Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program

Countries: Iraq, United States    |   Duration: September 2013 to May 2017    |   Funder: U.S. Department of State    |   Contact:

Program Description

The Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) brings English-speaking Iraqi secondary school students to the U.S. for a four-week summer exchange to explore themes of leadership development, civic rights and responsibilities, respect for diversity, and community engagement.

Participants on this U.S. Department of State-funded program are between the ages of 15 and 17 and are recruited from all provinces in Iraq. Iraqi adult mentors who accompany the students are educators and/or community leaders who work with youth and have demonstrated an interest in promoting youth leadership and social development. Competitively-selected American students also join Iraqi participants in all U.S. activities. 

The program continues after the U.S.-based exchange with follow-on activities in the participants’ home communities, including alumni activities focused on leadership development.  

To see these groups - which are in conflict at home - interact in the program is very inspiring. They are eager to build bridges and make connections with their American peers and dispel stereotypes of Iraqis.

IYLEP program associate

Program Cycle

Students travel to the U.S. in July and August, first visiting World Learning’s SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont. They then take part in homestays in cities across the U.S. before concluding their program in Washington, DC.

World Learning may also host an alumni conference in Erbil approximately six months after the U.S. program ends. 

   Flag and DOS   

Application Coming Soon

Program Goals

(as defined by the Department of State)

  • Promote mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of Iraq;
  • Enable the participants to understand civic participation and rights and responsibilities in a democracy;
  • Promote community engagement among Iraqi youth;
  • Develop leadership skills among Iraqi youth; and
  • Foster understanding and relationships between people of different ethnic and religious groups.


I learned that with our skills and knowledge, we can develop our country and help improve the situation. We, as a team of members from different parts of Iraq with different ethnicity and beliefs, can work together to help rebuild our country.

2014 IYLEP participant

IYLEP Alumni Projects

Basra Is Your Home – Alumni in Basra created a network of volunteers to help refugees and internally displaced persons in Basra. Volunteers have collected and donated money, clothes, food, and medicine to over 300 families. The group has a large social media presence with over 4,000 Facebook followers to raise awareness about their mission.

Youth Passion – Alumni based in Dhi Qar and Baghdad are using social media to inform fellow Iraqis about the most pressing issues their country faces and to facilitate conversations about possible solutions to these challenges. Topics include bullying, the environment, health, and politics.

Iraqi Clothes Bank – Alumni in Sulaymaniah have organized a clothing drive in order to donate clothing to IDPs and people in need in their community. The long term goal of this project is to have a branch in each province of Iraq. Through the IYLEP network, the project has already spread to Baghdad. 

Program Links

Visit IYLEP on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.