U.S. Embassy Announces 2018 Finalists for the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Professional Fellows Program in the U.S

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From left: LaTravalia Williams, Paul Frazier Jr., U.S. Embassy Nassau’s Public Affairs Officer Penny Rechkemmer and Regina Smith.

U.S. Embassy Nassau is pleased to announce the three Bahamians selected to participate in the prestigious Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) Program. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs funds the initiative and implemented by Meridian International Center.  The program will bring 250 business and social entrepreneurs from Latin America and the Caribbean to the United States in September 2018 to collaborate with counterparts in businesses and organizations in 20 cities across the United States.  Through this exchange program, Fellows will advance their entrepreneurial ventures and build leadership skills to effectively contribute to social and economic development in their communities. Up to 60 U.S. hosts will be able to visit their Fellows in-country to provide guidance on their action plans while expanding their own contacts and markets abroad.

The 2018 YLAI Professional Fellows were selected through a competitive application process, which attracted 2,500 applications.  These 250 business and social entrepreneurs represent 36 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean and focus on topics including, but not limited to, agriculture, clean energy, consulting, e-commerce, education, entrepreneurship development and support, food and beverage, healthcare, hospitality, marketing and branding, mobile applications, and women and youth empowerment.  The three Bahamian YLAI Fellows selected include:

Paul Frazier, Jr., Founder and President of Gravitas Bahamas, a company that seeks to keep young talent in the Bahamas through scholarships, networking events, and culture and education programs. He is also the Founder and Managing Director of Frazier & Associates Ltd., a small accounting services and business consultancy firm, and is the Financial Controller for Freeport Ship Services Limited. Paul has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Acadia University and is a licensed Chartered Accountant in the Bahamas.

Regina R. Smith, the Founder and Managing Director of Firehouse Spice Company, a Nassau-based business that produces spices, peppers, and marinades. Ms. Smith established the company to encourage, promote, and sustain the growth and development of unique and authentically Bahamian products. Previously, Regina worked as a Special Projects and Education Officer at the Bahamas National Trust, and she assisted with The Shark Campaign and the opening of the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management from the College of The Bahamas.

LaTravalia “Tray” Williams, Founder of Wing Ding Carry Out, a restaurant in Freeport. In addition to providing quality customer service, Wing Ding aims to help its community by having a locally-sourced menu with affordable prices. Tray also works with Do Something, which assists members of her community with small financial needs and sets up programs to help young residents find employment or become entrepreneurs. She is currently studying at the University of the Bahamas.

The YLAI Professional Fellows Program will begin on September 20 in Detroit, Michigan, followed by four-week fellowships throughout the United States.  The program concludes with a Closing Forum in October in Washington, D.C. focused on leadership and skills development training.  Fellows return to their ventures with new skills, resources, ongoing support from U.S. counterparts, and an improved network, strengthening business ties between the U.S. and Latin America and the Caribbean.

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