has interned for Governor Larry Hogan, UNITAR, and the Congressional Black Caucus.  He was a Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) JSI Fellow at the University of Minnesota, Boren Scholar to Tanzania, and CLS Swahili participant.  He is currently a CLS program alumni ambassador and a Fulbright ETA in Kyrgyzstan. He was just selected as a 2022 Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellow.

Javonni Ayers

Javonni Dionne Ayers, USA

As a child, the South Carolina State University Political Science major learned the importance of serving her community from her family.  She has continuously served her university, and its surrounding communities by taking part in a surfeit of public service activities, programs and events.  As the first two-term female Student Government Association President at SC State, Ayers is also a Dr. Emily England Clyburn Scholar in the University’s Honors College. Some of her accomplishments also include: White House Initiative on HBCU Scholar; NAACP Legal Defense Fund HBCU ambassador; and Goldman Sachs HBCU scholar.

Ms. Ayers has garnered numerous national and statewide awards and recognitions, and was most notably featured during the 2018 Summer TedTalk Conference in Washington D.C.  She also had the opportunity to work as an intern for US House Majority Whip, the Honorable James E. Clyburn.

Jade Begay

Jade Begay, USA

Jade Begay is the Climate Justice Campaign Director at NDN Collective. She is Diné and Tesuque Pueblo of New Mexico. Begay leads NDN Collective’s climate justice campaign work and brings extensive experience working in climate justice movement spaces throughout Turtle Island and within Indigenous communities across the globe. She has also worked as a multimedia producer, filmmaker and communications professional working in non-profit and Indigenous organizations. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Video and a Master of Arts degree in Environmental Leadership. She facilitated a meeting with Native youth and Gina McCarthy at COP26.

Headshot Andrew Brennen

Andrew Brennen, USA

As a Black, LGBT high school student in Lexington, Kentucky, Andrew experienced the impact of education injustice first-hand.  In response, he co-founded the Kentucky Student Voice Team, which helps to amplify and elevate students as partners in improving Kentucky schools.  Nine years later, the Kentucky Student Voice Team has grown to over 100 members, led multiple successful legislative campaigns, published original, peer reviewed research and changed the narrative in Kentucky about the role students can play in creating more just and democratic schools.  In 2020, Andrew was named a National Geographic Education Fellow and a Forbes 30 under 30 honoree for his work co-leading these efforts and supporting youth led movements worldwide. Today, Andrew serves as a senior advisor to the Kentucky Student Voice Team, and on the Boards of Directors of Seek Common Ground, Student Voice, and the National Parent Teacher Association.  He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in political science and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Education Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Fatma Elsayed

Fatma Elsayed, USA

Fatma Elsayed is an undergraduate student at Yale University studying global affairs and modern Middle Eastern studies, with an Arabic certificate in progress. She was born in Kosti, Sudan and raised Maryland. On a gap year, Fatma currently serves as a Youth Ambassador representing Maryland for the USA Pavilion in Dubai for Expo 2020. Previously, she studied Arabic in Rabat, Morocco with the U.S. Department of State’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth Scholarship and interned remotely with the Middle East Institute. At Yale, she was a Co-President of the Yale Model African Union and a member of Model UN Team (MUNTY).  Fatma is also native heritage Arabic speaker and is very passionate about MENA culture and music, especially Sudanese music and history. She runs a newsletter called “Sudani Weekly” where she explores Sudanese musical history and shares recommendations.

Arienne Jones

Arienne Jones, USA

Ari is a policy advisor at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) in Chicago, Illinois, where she focuses on adult expungements, sentencing, clemency, and parole.  As a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in Madrid, Spain, Jones taught detailed lessons on slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.  Jones also facilitated Global Classrooms, a course targeting advanced students that encouraged the exploration of world issues through Model United Nations.  Jones graduated magna cum laude from Spelman College with a BA in History and a minor in Spanish.  Jones earned a law degree from Tulane University Law School. Jones investigated housing discrimination claims in Louisiana, was a federal law clerk in Alabama, and worked on children’s rights issues in Florida.  She previously served as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador in 2014.

