The International Youth Leadership Institute (IYLI) is preparing its students for the organization’s annual four-week trip to Ethiopia this July. Fifteen students from across the city have been selected to go on the trip at virtually no cost to them.

On the trip, the students will travel to Ethiopia, where they will do college-level work that includes reading, language classes and cultural lessons. Students will also learn about government and spend the last two weeks of the trip living in an Ethiopian village and participating in a community service project.

The students were selected through a process that included an essay, academic transcripts and recommendation letters. Students also committed to sharing their experience in Africa with organizations and using what they learned.

IYLI was founded in 1989 by Dr. Michael Webb and journalist and longtime television executive Keith Brown. Webb said that he wants the experience to make students global citizens by sending them to study in Africa and Latin America.

Brown, who previously worked for the Peace Corps, has traveled throughout Africa and said he wanted to give students a similar experience.

“What we hope for the students who go on the summer program is to change their lives,” he said. “These trips are so impacting because it gives them confidence that they can navigate a different culture. They also get a chance to see the world differently. We hope this inspires them to travel and experience different cultures and see the world through a different context than what we have here.”

“We want to make sure our kids develop global citizenship,” said Webb. “We need people who are thinking beyond their world. We want to help apply that direction. The experience is enlightening.”

Linking up with the Abyssinian Baptist Church, students will also get to see the connection between Harlem and Ethiopia. Abyssinian has a partnership with coffee farmers in the country in the Chaffee Jenette community, and students will visit the community to learn more about the coffee-making process and the church’s affiliation.

“Traveling changes your life,” said the Rev. Nicholas Richards from the church. “I am a minister because I studied in South Africa, and that’s how I began thinking about my calling. The best way to learn and to experience is by traveling. They are going to get things they can’t even imagine from this program.”

Since 1989, 350 students have been through the program. While the trip itself cost thousands of dollars, the students only have to pay $300 for various costs. IYLI pays for the trip through donations to its foundation.

Nearly all students who have gone through IYLI have gone onto college, with many receiving scholarships. Webb said that students go through the program at Columbia University and get a look at what college is like.

“We want students to be on a college campus so that college is second nature,” he said, “so they see that there shouldn’t be any barrier to higher education. Their involvement in the program has an effect on education attainment.”

In preparation for the trip, IYLI is getting ready for its annual benefit on May 17 at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem. IYLI is honoring Harlem activist Iris Morales at this year’s benefit, which will include a cocktail hour and a silent auction.

Ambassadors from Africa will also be present at the event. Webb said that over 13 countries will be represented, including South Africa and Egypt.

“The end goal is confidence, global citizenship and for the students to be able to respect their own culture and other cultures,” Webb said. “We are grooming our community’s future leaders.”