The five-week program for entrepreneurs, funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is coordinated by Meridian International Center on the national level, in partnership with the Cleveland Council on World Affairs and 21 other “City Hubs” locally.
Through the program, young entrepreneurs in the Caribbean and Latin America are selected as Young Leaders of the Americas fellows. They spend five weeks in the United States learning more about their industry, best practices and business culture, as well as discovering how they can develop as leaders, advance their companies and contribute to their communities.
“When we get home, we’re able to apply all the new things that we learned and to take our businesses to the next level,” Trejo said.
Trejo first traveled to Detroit for the program’s opening ceremony, and then arrived in Cleveland Sept. 24, and today (Oct. 18) is her final day at CWRU. She now will travel to Washington, D.C., for the program’s closing forum.
After applying and advancing through a months-long selection process, Trejo became one of 250 individuals named a fellow of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative.
Though Trejo’s company is a third-party provider for educational experiences abroad, there weren’t many companies in Cleveland that fit that bill. Instead, a university seemed like the best option to help her learn more about the industry in the United States.
Given Case Western Reserve University’s focus on international students and education abroad, the Cleveland Council on World Affairs identified Case Western Reserve University as an ideal host for Trejo.
When they approached Sara Spiegler, assistant director of education abroad, with the opportunity to host Trejo during her fellowship, she and the staff at the Center for International Affairs were immediately interested.
During her four weeks with the office, Trejo has met with members in different areas of expertise at the Center for International Affairs and at the university more broadly.
“Yes she works with study abroad, but it’s very beneficial for her to learn about what our colleagues in international student services do,” Spiegler said. “It gives her a little bit better of an understanding of what her students’ process might be like when they’re coming to the States.”
To ensure fellows get the most out of the experience, the Young Leaders of the Americas assigns weekly projects for them to work on and consider how they can advance their business once they return to their home countries.
The main purpose of the projects is to help every entrepreneur develop a strategic plan, mission, company values, and a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis.
“It’s not like the experience stays in the experience,” Trejo said. “They want you to keep on developing your business when you go back.”
On the flip side, Trejo also helped the Office of Education Abroad develop some of its programs while here, updating, for example, the pre-departure orientation and re-entry evaluation for Case Western Reserve University study abroad students.
“She’s a great resource to have because she’s coming at it from a different perspective than we are,” Spiegler said.
For Trejo, the experience provided even more than industry expertise.
“There’s also something very valuable I take from this experience, and it’s all the connections with the people I met,” she said. “I hope to keep nurturing my relationships with everyone at the office and to maintain contact once I go back home.”