The U.S. Department of State welcomes 15 international emerging leaders who work in the field of disability sports to the United States May 16 - June 16 on the new Sport for Community exchange program. The exchange focuses on disability rights and inclusion and pairs participants with American executives for mentorships.

In the lead up to the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games, these emerging leaders will spend a month at top disability sports organizations. Working side-by-side with their mentors, the participants will develop strategic action plans designed to create opportunities for people with disabilities, enabling them to experience the benefits of sports: expanded professional networks, increased independence, and enhanced health. While in Washington, participants will have opportunities to network, share their perspectives as professionals in disability sports overseas, and learn about the history of the American disability rights movement and U.S. sports culture.

The roster of emerging leaders includes Paralympians, heads of National Paralympic Committees, social entrepreneurs, and disability sport advocates. This year’s participants hail from Belarus, Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Ukraine. The mentors represent Ability360, Chicago Park District, Glideslope, Lakeshore Foundation, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Spaulding Adaptive Sports Centers, Turnstone, U.S. Association of Blind Athletes, University of Alabama, U.S. Olympic Committee, and University of Texas at Arlington.

The program is conducted in partnership with the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, which also implements the U.S. Department of State and espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program to empower women.