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Youth in Development Program Coordinator

Project description

Since 1963, over 5,000 Volunteers have served in Guatemala making it one of the Peace Corps longest-standing posts. A country of striking features and a strong indigenous culture, Guatemala's natural beauty and powerful identity stand prominent in Central America. Indigenous populations make up about half of the population, with a high concentration in the Western Highlands, the region where Volunteers serve. More than 20 indigenous languages are spoken alongside Spanish, the official tongue. Strategically located, with substantial natural resources and a young multi-ethnic population, Guatemala has enormous potential to generate growth and prosperity for its people. However, poverty and inequality in the country are persistently high. High rates of childhood stunting and lack of opportunities for youth, women, and indigenous populations threaten Guatemala’s ability to reach its full potential. Peace Corps Guatemala responds to these inequalities through strategic governmental collaborations and community empowerment within four project areas: Youth in Development, Maternal and Child Health, Community Economic Development, and Rural Extension.

Over 50 percent of Guatemala’s population is currently under the age of 25. This poses both a challenge and an opportunity. Some youths are not provided with sufficient information to make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Parents, service providers, and community leaders can empower youth to be positive agents of change in their communities. This can be accomplished through projects that promote good health, encourage youth to stay in school, and improve their economic prospects.

The Youth in Development program seeks to support Guatemalan youth in their transition to becoming healthy, productive, civically engaged adults. To reach this goal, Volunteers will collaborate with youth and key community members to strengthen knowledge and skills in the areas of health, well-being, and life skills. Projects will promote and strengthen community engagement and build capacity among youth service providers, educators, and community leaders in the implementation of positive youth development methodologies.

Volunteers will collaborate with local youth service providers to provide learning and engagement opportunities to youth between the ages of 12 to 18, and, implement positive youth development activities. The Volunteers’ primary role is to serve as a Program Coordinator and co-lead youth development efforts in and outside of school, typically in a public middle school setting. The Volunteer serves as a trainer, a co-teacher, and as a mentor to collaborate on designing and implementing health and life skills training, with Guatemalan youth alongside the teachers. Topics include: life skills development, sexual and reproductive health, substance abuse prevention, service learning, leadership, community engagement, and organizational development. Common Volunteer activities in the school setting include but are not limited to: life skills classes, youth clubs, rallies, school fairs, school assemblies, arts, and work with student councils. Common Volunteer activities outside of the school setting include but are not limited to: participation in local community meetings, sports, church groups, women’s groups, environmental clubs, and work with Non-Governmental-Organizations (NGOs). Volunteers will also coordinate with adults in the community who are working in youth development. This is done by identifying key community actors and co-developing/strengthening a network for youth support both in their schools and community-wide.

A large part of the role is collaborating directly with youth and adults in both traditional and non-traditional learning environments and being sensitive and flexible to cultural norms.

Required skills

Qualified candidates will have one or more of the following criteria:
• Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science degree in any field
• 5 years' professional work experience

Desired skills

Competitive candidates will have one or more of the following:
• Master's degree in Social Work, Psychology, Education, Youth Development, Applied Behavioral Science, or a related field.
• Bachelor's degree in Social Work, Social Studies, Psychology, Education, Youth Development, Applied Behavioral Science, or other related field and at least 3 months of experience working with youth and/or families.
• 3 years of professional experience working with youth and/or families, preferably from under-resourced communities, OR

At least one year of experience where they were able to demonstrate competency in three or more of the following (in order of priority):
• Developing, designing, and/or delivering life skills workshops through areas such as but not limited to health, education, formal/informal teaching, guidance counseling, mentoring, recreation and sports, fine arts, or community-organized events.
• Transferring knowledge and skills to youth in one or multiple settings such as but not limited to schools, community centers, youth groups, and non-profit organizations.
• Experience working with local networks to promote positive youth engagement coordinating and facilitating individual and group activities and/or training sessions for youth and adults in the community on various topics.
• Experience with strong communication and interpersonal skills to establish solid working relationships with important local stakeholders in an intercultural environment.
• Experience both working independently and as part of a team.

Required language skills

Candidates must meet one or more of the language requirements below in order to be considered for this position.

A. Completed 4 years of high school Spanish coursework within the past 8 years

B. Completed minimum 2 semesters of Spanish college‐level coursework within the past 6 years

C. Native/fluent speaker of Spanish

Candidates who do not meet the language proficiency levels above can take the language placement exams to demonstrate their level of proficiency.