Sydney Kamen

Sydney Kamen, USA

Sydney is an alumna of the NSLI-Y and Boren Scholarship programs.  She has a degree in geography, global health, and international development from Dartmouth College, and is currently pursuing an MPP in international and global affairs from Harvard Kennedy School as a Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellow.  At 15, she founded So Others are Protected (SOAP), a non-profit organization focused on promoting hygiene and sanitation for women and girls in vulnerable communities.  As a future Foreign Service Officer, she wants to contribute to making and directing solid policy decisions related to issues of humanitarianism, security, human rights, and health.

Samia Lalani

Samia Lalani, USA

Samia (they/he) is a queer, genderfluid facilitator, advocate, and creator currently residing in Washington, DC. Their work has largely focused on healing justice and mental wellness, and they bring this background to all the liberation work they do. Samia believes strongly in the power of community-based solutions to safety and harm, and he sees transformative justice as one of many paths to building the world we want to see as we dismantle the structures that oppress us. He is the co-creator of the Transform Gender Collective (TGC), a collective for transmasculine and masculine-of-center BIPOC to practice transformative justice and accountability, unlearn toxic gender roles, and create healthier masculinities.  Samia is an advocate for the LGBTQI+ community and human rights, particularly related to mental health resources.  Samia completed a Mandela Washington Fellowship Reciprocal Exchange in Kenya in 2018.

Andrew Linder

Andrew Linder, USA

Andrew currently works at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he supports civil society organizations in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.  He holds a bachelor’s degree in Slavic studies from Brown University and is a recent graduate of the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service where he focused his studies on Eastern Europe, public diplomacy, transatlantic security, authoritarianism, disinformation, and democracy promotion.  Formerly, Andrew was a research intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a research assistant in the Governance, Justice, and Security Program at the United States Institute of Peace.  He is a two-time NSLI-Y participant, and an alumnus of the CLS and Fulbright U.S. Student exchange programs.

Rayyan Merchant

Rayyan Merchant, United States

Rayyan is a 2018 NSLI-Y Persian Summer alumnus and an alumni representative in 2019 and 2020; he was also a Boren scholar to Tajikistan in 2020 (virtual).  Rayyan currently studies computer science and linguistics at the University of Florida and is heavily involved in the Florida Model United Nations, where he served as the Assistant Director of the International Model United Nations Association last year.


Samara Schuman Edited Photo

Samara Schuman, USA

Samara Schuman is a recent graduate from the University of Oregon with a BA in Chinese and double minors in political science and business administration. She was a Chinese Flagship student, a Boren Scholar, and studied abroad a total of six times in China, Taiwan, and Jordan. Samara first started learning Mandarin as a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) awardee for a summer program in Xiamen, China. In college she attended Princeton in Beijing; the International Chinese Language Program in Taipei, Taiwan; CIEE Shanghai; SIT Geopolitical Relations in the Middle East in Amman, Jordan; and Flagship’s Taiwan Capstone program.  Samara has traveled to 22 countries and lived in Sri Lanka for two years. Her family background as a Filipina-American, being the youngest of six children, and growing up hosting many exchange students has influenced her passion for promoting cultural learning, dispelling cultural stereotypes, and supporting youth leadership development. Samara’s career goal is to work as a Public Diplomacy Foreign Service Officer.

Aasha Shaik

Aasha Shaik, USA

Aasha is an alumna of the CLS Arabic program currently pursuing a JD at Yale Law School. Since 2019, she has served as the only American selected for the Beijing+25 Youth Taskforce with UN Women, which leads the review process of the Beijing Platform for Action upon its 25th anniversary, identifying further areas for progress in achieving gender equity globally. She is a Truman Scholarship and PPIA Fellowship alum, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, Middle Eastern studies, and Arabic from Rutgers University.

