The ASEAN Secretariat today welcomed 130 high school and college students, each alumni of the U.S. State Department’s Southeast Asia Youth Leadership Program (SEAYLP). The group represents ASEAN’s best and brightest young leaders from all ten ASEAN Member States.

The group was hosted in the ASEAN Hall. “It was here that representatives from ASEAN’s 10 Member States spent countless hours to help better the lives of our people; where sympathies have been extended to our friends–such as when the Tsunami hit Japan last year; and where we have had the chance welcomed leaders such as Excellencies Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono–President of Indonesia, John Key—Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Kofi Anan—the previous Secretary General of the United Nations,” said Ms Durudee Sirichanya, Head of Public Outreach and Civil Society Division, a Thai that grew up in the U.S. in her welcoming remarks. “For this honor, we expect you to go back and be our spokespersons in your communities—be it your schools, family, or circles of friends,” Sirichanya added.

The SEALYP alumni participated in a panel discussion titled “What is the Role of ASEAN?” with Dr Subash Bose Pillai, Director of Market Integration Directorate; Ms Mala Selvaraju, Head of Security Cooperation Division; and Mr Larry Maramis, Director of Cross-Sectoral Cooperation Directorate—followed by role-play exercises on ASEAN’s priorities.

The gathering of SEAYLP alumni also fulfills a commitment made at the July 2012 ASEAN Ministerial meetings by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, herself a recent visitor to the ASEAN Secretariat.

The SEAYLP program was founded in 2009, and is a competitive 25-day program that promotes high-quality leadership, civic responsibility, and activism among ASEAN’s future leaders.  The exchanges offer young leaders a practical examination of the principles of democracy and civil society as practiced in the United States, and provide participants with training that allows them to develop their leadership skills. Upon their return to the ASEAN region, participants are expected to conduct a service project in their home country such as leading knowledge-sharing workshops, helping the needy, and participating in environmental conservation activities.