Competitive applicants typically attain a score of 50 on the Spanish College Level Examination Program CLEP exam or a score of Novice‐High on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL OPI). Volunteers need to demonstrate an Intermediate Mid level of oral and written proficiency in Spanish for community placement by the end of Pre-Service Training. Most Volunteers will work directly in Spanish, and some will work in communities with Mayan languages with support from a Spanish/Mayan-speaking community member. Volunteers serving in areas where Mayan languages are spoken may study the local language once they arrive in their community to assist with integration into the community and basic communication.

Living conditions

Work Site and Housing
Most Volunteers live in medium-sized to larger rural communities (3,000 - 40,000 people). Most communities have electricity and running water, but the supply may be intermittent. Fruits, vegetables, and meats are available on-site or in nearby communities. Housing typically consists of cement block structures with a private bedroom and shared kitchen, bathroom, and living rooms. The phone plan Peace Corps provides includes credit for some local calls and limited internet. Most Volunteers have access to the internet in their communities either in a local internet café or by purchasing additional internet data.

Host Family Situation
Volunteers are required to live with a host family during the 10-week Pre-Service Training and during the two years of service to increase integration and for continuous orientation to the local safety and security concerns. Applicants must be willing and eager to interact and live with a Guatemalan host family. Many Volunteers cook for themselves during service, but some opt to eat with their host family or in small local restaurants.

Diversity Challenges
While Guatemala is generally tolerant, values concerning sexual orientation and gender identity may be different from those in the U.S. Volunteers will need to be mindful of cultural norms, and use their judgment to determine the best way to approach communicating sexual orientation and gender identity in their communities and host countries. Volunteers who are of an American racial, ethnic, or national minority or whose religious or spiritual beliefs differ from the majority of their country of service may find they experience a high degree of curiosity or unwanted attention from host country nationals. Staff and currently serving Volunteers will address these topics during Pre-Service Training, and identify support mechanisms for incoming trainees.

Volunteers are placed in Guatemalan communities which may be quite mountainous and, due to the altitude, can be cool to cold at night. Dressing in layers is the best way to deal with the daily temperature variations. The sunlight is strong, even during colder temperatures.

Personal appearance is important to people in Guatemala, so professional or business casual dress is expected. Dressing appropriately will help you gain respect in your host community, facilitate integration, and increase your credibility and effectiveness. It is advised to take cues from your Guatemalan colleagues, and dress to meet/exceed their standards of professionalism.

Volunteers with visible body piercings must remove them before arriving to Guatemala. Those with tattoos will need strategies to conceal them. In Guatemala, tattoos may be associated with criminal activity. Likewise, having visible body piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into your host community. Keep in mind that Peace Corps/Guatemala staff will ask you to be flexible about your appearance to facilitate integration in training and during your service. Remaining flexible is the key to Peace Corps service in any country.

Cultural Considerations
Guatemala is a very traditional and religious society. People’s roles in regards to gender, work, and the community are much more clearly defined along gender roles than in the U.S. Volunteers must be aware, tolerant, and respectful of their practices, customs, and way of life and they may need to adapt certain behaviors to demonstrate that respect.

The cultural and security considerations for alcohol use differ greatly in Guatemala and the United States. Volunteers must understand and evaluate the social and cultural implications of alcohol use in their communities. Peace Corps service has many stressors and applicants need to bring healthy self-care practices and coping strategies that will help them to serve successfully. Additional conversations and guidance on coping strategies will be shared during the Pre-Service Training period.

Learn more about the Volunteer experience in Guatemala: Get detailed information on culture, communications, housing, and health/crime statistics in order to make a well-informed decision about serving.

Medical considerations

Before you apply, please review medical clearance and legal clearance to learn about the process.

Couples information

Peace Corps/Guatemala is happy to accommodate couples. We will identify communities with sufficient work opportunities for both Volunteers. Your partner can apply to and must qualify for the Community Economic Development Facilitator position or the Youth in Development Program Coordinator position.

Couples will not live together during the ten weeks of Pre-Service Training. Guatemala’s community-based training model places trainees in communities based on their technical program and Spanish level. Special consideration is given to couples so that they live in nearby communities and they will have more flexibility to see each other (e.g., on weekends). Language acquisition and cultural integration increase when each member of the couple lives with a separate host family. After training, couples will live together for the duration of their service.

The Peace Corps works to foster safe and productive assignments for same-sex couples, and same-sex couples are not placed in countries where homosexual acts are criminalized. Because of this, same-sex couple placements are more limited than heterosexual couple placements. During the application process recruiters and placement officers work closely with same-sex couple applicants to understand current placement opportunities. For more information please visit:

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