Since 2004, the National Committee has been selecting twelve graduating U.S. high school seniors who have received national recognition for their accomplishments to participate in the yearly U.S.-China Student Leaders Exchange. For the young American participants, the heart of the program is a two-week study visit to China during the summer between high school and college. Americans participants learn about China's successes and challenges and have unusual opportunities to meet and exchange ideas with their Chinese counterparts as a consequence of homestays throughout most of the program.
Then NASA astronaut Mark Kelly joined the Young Leaders Forum in 2003, where he met his future wife, fellow program participant and then Arizona State legislator Gabrielle Giffords. Kelly once called his experience with YLF, which connects exceptional Chinese and Americans under 40, "one of the absolute highlights of my life, second only to flying in space," and carried a YLF banner into orbit.