After nearly 28 years of supporting economic development by empowering youth leaders from under-served areas throughout Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) sponsored Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) program has officially ended. Though the SEED program is no longer active, the alumni of the program will extend the impact of the program for generations to come. The Center for Intercultural Education and Development (CIED) at Georgetown University headed the design and implementation of the SEED program and its predecessors, CASS, NPSP and CASP programs, since their inception in 1985. Final groups of SEED alumni have recently returned to their respective countries of origin and both partner college SEED programs along with SEED local offices have closed their doors.
Combining the best elements from predecessor programs like the Central American Scholarship Program (CASP), Cooperative Association of States for Scholarships (CASS), and the Nicaragua Peace Scholarship Program (NPSP), the SEED program utilized a highly successful approach to further USAID development objectives. In addition to empowering rural youth, the program also included rural health care and primary education leaders serving rural and remote populations. The SEED model provided participants with technical training, leadership development, ESL and cultural exchange enrichment in programs ranging from six months to two years in duration through a comprehensive network of community colleges and universities across the United States.
To date, close to 2,000 SEED participants have successfully completed their training programs and have gone on to create meaningful impacts in their communities back home. Many of these participants have displayed an impressive capability to develop sustainable solutions to business and community needs prevalent to the region they hail from. One of many shining examples this year was Anderson Lima from Guatemala, who participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference along with 44 other SEED participants. Anderson was selected as a Resolution Fellow in the Social Venture Challenge for his project plan, Casa de Áak, a wildlife conservation initiative dedicated to protecting sea turtles in his hometown of Champerico. In addition to gaining access to expert mentors at the Resolution Project, Anderson was also awarded $4,000 in funding to kick-start his project on the field.
As a result of the program, Ministries of Education and Health from 11 participating countries have directly benefited from the SEED-acquired skills of SEED professional participants who completed their training as rural healthcare specialists, primary and middle-school teachers, and indigenous education advisers. Nearly 100 percent of the program alumni have been actively involved in areas of building leadership and promoting democracy through a range of grassroots community efforts. Youth alumni have gone on to manage large businesses and local nongovernmental organizations, serve their communities and in many case have been elected to political office. The actions and successes of the alumni highlight the SEED program’s singular positive impact in the lives of its participants, enabling them to grow as future leaders and access new professional opportunities not available before.
The SEED Program was a USAID sponsored exchange initiative that provides U.S.-based technical training to youth and community leaders. The program creates productive and mutually beneficial academic, economic, and social relationships that benefit people of the United States and the Latin American/Caribbean region.