The North American Youth Exchange Network was patterned from regional Youth Exchange groups like EEMA, the grandfather of Youth Exchange multinational networks. The driving forces behind what was then called the USA-Canada Youth Exchange Network were Rick Russell and Abe Kuthahara with the first meeting in Evanston in 2000. The initial meeting was so informally organized that Abe put the charge for the meeting on his personal credit card, hoping to be reimbursed out of registrations! He was.
The original format of membership used Rotary Zones in the US and Canada, distributing directorships so as to create roughly equal representation. In 2008 the By-laws of the organization were amended to include Mexico districts, and the name was changed to North American Youth Exchange Network, Inc.
With the possibility of Rotary International redistributing redistributing Rotary districts into new Zones, NAYEN created Regions for directors, leaving districts in the original groupings even if the district’s Zone changes or is eliminated.
Annual conferences are held each year with sites being chosen two years in advance. While the initial conference had about 100 attendees current conferences have had over 300 delegates plus spouses and partners. And of course each conference has the traditional Brazilian Caipirinha party!