FLEX Program Celebrates 30 Years of Transformative Exchanges

FLEX Alumni in Kyrgyzstan

Sponsored by the United States Department of State, the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX) promotes mutual understanding and cross-cultural appreciation between citizens of the United States and countries across Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia. The program was established in 1992 by former Senator Bill Bradley in the wake of the Soviet Union's dissolution. Initially focused on 12 countries in Europe and Eurasia, FLEX has since expanded to encompass 22 countries, cultivating a robust alumni network of over 30,000 individuals. 

In 2024, American Councils for International Education's regional offices hosted events celebrating FLEX’s 30th anniversary across several countries, including Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Georgia and provided alumni with invaluable networking and reconnection opportunities. 


FLEX Kyrgyzstan Group Picture

On May 11, the FLEX program in Kyrgyzstan celebrated its 30th anniversary with a reunion and conference in Bishkek. The event commenced with remarks from Olivia Stevens, Country Director of American Councils in the Kyrgyz Republic, and Elizabeth Zentos, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy.

The conference featured speakers covering FLEX alumni impact on tourism, investments, networking, and business, alongside panel discussions on international development, entrepreneurship, and youth empowerment. Notable speakers included alumni Zarina Chekirbaeva, Founder and CEO at BGlobal LTD, and Cholponbek Jumashukurov, CEO and Founder of Highland Capital. 

The afternoon session included a panel discussion on entrepreneurship and technology moderated by Dr. Sam Potolicchio, Executive Director of American Councils’ Center for Global Leadership, and featuring alumni in the fields of business and technology. The conference concluded with a session on empowering youth in communities, featuring alum Aizhan Chynybaeva, CEO and Founder of EcoDemi Public Fund, which highlighted the impact of individual efforts in promoting environmental stewardship.  

The conference also hosted a gala dinner that offered an opportunity to thank FLEX partners, including American Corners and Centers, the Ministry of Education and Science of the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Peace Corps in the Kyrgyz Republic, for their contributions to the program's success. 


FLEX Georgia Celebration, U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi

On May 24, over 200 Georgian FLEX alumni and guests gathered in Tbilisi to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the FLEX program. In the morning, 32 alumni participated in the Adaptability in Leadership Workshop led by Lela Machaidze, a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) international consultant. In the afternoon, 31 alumni participated in the Time Management Workshop led by FLEX alumna Ketevan Tkavadze, a professional coach certified in PMP and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

At the reception, FLEX alumni networked with other U.S. Government funded program alumni and representatives of American Councils’ partner and funding organizations, the Georgian Ministry of Education, American Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S. Embassy. The reception was also attended by  Her Excellency Robin L. Dunnigan, the U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Georgia, along with Cultural Attaché Eavan Cully, Public Affairs Counselor Alexander N. Daniels, and Kakha Khandolishvili, Head of the Department of International Relations and Strategic Development at the Georgian Ministry of Education and Science. In her address, Ambassador Dunnigan underscored the significance of the FLEX program, hailing it as one of the foremost initiatives implemented in Georgia. She also emphasized the value of people-to-people exchanges and strategic partnerships.

Dr. Timothy Blauvelt, American Councils’ Regional Director for South Caucasus, elaborated on the FLEX program’s popularity in Georgia, underlined the FLEX students’ roles as young ambassadors for their homeland, and welcomed the new U.S. Ambassador as an honorary member of the FLEX family.  


FLEX Uzbekistan Celebration

On May 25, the FLEX 30th Anniversary Celebration in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, brought together 55 alumni from various generations and regions, along with esteemed guests from the U.S. Embassy and American Councils for International Education. This milestone event celebrated the enduring impact of the FLEX program and its vibrant community.  

The celebration commenced with a warm welcome and heartfelt congratulations from Laura Brown, U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Counselor, and Will O’Roark, Country Director of American Councils’ Uzbekistan. A highlight of the event was the sharing of personal stories by six distinguished alumni, chosen for their active involvement and significant contributions to the FLEX community and beyond. These alumni, representing different generations, inspired all attendees by discussing how the program shaped their careers and lives. The event provided a wonderful opportunity for alumni to reunite, reminisce about shared memories and create new ones.  

About FLEX:  

FLEX is a highly competitive, merit-based scholarship program funded by the U.S. Department of State that operates in Armenia, Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Over 35,000 students compete annually in multiple rounds of testing to earn a FLEX scholarship, which provides for them to spend an academic year in the United States living with a volunteer host family and attending a U.S. high school where they learn about the U.S. and Americans firsthand, and to teach Americans about their countries  

The program invited its first cohort of students to the United States in 1993 and is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the program and 30th cohort of students in 2024.