Vince Redhouse

Vince Redhouse, USA

Vince received the Fulbright U.S. Student Anne Wexler Master’s Award in Public Policy to Australia.  Redhouse used his award to pursue a MPhil in Philosophy at the Australian National University.  He wrote his thesis on political reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and settler colonial states.  While in Australia, Redhouse served as research fellow at the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, as well as a teaching fellow at ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research.  After law school, Redhouse began work for a small firm that represents Indian tribes across the country. He previously served as a Fulbright Alumni Ambassador in 2018.

Headshot Bobbi Taylor

Bobbi Taylor, USA

Bobbi’s work is informed by her lived experience growing up in poverty, entering the juvenile justice and foster care systems, and experiencing homelessness.  Bobbi became involved in advocacy through a youth-centered organization in her community.  She is passionate about systems change for the wellbeing of young people, families, and communities.  She currently works as a consultant for Think of Us, the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and Cetera.  She also serves as a Lead Lived Experience Partner for Thriving Families Safer Children, a partnership of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and Prevent Child Abuse America, where she works to reshape child welfare in 22 jurisdictions across the country by elevating the voices of individuals who have experienced the child welfare system.  She received the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association Spirit of Youth Award in 2020.

Tatiana Washington

Tatiana Washington, USA

Tatiana Washington is a 20-year-old from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is a Policy Associate at March for Our Lives and Executive Director of 50 Miles More, a youth-led organization that began by marching from Madison, WI to Congressman Paul Ryan’s house in Janesville, WI following the Parkland shooting in 2018. She is a student at Clark Atlanta University. Tatiana became involved with gun violence prevention work after her aunt was killed in a murder-suicide, shot by her husband, in March 2017. Following the shooting of Jacob Blake by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August, she has also been involved in the Wisconsin Black Lives Matter Movement and supported the Biden-Harris campaign as a fellow in Wisconsin where she worked to turn young people out to vote. She participated in a youth gun violence prevention roundtable with Ambassador Rice and Congressman Richmond in February. She joined the First Lady in her box for the State of the Union in April.

Cynthia Yue

Cynthia Yue, USA

Cynthia Yue is the 10th UNA-USA Youth Observer to the United Nations. Cynthia has longstanding experience as a leader at UNICEF USA, where she has spearheaded national initiatives promoting civic engagement, leadership development, and diversity to over 30,000 supporters. In 2019, she interviewed global leaders at the United Nations General Assembly on the 30th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, culminating in the reinforcement of the European Union’s commitment to child welfare and the promotion of #TheRealChallenge youth advocacy campaign, which amassed over 450 million engagements across more than 50 countries. She has also served as a Fellow for sustainability and youth deliberation initiatives with the Embassy of France in the United States and the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia. She has interned for the U.S. Senate, U.S. Department of Transportation, and U.S. Small Business Administration.

Yeissel Perez

Yeissel Macelis Pérez Manzano, Venezuela

Yeissel Perez was born in Zulia state, where she engaged with politics at a young age.  She identifies as a feminist leader and defender of human rights, especially those linked to education, empowerment, women’s leadership, and Venezuela’s struggle for democracy.  Pérez currently studies Political Science at Universidad del Zulia (Zulia University), where she leads the student body as the first woman elected for the position.  Yeissel Pérez is also an active member of the political party Primero Justicia (First Justice).  She ran under the opposition unity ticket for Zulia State Legislative Council in the November 21 regional elections and was among the few opposition candidates to win.

Namatai Kwekweza

Namatai Kwekweza, Zimbabwe

Namatai is a Zimbabwean development enthusiast who founded and registered WELEAD in 2017 when she was eighteen years old.  Her vision is to develop WELEAD into an international entity that will bring young people from diverse world backgrounds into a safe space where they can co-create the concept of leadership through idea exchange.  Namatai is a former junior member of the parliament of Zimbabwe for Mt. Pleasant constituency and the former junior portfolio member in the Ministry of Health and Child Care and an award-winning professional public speaker under Toastmasters International in Southern Africa.  She is an African Union African Governance Architecture Youth Ambassador and has been instrumental in representing young people in Africa.  She has engaged in a number of USAID-sponsored reference groups to advise activities about civil society strengthening and advocacy.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future