Central American Youth Ambassador Program

The Central American Youth Ambassador (CAYA) Program was a U.S. Department of State youth exchange designed to strengthen the leadership skills of young people from Central America and the United States. This multi-national exchange also built bonds of friendship and understanding between people of Central America, the Dominican Republic, and people of the United States. CIED continues this work as a partner in the Youth Ambassadors consortium.

Program Details

The CIED-designed CAYA program offered talented youth (15-18) from Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama the opportunity travel to the United States to develop their leadership skills and expand their knowledge of U.S. culture and society. A similar exchange to Central America was offered to U.S. youth.

During the three-week exchanges, students participated in activities focused on community development, environment, and entrepreneurship. The experience not only enhanced their skills and knowledge but also prepared them for a lifetime of leadership and community service. The program agenda included ample time for face-to-face interaction and dialogue which build strong people-to-people connections between U.S. citizens and Central Americans.

Following the exchange programs, CIED provided support to alumni and seed funding for small community projects.

The Central American Youth Ambassadors Program was sponsored by Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. CIED had administered this initiative in 2010 – 2017.


The CAYA Program impacted not only participants but also people in communities across the United States and Central America. The emerging young leaders who comprise CAYA’s program participants develop new skills, perspectives, and networks that support them as they expand their civic engagement activities in their home communities.

Through CAYA participants’ efforts, their communities, and in most cases their peers reap direct and indirect benefits as they apply the training they received through CAYA in their daily lives.

An equally important impact of the program is the friendship that develops between citizens of the United States and citizens of Central America. These people-to-people connections not only happen at the individual level but also at the community level. As this program takes place in communities across the U.S. and Central America, the bonds of friendship developed tend to run deep and touch many community members.

Case Studies

Sara Eliza Pérez teaching young students in a classroom.

Sara Eliza Pérez

Sara Eliza Pérez inspires local youth to develop their future in El Salvador.…

Cindy Villalobos teaching adults in a classroom.

Cindy Villalobos

Central American Youth Ambassador program has had a profound impact on alum and her community.…

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