Transformative Leadership, Community Engagement, and Social Entrepreneurship

Summer 2018  – United States & Saudi Arabia – Following successful 2014 – 2017 Saudi Young Leaders Exchange Programs (SYLEP), Legacy International is pleased to welcome a new delegation of Saudi young leaders to the U.S. from July 10 – August 1, 2018.

2016 SYLEP participants, cultural ambassadors and staff enjoy the view at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

SYLEP is a multi-phased leadership experience for 32 Saudi university students or recently-graduated  students between the ages of 22-26 and 3 U.S. Cultural Ambassadors (juniors or seniors in undergrad, or graduate students and recent graduates). SYLEP 2018 seeks to build leadership skills, civic responsibility, appreciation for cultural diversity, community engagement, and volunteerism. Phase 1 is a 3-week U.S. program. Phase 2 involves implementing learning through an innovative project they design while in the United States.

The goals of this program are to promote mutual understanding between the people of the U.S and the people of Saudi Arabia, prepare young leaders to become responsible citizens and contributing members of their communities, and develop leadership skills among Saudi youth. They will observe how individuals, non-governmental organizations, and government entities address community needs through public, private, and joint initiatives.

Over the course of the program, participants will engage in a stimulating series of trainings and experiences while interacting with dozens of American volunteers, program clients, host families, and community leaders. Participants will gain skills in leadership, program design, critical thinking, and community engagement while deepening their respect and appreciation for diversity. During the program, participants will divide into subgroups and visit different cities in the U.S. (Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; and Pittsburgh, PA). They will spend a weekend living with American host families to gain more insights into American daily life. Participants will visit various organizations, learning about a wide range of project models and youth leadership opportunities, and participate in community service.

Upon their return home, they conduct follow-on projects in their home communities or university campuses, supported by Legacy International.


2016 SYLEP participants volunteer at Habitat for Humanity.

Saudi students are increasingly interested in civic engagement. A 2012 study at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals concluded that the number of Saudi undergrads who volunteer is growing; our experience with Saudi youths in the last four years confirms that this trend has continued. Most individuals report more than one motive for volunteering. Social needs such as limited educational opportunities, poverty, gender inequity, unemployment, and lack of respect for diversity are attracting attention. Volunteers are also motivated by the chance to increase their organizing and leadership skills, to gain relevant experience and greater self-confidence, and to find new venues for socializing. Yet, while civic engagement is attractive, opportunities to become engaged are still severely limited. Receiving training and support to launch their own civic engagement initiatives is particularly attractive to emerging young Saudi leaders of all backgrounds.

Program Details

2017 SYLEP participants meet professionals in a wide variety of fields at a networking event.

2018 Program Dates 

  • July 9 – U.S. student Cultural Ambassadors arrive (Washington, DC)
  • July 10 – U.S. Cultural Ambassadors Orientation. Saudi students arrive (Washington, DC)
  • July 11-17 – Orientation & Leadership Clinic (Washington, DC)
  • July 18-19 – Dialogue & Diversity Retreat (Sweet Briar, VA)
  • July 20-27 – Community Immersion (Austin, TX; Chicago, IL; Pittsburgh, PA)
  • July 28-31 – Innovation Summit (Washington, DC)
  • August 1 – Departures & Staff Team Wrap-up

2018 Partners

Ways to Participate:

  • U.S. university students who are currently enrolled in a college or university (junior or senior undergrads, or graduate students) or recent graduates may apply as U.S. Cultural Ambassador.
  • U.S. families who live in one of the three host communities may serve as home stay hosts for our Saudi guests (July 14 -16;  2 nights)
  • Saudi university students, ages 22-26, who are citizens and currently residing and studying in Saudi Arabia are eligible. Students with significant prior U.S. experience (ex. study abroad), are U.S. citizens or hold U.S. Permanent Residency status are not eligible.  Applicants should possess sufficient English to participate in U.S. university-level classes.  Questions?  Email For more information, also visit Legacy’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Blog Posts

SYLEP is sponsored by the United States Department of State, U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, and administered by Legacy International.